Keeping your computer safe from viruses, malware, adware and other nuisances can be a full-time job. But fortunately, by paying a little bit of money you can keep your computer safe, against the most common attacks at least.
Most likely you already know that viruses and malware can create a lot of problems for you. In worst case, identity theft can be very cumbersome and expensive to sort out. Quite clearly, you need to protect your computer against the bad guys. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to protect you against most attacks. A little bit of money and common sense will protect you against most threats. Obviously, the specific solutions depend on what kind of computer you have. In this article, we assume you are trying to protect a Windows PC with a broadband Internet connection.
First of all, get a combined firewall and DSL router/cable modem/wireless hub. Although Windows comes with a firewall, a dedicated firewall will protect your PCs at home against most attacks and annoying scanner attempts. Connecting your PC directly to the Internet will quickly make it a target for numerous attacks and probes. Although an up to date Windows firewall should protect you against most of the attacks, the sheer number of probes can be staggering. A basic firewall with NAT, Network Address Translation, will stop all basic scanners and probes. Another useful feature is Stateful Packet Inspection, which prevents some common attacks including IP spoofing. But it is important to beware that a cheap combined DSL router/cable modem/firewall is not a full-blown firewall. It protects your PCs against basic attacks but seldom helps against more sophisticated attacks and coordinated denial of service attacks. But such attacks are generally aimed at large organizations not against home networks. Given the cheap price, it is well worth investing in a combined firewall/DSL router/cable modem.
Using anti-virus software on your PC is a must in today’s world. Although you can get free anti-virus programs, it is highly recommended that you buy one of the well-known programs, for example Norton, McAfee or Kaspersky. Note that some jokers even try to get you to download bogus anti-virus software which actually is malware. Security Shield has been around for quite some time, it pops up a window warning saying that your PC is infected. And want you to pay and download a version of infected software!
Note that firewalls and anti-virus software will not help if you are happy to open attachments that are sent to you by email. Since it is very easy to send false emails, some scammers send out thousands of emails with an executable attachment. Popular scams include emails supposedly coming from UPS, about a delivery, or IRS, about your tax return. Never ever execute the attached file. Although anti-virus program can detect common viruses, it is relatively easy to modify a virus so that it is not detected for some time.
Like everything else in computing, also viruses have become more sophisticated over time. The early viruses were made up of static code that was easy to detect, as long as you know what you were looking for. Nowadays, you have metamorphic viruses, which transform their code as they propagate. This means that the virus scanning programs have a much tougher tasks to detect these kind of viruses.
Needless to say, you need to try to keep your PC clean of viruses. Once a PC is infected, there is generally only one safe way of getting it clean, re-installing everything from scratch. This is time-consuming and may even be impossible unless you have a good backup, such as a ghost image. If you have anything really important on your PC, you should also make regular backups. Here you can learn how to back up a windows computer