You've just come home with your new computer. How delightful! Now you're ready to surf the Web and download some music – legally of course -- and send out a few e-mails to family and friends.
As you're about to plug in the networking cable you remember something the sales associate mentioned.
"Be sure and get some anti-spyware and security stuff.”
"Bah," you figure. The guy is just trying to sell you more that you don't want or need, right?
Onward you go, dismissing the comment and salivating as Google pulls up page after page of amazing information about things you never knew existed. Need to know about livestock birthing? No problem! Have a hankering for finding just the right flap settings for your Cessna? Piece of cake!
But wait, what's with these 'extra' windows that keep popping up and obscuring your view? And why is it that your homepage is now set at www.somePornSite.com ?
"Hmmmm," you wonder, thinking back to what the sales associate said...
Welcome to the Net! You have just been hijacked and had your first "drive-by" install. No – not the type of drive-by from the gang downtown, guns a' blazing, tires screeching – it appears to have come from that "friendly" Web site who just happened to be pushing some 'extra' software onto unsuspecting users such as yourself.
The scenario above is an all too common occurrence – though, more than likely, excluding both of those searches via Google. And if you did actually perform those searches, you are indeed unique to say the least. Just don't write me if you're a farmer transporting a pregnant cow in a Cessna. ;-)
And so, some basic security info is at hand. At least, enough to get you down the road to securely surf the Web with confidence.
Here's a list of things you should do before plugging into the Net:
1. Be sure you have both a firewall and anti-virus protection. Without either, it could be literally only 10 or 15 minutes before your system is compromised. Typically, free products give you bare bones applications, which is fine if you're not going to do any heavy surfing. Going to be online 3, 4, 5 hours a day? Make the investment and get a few extra perks.
2. Now that you have a firewall and anti-virus installed, you can go online. Make sure the operating system that came installed by the reseller has all critical patches from Microsoft installed. This single event, should it be skipped could be the most damaging. You see, malware writers know all the exploits and vulnerabilities in the OS, and write accordingly to take advantage of them to deliver their bundles of joy.
3. Find a dependable source for anti-spyware. Many of the most respected applications on this category are free, with some very nice paid versions as well.
Now doing those three simple basic things will get you started. You still need to read up about tweaking Internet Explorer, to help tighten its out-of-the-box security (kind of like adding extra stuff to a new car). Then deciding what kind of security settings or software to use for e-mail.
Hopefully you're not overwhelmed just yet. My purpose is to inform on a basic level for the new user. Once you're up and running, other subjects delving deeper into technical issues can be addressed.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which CFCS is a member, brings this article to you.
Author: Dave Gerber
Central Florida Computer Society Newsletter