Computer Security On Your Home PC: The Basics Part One

This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart because this is one of my specialties. I don’t want to use this topic to talk about the deep intricacies of computer security but rather the basic strategies that a home user can use to make their home PC more secure. The tips are for Windows users but Linux and Mac users should follow the same basic principles.

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Passwords

Passwords are perhaps the easiest and most basic security precaution you can take. The best way to keep someone from getting access to your computer is to make it as hard as possible for them to get in. Now as a person that ahs been working in computer security for a few years now, passwords are NOT what they used to be. Today, there are free programs that you can download off the internet that can crack a password in no time flat. There are several kinds of password attacks but most are either brute force or what I like to call finesse attacks. Brute force attacks basically crack passwords by shear computation. They run every permuatation, variation, and misspelling you can think of. Most start of by running every word found in the dictionary, thus this is why they tell you don’t pick any word that is in the dictionary, it won’t last long. But again I don’t want to get to deep into this so I will just say pick a solid password.

-Use a minimium of 8 characters, preferably upper and lowercase and number and a special character if allowed

-Use mixed case whereever possible and make more than just the first letter captial. Try to use at least two digits or special characters.

-Change your password frequently.

All basic things but trust me they help.

Firewalls

What is a firewall? A firewall is many things but basically it sits between your computer and the internet. It blocks unauthorized access to your computer. So why do you need a firewall? Because of the fact that there are individuals who run programs all day that are just scanning the internet for computers to access and having a firewall active prevents this. It basically blocks any unknown access attempt going in or out of your PC. There are two types of firewalls: hardware firewalls and software firewalls. In most big companies you see the big, powerful hardware firewalls but for home use sometimes its cheaper and easier for home users to go with a third party software firewall. There are several free ones out there like ZoneAlarm. It is a little annoying because after you set it up the firewall will block everything until you tell it what is allowed and what isn’t. But true me you will be glad you did. I bet there are a lot of programs that access the internet for things and you don’t even know it. And I cannot forget to mention that Windows comes with a built-in firewall so make sure to activate that as well in addition to using either a hardware firewall, software firewall, or if you are really paranoid BOTH.

Those Darn Microsoft Updates

Yeah they are big, yes they take a long time to download but they are VERY neccesary. If you are running Windows you are just going to have to live with it and make sure you keep them up to date. If you don’t then you are simply asking for a world of trouble. That’s all I am going to say about that. I was going to talk about all this stuff in one post, but this is much to large and I gotta get back to some other stuff. Next week we will discuss Anti-Virus and Spyware. Until next time folks enjoy.

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