Do you think about switching to another operating system sometimes? Have you considered getting a Mac but the price to switch for new hardware isn’t in the budget? These questions are coming up in the minds of computer users who are using the Windows operating system, such as Windows XP or Windows Vista. With the current threat of malware or scareware (a virus or trojan horse type of program with malicious intent) on the Internet and the sheer number of Windows computers connecting, it is no wonder the cyber criminals are attacking this group of users.
What is the average computer user to do in this situation? One step is to always keep antivirus and anti-malware software running and updated. But this isn’t always a solution since the cyber criminals are constantly trying to stay one step ahead. In addition to keeping your antivirus and anti-malware software updated, you still need to stay current with security updates from Microsoft and all the software vendors loaded on your computer. This can seem like a pretty daunting task until you break it down into its individual tasks.
The first step is to make sure your antivirus and security software packages are updated. The easiest way to do this is to ensure they are set to download and install automatically. In most security suites and individual software packages there will be a control center. The control center is where you will adjust these settings. Remember that if it is set to download and install in the middle of the night, the computer must be on or set to resume upon next use. Often these settings are set for the least used hours of the day or night.
Step two is to set Windows to download and install all security software fixes or hot patches. In Windows XP you set this in the Control Panel through Automatic Updates. Microsoft recommends choosing the Automatic Setting. In Windows Vista select the Start Button, then All Programs, then Windows Update. You then select Change Settings. Microsoft recommends setting this to Use Recommended Settings or the Install Important Updates Only.
Microsoft releases security fixes on the third Tuesday of every month — sometimes sooner for very critical updates. If you are unsure, I recommend that you stay with the recommended settings from Microsoft. If you want to change these settings and update on your own, I recommend that you start educating yourself on the various threats and methods for avoidance.
For step three you will want to visit a site such as Secunia.com and run their scan to see where the security holes lie in all of your third party software. The scan only takes a couple of minutes and can be done in your browser. Secunia also offers Secunia PSI, a free downloadable product that you use to scan your computer at any time. With these tools available, you will be well on your way to a more secure computing experience.
Lastly, it is important that you educate yourself just as you are doing now. Most of the current trends in computer infection are related and quite often are relying on tricking the computer user into doing what the cyber criminals want, such as activating a download or buying certain software that promises to fix the computer. Good places to start your education are the Web sites of the major manufacturers of antivirus software. Microsoft’s Web site also makes available information on defensive strategies for both the home user and Information Technology professional.
Millions of computers worldwide are already infected; it becomes imperative that we shield ourselves from the threats that arise from malware.