Vol. I, Issue I

65 Hicks Pond Road ~ Palmyra, ME 04965 ~ E-Mail

March 13, 2005

Is Your Computer a Hacker's Playground?
by Julie M. Watkins

Once you connect to the Internet, it only takes about one minute for your unprotected computer to be hacked into, become infected with viruses and spyware, and start propagating viruses to other computers. An unprotected computer is a hacker's playground. Many people, overwhelmed and confused by all the techno jargon, think the solution is to log off permanently. But, before you log off for good, read on for five tips to help you secure your computer and protect it and your identity while online.

1. Install anti-virus software and update it regularly. Viruses, Trojan horses and worms are created and changed from day to day. An outdated anti-virus program is no protection at all. One of the biggest mistakes people make after installing an anti-virus software is assuming their computer is now safe. So install anti-virus software and keep it up-to-date. To simplify things, today's anti-virus software can be set to update automatically.

2. Install a firewall. A firewall acts as a protective barrier between your computer and the Internet. It helps protect you from inbound attacks through unauthorized access and it creates a log of access attempts. A firewall can be installed directly onto your computer, within your external modem or router or a combination of both. A firewall cannot protect your computer from e-mail attachments containing viruses or block spyware and adware - programs that can send data from your computer.

3. Install Spyware Scanners. Spyware is a general term for programs that could monitor your computer use or look for personal data stored on your computer. Some spyware can hijack your home page or redirect your web searches. Others cause pop-up ads out of the blue. At the very least, these programs slow down your computer, and at their worst, they record a user's keystrokes and gain access to passwords and financial information. Spyware can be installed on your computer without your knowledge, sometimes through free programs

downloaded from the Internet, or peer-to-peer file sharing.

A spyware scanner searches your computer for spyware, alerts you of the found files or programs, and assists you in removing them. It is a good idea to have more than one spyware program installed. What one doesn't find, the other one will.

4. Keep your operating system up to date. Windows is a very popular operating system. Unfortunately, it is a prime target for hackers. Security holes in an operating system program may expose your computer to outside threats. Check for updates regularly and install recommended patches. You can also set your operating system to update automatically.

5. Secure Wireless Networks An unsecured network can be accessed by anyone within range and makes your computer vulnerable to intruders coming in via your Internet connection. It is like leaving the front door of your house wide open. Someone with malicious intent can use your network to attack other computers or spread infectious files. You could even be blamed for damages to others caused by someone accessing your wireless network.

Securing your computer before you go online is your best defense against hackers. If you follow these five tips, you are well on your way to protecting your computer and your personal information. Watch for next week's article as we explore the first of the five tips in depth to provide you with the knowledge you need to protect your computer and your identity. As we explore each tip, we'll include information to assist you in recovering your computer if you think it has been a victim of a hacker attack.

  • Update your virus definitions at least once a week
  • Run a weekly scan for spyware and adware
  • The CI Weekly is a publication of Computer Infotech®, providing technical information in lay person’s terms. Watch for next week's issue.
    © 2005 Computer Infotech®. All rights reserved.
    References: CBC News

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