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Internet Security 101 for Home Users

This Internet Security 101 is geared towards Home Users. As a home user you want security, but lower overall complexity. Cost is important too. Many of the tools recommended here for home users are commercial quality. Don't let their low -- usually free -- price tag fool you!

Corporate users have similar needs. But tools that help support and manage multiple computers can reduce overall support cost.

Even if you are computer savvy it's often good to have someone who deals with these issues all the time give you a second opinion. However, if your eyes are already starting to glaze over by now at the mere mention of anything "technical" then I recommend you learn the basics on how to check if your Security is Up to Date and get someone to help setup and maintain your security.

Need more information? Give us a call. We're here to help.

Topics covered in this article include:

Security Recommendations with links:
A little security knowledge is a dangerous thing. A tech savy person may read this page and know what to do to fix and secure there pc. When in doubt it's better to ask for some help than to be given a false sense of security.

What if I don't have security?

You won't usually get a sunburn surfing the Internet from the great indoors. However, you can get burnt by not having adequate security!

Just a short list of consequences for a lack of security...

  • You could have your personal data stolen. Your credit card and banking information could fall into the hands of thieves!
  • Your important data could be corrupted, stolen, or destroyed!
  • Other people may be able to remotely see every single thing you type and do on your computer!
  • Other people may be able to remotely control your pc! Your pc may be involved in attacking or breaking into another computer on the internet and you may not have any idea about it. When your internet provider tracks the hacking attempt back to your pc will "I think my pc was hacked" be believed?
  • Everywhere you surf on the internet may be being covertly monitored! This can ranging from semi-legit marketing purposes to out and out fraud and trespassing on your privacy!
  • Software may be installed (often without your knowledge) that makes your computer slow, unreliable, or crashes
  • Your friends may start to curse at you because they finally realize you are the one sending them all the virus emails
  • Your internet provider may kill your account because your infected computer is constantly sending out virus and spam emails
Unfortunately, you may be stuck having to fix these problems again and again. Or worse, paying someone else to fix them for you.

Not everyone has the technical skills or interest in computer security. If that's you, then I recommend you make sure you know how to check if your security is up to date. Find a techie who will check your pc now and then to help keep you up to date and handle any hassles you find.

There are many consequences of not having security. Most of them very negative. Unfortunately, it's not easy to convince someone they need to DO something about security. Fortunately, people learn from mistakes. And once they've been bitten by a virus or two it's easier to convince them to go out and invest in a copy of Norton Anti-virus.

If you're reading this page you are probably already looking for ways to be proactive. So go pat yourself on the back. You're in the minority of people who are going to be proactive. This means you'll have more time to enjoy life instead of complaining about computer problems. :)

Security is an Investment

And keep in mind that Security is an investment. You aren't just buying a piece of software, or investing some time setting it up. What you really want is lower risk and less hassles. And that's worth investing in!

Investing in security isn't like investing money in a bank account. It's more like investing in a car. Every so often you have to add oil and maintenance to your car. Similarly, you have to update and tweak your security.

Every so often your car may be subject to a recall. Then you have have haul it back to the dealer and have them do a repair. Similarly, software often comes out with new versions and security patches. Not taking your car in for a recall -- or not applying a security fix -- is a bad investment choice. You don't want your car to veer off the road and crash, and you don't want your computer to get hacked or crash.

Every so often it's better to move to a newer car than pay to maintain an old one. Similarly, the "best" security tools for your needs may change. Sometimes it's worth making a change.

Security is a moving target

Security is a moving target? What do I mean by that?

Every software has bugs. Unfortunately, some of those bugs can be used by virus, trojan, spyware, and hackers to break into or infect your system. As bugs are discovered new product versions or patches are often released to fix them. It's like being in an old boat where you keep discovering new holes. And you hopefully keep patching the holes. If your diligent you'll keep your boat afloat -- along with your security -- and not be shark bait.

What this means is that keeping your security tools and fixes up to date is very important.

Security is an Illusion

I remember fondly having conversations with my long time friend and security guru Wayne. For security purposes I can only refer to him by his first name or he may have to kill me! Yes, he's that good and that thorough! :)

Wayne was fond of reminding me that security was an illusion. No matter how good your security is someone will be able to break in. However, admitting your computer may not be 100% secure is your first step to enlightenment. From here you can learn the basics that will make your computer, as Wayne would say, "Reasonably" secure from anyone but a dedicated hacker.

Security: You would have to be crazy not to cover the basics

Fortunately covering the basics really isn't that much effort.

Anti-Virus Software

Everyone has to have anti-virus software. Period. Full stop.

I'm sure we all know someone who got zapped with a virus. For many people as soon as they turn on their pc they are "on line" and surfing the great unknown. Many have one, if not several, email accounts where a virus may be received.

There are many good antivirus programs out there. However, I am going to recommend the ones we deal with the most.

Corporate users have similar needs. But tools that help support and manage multiple computers can reduce overall support cost. For example, Norton Symantec Anti-Virus corporate edition is more of a hassle to set up than a home-user version of Norton Antivirus. But once it's setup on the server you can easily roll it out to a number of workstations.

ZoneAlarm (antivirus + Firewall)

Personal Firewall

Every computer that's hooked up to the internet directly or indirectly should have a a firewall.

ZoneAlarm is again the winner here.

A close second goes to Comodo. Comodo's sandbox actually makes it a better firewall than ZoneAlarm. However, this comes with the added complexity of things not working because they were stuck in the sandbox.

Anti-Spyware Tools

Best overall tool is Malwarebytes. If you are a home user with spyware on your computer try this first.

Good second place goes to Spybot Search & Destroy. It's immunization feature is interesting, it tries to proactively block certain plugins and websites.

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