Computer Safety 2010

Here’s an updated list of ways to be safe and secure with your computer.

Vista update icon Install updates from Microsoft promptly. Look in the lower right corner for the gold shield (WinXP) or update icon (Win7/Vista).

Install updates to Acrobat, Flash, Java, and Quicktime promptly. Each will alert you from the lower right corner.

Install antivirus software and keep it up to date.

Know the name of your antivirus software. If you get a security warning that does not display the exact name of your security software, it is phony; if you click on anything, you will probably install malware.

Antivirus software & UAC will not always protect you against malware if you click OK at the wrong time. The bad guys are liars. They will say anything to get past your defenses, without conscience or remorse. Use your common sense. Read and think before you click OK.

If a web site brings something up on your screen that might be malware, do not click on anything. If you click “NO” or “CANCEL,” there is a good chance that they lied and you actually gave permission to install the malware.

  • If there is any chance that a dodgy web site is on the verge of installing a bad thing on your computer, start Task Manager and kill Internet Explorer from the list of applications there. 
  • If that’s not sufficient to close the possible malware window, see if you can identify it in the longer list of “Processes” in Task Manager.
  • If neither of those work and you still have a window onscreen that might be dangerous, turn your computer off with the power button.

Do not install any updates if prompted by a random web page. Example: you’re on a dodgy web site and a window appears: “You must download a new version of Flash player to play this video file.” Close the window and check for an update separately.

Do not use Internet Explorer 6 with Windows XP. The improved security architecture of IE7 and IE8 protects you against many of the attacks that get through IE6. You know you’re using IE8 if you have buttons for Page / Safety / Tools in the upper right corner (or click on Help / About Internet Explorer to be sure). This does not affect Vista and Windows 7.

Keep Vista’s User Account Control turned on. Turn Windows 7 User Account Control up to its highest level. It adds a valuable, effective layer of protection. 

Don’t click on links to web sites unless you know exactly where you’re going.

  • Follow links with carefree abandon to and from legitimate sites, but don’t click on links that arrive in spam e-mail, instant messages, web forums, or IRC chats, or that start from an untrustworthy web site.
  • Don’t click on links in email messages unless you deeply trust the judgment of the person who sent the message.
  • Don’t click on links in forwarded messages.
  • Shortened links are becoming popular in Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and social networking sites. You can’t tell where they lead by looking at them. Don’t follow them unless you trust the person who created the link.

Never, never, never open email attachments unless you know with 100% certainty that the attachment is something you expected and want to receive.

Back up your computers. Choose a backup strategy, understand how it works, and keep your backups up to date.