Date: September 25th, 2006
Article by: Nathan Glentworth (Owner / Head Editor)
Only a few short years ago the internet was seen as a relatively benign entity for the computer user to learn, play, communicate and if time permits, get some work done. Although viruses were known to exist, the general public and average computer user protected themselves with a decent antivirus and surfed without little problems or concerns. If you were careful, you had nothing to worry about. If you dabbled where you shouldn't, you got infected and in most cases, it was the user's fault.
Fast forward to today and you have a slightly different situation. Yes, there are viruses still being programmed and distributed along with the less destructive and equally annoying malware and spyware, but the home computer user has evolved into more of a problem. Now before you click the close button and discount my advice, please hear me out.
On one side we have viruses along with malware and spyware. On the other side we have the computer user. Between the two we have a zone which the two intermingle within cyberspace. The viruses and related programs always hang out in certain areas like warez site, porn sites, illegal sharing sites and related content. In the past, these areas are known by most users and most tend to avoid the trouble of being infected or have their computer and/or data damaged.
With that in mind we focus our attention on the average computer user in today's cyberspace. Due to a lack of knowledge and pure paranoia, I am seeing a lot of user's loading their computer up with a whole host of programs that promise to keep you computer secure and safe from attack and infection. To keep yourself relatively safe on the internet, certain steps should be undertaken to keep yourself secure, but know when to draw the line. Basing off of what I am seeing lately, ignorance is breeding a super paranoid computer user thinking that the someone on the internet has their crosshairs on him 24/7. In a lot of cases, the computers I maintain for some clients are just absolutely jam packed full of security software. For what reason? I have no clue. All they do is surf the internet occasionally, check their email, do their online banking and sometimes chat with a friend through their favorite IM client.
For one, this overuse of security software programs such as software firewalls, along with numerous spyware/malware programs running in the background not only slows your computer down to a crawl, it also gives the user a false sense of safety. This will have the user venturing into places in cyberspace that they wouldn't even ponder if they were not shrouded with this thin comforting blanket these programs promise to provide. For a real life example think of a rough and extremely dangerous area which you would never even look at in normal life but now consider it safe now that you have a bulletproof vest to slip on. I have to admit, I was this computer user.
What I am going to share with you is all you will need to be safe on the internet. It is simple and it works.
1.) All you should have running constantly on your computer is your favorite antivirus. I recommend Avast's Free Home Edition HERE.
2.) Remove all firewall programs and disable the Windows XP firewall if you have it running. Keep the Windows XP firewall if you are on a dialup connection.
3.) Install a hardware router with a hardware firewall. I recommend Linksys.
4.) Remove all spyware programs running in the background.
5.) Only download and/or install files or programs from creditable sites. Do not install anything unknown that will pop up for you to install. Flash plugins are usually safe but a lot of the ones that try to install on some more questionable sites are more than likely spyware and trojans.
6.) Scan for viruses and spyware once a week. Programs I use and recommend are the following.
- Spybot Search & Destroy (Download HERE)
- A-Squared Free Edition (Download HERE)
7.) Download Startup Control Panel HERE and disable and remove anything you don't wanted starting up with windows.
8.) Never have your computer remember your login or password for anything other than maybe online message forums. Always enter in login and passwords for anything financial manually.
Following these simple steps will have you computer running as quickly as possible without giving up any security benefits.
To boil it down, it is all up to you, the computer user. If you surf and compute normally and safely, you will not have a problem that can't be handled efficiently through a running antivirus (such as a virus email attachment). Running three firewalls is essentially meaningless. Hackers don't care about a user checking their email so building a performance hogging virtual internet barricade is not needed and a waste of system resources and your time.
Following these simple steps will have you perfectly secure and will also allow you to take advantage of the full speed of you computer and your internet connection. Trust me, the internet is not the big bad boogeyman that a lot of companies try to scare you into believing in order for them to sell you security software. Essentially, it is just as safe as five years ago if you are not foolish.
If you have any questions about this article, please feel free to post them in our forums HERE.