Best practices for computer security
This document details how you can begin to secure your computer, accounts, and the data stored on them. Please note that even the best safeguard methods will not always allow for 100 percent security, but it is strongly recommended that the following procedures be implemented as best practices.
Top three things you can do to protect your computer
Use security software
The most important thing you can do to keep your computer safe is to install and maintain security software, which protects your computer from viruses and spyware. Such security programs perform two general functions: scanning for and removing viruses and spyware in files on disks, and monitoring the operation of your computer for virus-like activity (either known actions of specific viruses or general suspicious activity). Most security software can perform both of these tasks.
- Install an antivirus application, and keep your virus pattern files up to date. Program such as AVG, Avast, and Norton can be downloaded for free from many websites. Please note, antivirus software is only effective if updated properly. Routinely run the updater to check for the latest database to scan your computer against.
In general, it's not a good idea to have more than one antivirus program installed on your computer. Each program may interpret the actions of the other as viral, therefore giving you false warnings about virus-related activities.
- For antispyware for Windows computers, Windows Defender or Spybot Search and Destroy are free programs used in finding and removing Spyware on your machine.
- Install and run Identity Finder, a tool to help you search for, protect, and dispose of personal information stored on your computer, file shares, or external media.
- Install a Malware detection and removal program such as MalwareBytes. You can download these free from many reputable sources. Similarly to antivirus software, you will need to regularly update the database before scanning to produce the best results.
Maintain current software and updates
Use a secure, supported operating system (Microsoft Windows XP or higher, Mac OS X or higher). Keep your software updated by applying the latest service packs and patches. Refer to your operating system's help for assistance.
Avoid threats to your computer
- Never share passwords or passphrases: Pick strong passwords and passphrases, and keep them private. Never share your passwords or passphrases, even with friends, family, or computer support personnel.
- Do not click random links: Do not click any link that you can't verify. To avoid viruses spread via email or instant messaging (IM), think before you click; if you receive a message out of the blue, with nothing more than a link and/or general text, do not click it.
- Beware of email or attachments from unknown people, or with a strange subject line: As a general rule, if you do not know the sender of the email, do not open any attachments that are included in it, or click any links inside of these emails.
- Do not download unfamiliar software off the Internet: KaZaA, Bonzi, Gator, HotBar, WhenUSave, CommentCursor, WebHancer, LimeWire, and other Gnutella programs all appear to have useful and legitimate functions. However, most of this software is (or contains) spyware, which will damage your operating system installation, waste resources, generate pop-up ads, and report your personal information back to the company that provides the software.
Obtain public domain software from reputable sources, and then check the newly downloaded software thoroughly, using reputable virus detection software.