Internet Security Overview -- On this page, we have Basic information, Checklists, How To, Articles, and Our Overview. The purpose of the information and links on this page is to help get you started to understand what the "outlaws" are doing on the Internet and what you can do to protect your computer. For this week's top Internet security and privacy topics, see our Newsletter page.
Protect Your Computer and the Internet � Top Ten Tips
Background Information from HowStuffWorks.com
Checklists and Overviews
Detailed How To's
This is an overview of what an end user can do to protect their security and privacy when connected to the Internet. What steps can you take for protection? Layers of security are your best bet. Each step can be relatively simple and not too technical but taken together can provide significant security and privacy.
You do not need to take all of these steps all at once. Most people reading this article already have a computer, software and an Internet service provider. So some of the layers of defense may not apply to you right now. But a over a period of time as you face some of these choices you should keep these other options in mind.
Beginners... Start Here
New System Warning! A brand new computer may not have the latest "critical updates" for Microsoft Windows. Before connecting a new Windows XP based computer to the Internet, TURN ON the XP firewall (or install another firewall) for protection from new worms and go to the Windows update web page and download and install any "critical updates". DO NOT set up email accounts or download email until after you install and/or update anti-virus software and virus definitions. Note: These files may be big and take quite a while to download with a dial-up connection. Dial-up users should consider having their computer store download and install these updates before they take delivery of their new system.
Windows Critical Updates -- These are also known as patches. Use the update feature of Windows to download "critical updates" from Microsoft. These are updates that are needed to fix holes in Windows to protect your security and privacy. Go to Start > Control Panel > Windows Update; allow download of system checker; click on Scan for updates; if any Critical Updates or Service Packs are listed, download them. Automatic Updates -- After your first update session, this is the best way to go. Go to Start > My Computer > View System Information > Automatic Updates.
Personal Firewall and Anti-Virus Software -- These are the must have Internet security software products. See our Freeware, Firewall and Anti-Virus pages for choices and reviews. Also consider an Internet security suite that includes a firewall, anti-virus and other security and privacy features, see our Suites page for choices and reviews. A suite may be easier to install, use, update, and get support for than individual products.
Personal firewalls have two basic functions. They protect your system from unsolicited scans coming from the Internet. Secondly, they usually offer outbound control. An inbound scan may be looking for a Trojan horse on you system. Outbound controls watch for a Trojan horse or spyware trying to call out from your system. There are about thirty personal firewall products available.
Important Firewall Notes: If you are using Windows XP, it has a built in firewall that is incoming only; see Windows XP's Internet Connection Firewall, Steve Riley, Microsoft TechNet, October 30, 2001, for more information. If you decide to use another firewall, be sure to turn off the one in XP. If you decide to try out several firewalls, be sure to fully uninstall one before installing another. Running two software firewalls on the same computer may cause problems. After installing a firewall, test it with an online security service to make sure that it is working correctly, see our Test page. Testing your firewall is the only sure way to tell that your computer is really being protected.
Anti-Virus software scans your hard disk to find and remove viruses. To some extent these products can also scan and may be able to remove worms and Trojan horses. To be effective, you should update the virus definitions using a vendor's automatic update service. Since most infections get into your system via email, be sure that the product you pick includes an email scanner and that it is compatible with your email software. Your friends and associates will appreciate it if you use a product that also checks your outgoing email for viruses.
Important Anti-Virus Notes: Look for software that has an automatic update feature and that filters incoming and outgoing email. Outdated virus definitions are useless for new viruses. Unless you want to send your friends infected email, turn on the outgoing scanner too.
Your Internet service provider (ISP) should be your first line of defense. If you have a choice, choose an ISP that offers online virus, spam and content filters. This will reduce, but not eliminate, the amount of spam and the number of infected emails that you receive. The content filter is to protect your kids. If you do not have a choice or want to keep your current ISP, consider using an online email service that offers virus and spam filters. For more information, see our Broadband page.
Anti-Trojan software should be used in addition to, but not instead of, anti-virus software. Anti-Trojan products can identify and remove more Trojans than anti-virus software. For more information, see our Anti-Trojan page.
Anti-Spyware removes commercial Trojan horses often included with or hidden inside of freeware products and services. For more information, see our Anti-Spyware page.
A variety of Privacy Software is available to clean your browser, stop spam, filter content for kids, catch web bugs, manage cookies, and block banner, pop-up and pop-under ads. For more information, see our Privacy page.
Hardware Router For Firewall, Networking & Internet Connection Sharing
If you are connecting two or more computers to the Internet, you should use a low-cost hardware router with firewall features. The firewall features come in two flavors. Most use network address translation (NAT) which hides your small computer network. From the Internet, a hacker sees your router not your computers. Routers with stateful packet inspection (SPI) check the data going though the router as well providing additional protection. If you have or want a wireless router, be sure to use the security features; even if you do, they are less secure than wired versions. Another option is a wired or wireless router with a built in DSL or cable modem. For more information, see our Router, Wireless and Broadband pages. After installing a router, test it's firewall with an online security service to make sure that it is working correctly, see our Test page. Testing your firewall is the only sure way to tell that your computer is really being protected.
Important Router Notes: The best way to have two firewalls for two layers of protection is by using a hardware firewall between your modem and computer or small network plus a software firewall on each computer. As noted above, running two software firewalls on the same computer is not a good idea.