We are asked by computer users all the time, what is the best way to protect themselves from computer viruses, malware or other cyber criminal activity. Unfortunately, there is no single approach. As we move forward the the issue is becoming more complex and requires additional layers of protection. A good example would be to compare it to glass. A single pane of glass by it self is easily broken. If we start to layer panes of glass, we strengthen the glass and eventually it becomes strong enough to stop a bullet. Maybe the first layer will not stop the penetration but the combination of layers will. We have to start thinking of cyber security the same way. The following are just a few basic disciplines that are necessary to get started!
Keep The Operating System Updated.
The first step in protecting your computer from any malicious software is to ensure that your operating system is up-to-date. All system patches should be checked and updated as soon as they are available. This is essential if you are running a Microsoft Windows OS.
Install an anti-virus program.
Secondly, you need to have anti-virus software installed on your system and ensure you download updates frequently to ensure your software has the latest fixes for new viruses, worms, and Trojan horses. Additionally, you want to make sure your anti-virus program has the capability to scan e-mail and files as they are downloaded from the Internet. This will help prevent malicious programs from ever reaching your computer. In addition, your anti virus program should also be able to scan your hard drives for any malicious files that may be residing on your PC as well.
You should also install a firewall.
A firewall is a system that prevents unauthorized use and access to your computer. A firewall can be either hardware or software. Hardware firewalls provide a strong degree of protection from most forms of attack coming from the outside world and can be purchased as a stand-alone product or as part of a broadband router. Unfortunately, when battling viruses, worms and Trojans, a hardware firewall may be less effective than a software firewall, as it could possibly ignore embedded worms in out going e-mails and see this as regular network traffic.
For individual home users, the most popular firewall choice is a software firewall. A good software firewall will protect your computer from outside attempts to control or gain access your computer, and usually provides additional protection against the most common Trojan programs or e-mail worms. The downside to software firewalls is that they will only protect the computer they are installed on, not the entire network. Some anti-virus software include the soft firewall as part of their software. You may want to look for an anti-virus program that includes the soft firewall as part of the package.
It is important to remember that on their own, neither a firewall, anti-virus program or system updates can can completely protect you from computer virus problems. But like our previous "layers of glass" example, when used in conjunction with each other the probability deceases significantly. It's a matter of finding the right combination of protective layers to effectively protect your computer or network from computer viruses.