Protecting your PC


Protecting your PC covers two main areas, the physical hardware and the data within it. The internet provides wrongdoers with the potential to access your PC and steal information from within it.

In simple steps you need to:

  • Back up your important files frequently.
  • Install and update anti virus, anti spyware, firewall and operating system security 'patches'.
  • Don’t open attachments from people you don’t know.
  • Be aware that less reputable web sites may contain viruses particularly via downloads.
  • Beware of using CDs and USB drives from unknown sources. Again, they may contain viruses etc.
  • Protect your email address and ideally don't make it available via web sites. Use 'disposable' email addresses if possible (some ISPs allow creation of these).
  • Be careful what you declare in forums and chatrooms

The following is a more detailed check list of how to guard against these dangers:

  • If the PC is a laptop, then by definition it is portable and hence more easily stolen than a desk PC. Be aware of this portability and attractiveness to a thief at all times and make sure that it is not left unguarded and on view.
  • The data within the PC is usually more valuable than the hardware itself and may be sensitive, confidential or have taken months or years to compile. The first thing to do therefore, is to always ensure that the data is regularly backed up/copied, ideally to a storage medium located away from the normal PC site. e.g. a simple example would be to copy key files to a CD and store this in another room or building in case of fire, burglary etc.
  • Install antivirus software (and if not included, anti spyware) and ensure that they are up to date and that you regularly run a full scan of your PC. (Norton, Zonealarm, Mcafee, AVG etc.)
  • Likewise either use your inbuilt firewall (if using Windows XP/Vista) or better still use a third party firewall such as Zone alarm.
  • Ensure that your operating system e.g. Windows XP is fully up to date with the latest 'security patches' etc.
  • In addition anti virus software is available, this will not only scan your computer at intervals determined by you, but will also check mails and web sites for viruses.  There are any number of reputable companies who provide such software such as Symantec and McAfee . Remember you will need to update these on a regular basis to keep your computer adequately protected from new viruses which are constantly being intorduced.
  • Prevent spyware which is software that secretly monitors your computer activity, scans for private information or can give outsiders control of a computer. Example providers are Microsoft Anti-spyware, and Spybot Search and Destroy.
  • The three main sources of 'malware' (viruses, trojans etc) are emails, web sites and files from third parties. You can control to a great extent your exposure the the last two and you can use a spam filter to reduce the quatity of spam you recieve in your email inbox. Most ISPs now employ spam filters as part of their service. If you doubt the integrity of an email, particularly an attachment then delete it without opening it.
  • For those of you with a wireless network there are a few extra steps that need to be taken to prevent intruders  Rename the network (the SSID) and switch off SSID broadcast so people can’t easily find your network. Use MAC filtering to restrict access to trusted computers. Switch on the built-in WPA or WEP encryption to prevent casual eavesdropping.