I get asked from time to time to about “How to secure a computer”. Here are some simple tips to get you started.
Run “Shields UP” by the Gibson Research Corporation
First go to this website and run “Shields Up”, you don’t have to download anything it runs as a web page.
“Shields Up” probes your computer and scans all of your ports and lets you know which ones are open to hackers, snoopers, and all kinds of folks who want to get onto your PC.
Click “Proceed” and then click “All Service Ports” and let it do it’s thing. It will tell you which ports are open (vulnerable) and ways to close them. Ideally yours will be all green (closed), but that’s hard to do sometimes. You will get a screen that looks like the screen below when the test is finished. Something good to do is to turn off “ping” so people searching for computers to hack into have a harder time locating your machine because it won’t answer.
The Windows Firewall
Make sure you have the Windows Firewall enabled unless you have a virus program such as Semantic that might disable it (because it provides firewall features).
You can find the Firewall in the “Control Panel”. Notice mine is set as “On”. Also, look in the Exceptions tab and see what programs are allowed to send data out.
Sometimes you’ll find strange programs in there or programs with blank titles, these could be keystroke recorders that record your passwords if you have viruses on your machine.
AVG – A Free Virus Scanner
AVG is a free Virus Scanner, if you don’t have one I strongly urge you to use this virus scanner. It runs all the time as well and will even catch bad web pages trying to do cross scripting and other bad things.
You can download it HERE.
Notice the “Update Now” button, from time to time you should click on this and it will pull down all of the latest virus signatures to look for. You can set this up to scan nightly or click “Computer Scanner” and run a full or partial scan whenever you want to.
Assuming you’re running Windows you should at least install the critical security updates. You can get the updates from your “Start” then “All Programs” menu. This will search for all updates that apply to your computer based on your version of Windows and installed programs. I always choose “Custom” and pick and choose which updates I want, it’s a good rule of thumb to install the latest security patches.
Don’t download and install screen savers, games, or internet toolbars. If you look at the top of your Internet Explorer browser and have all kinds of third party toolbars that’s bad. You can disable those and most of the time even uninstall them.
I realize these can be technically challenging but see what you can do …