Nice Read For New PC Owners

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Nice Read For New PC Owners

Postby TeMerc » Tue Feb 01, 2005 9:03 am

Home User Security Guide
by Randy Nash - @RISK Online - Monday, 31 January 2005.

I know many of you have received some nice to tech toys for Christmas recently, so its time to talk about making them secure and keeping them that way.

I know many of you have new computers in your homes, but how many of you realize that this computer is already vulnerable? How can this be? How can a brand new computer be vulnerable? There are many reasons for this:

Most computers have insecure default configurations.
Your software is probably already outdated. New vulnerabilities have likely been discovered between the time the computer was built and configured by the manufacturer and the day you power on your new system.
Numerous viruses and worms are already circulating on the Internet capable of taking advantage of the latest vulnerabilities.
Hackers know where you are! They regularly scan the common broadband and dial-up IP address ranges.
As a result, if you immediately connect your new computer to the Internet, it could be compromised before you've even had a chance to set up your email account.

Before You Connect

Let's talk about what you should do before you connect this new system to the Internet.


You should not connect your computer directly to the Internet. You should, instead, use a network firewall or firewall router. A network firewall or firewall router is a hardware device that users can install between the computers on their Local Area Network (LAN) and their broadband device (cable/DSL modem). By blocking inbound access to the computers on the LAN from the Internet at large (yet still allowing the LAN computers' outbound access), a hardware-based firewall can often provide sufficient protection for a user to complete the downloading and installation of necessary software patches. A hardware-based firewall provides a high degree of protection for new computers being brought online.

Disable nonessential services, such as file and print sharing

Most operating systems are not configured with file and print sharing enabled by default, so this shouldn't be an issue for most users. However, if you are upgrading a computer to a new operating system and that computer had file or print-sharing enabled, it is likely that the new operating system will have file and print sharing enabled as well.


First Steps After Connecting to the Internet

Download and install software patches as needed. Once the computer has been protected from imminent attack through the use of either a hardware or software-based firewall and the disabling of file and print sharing, it should be relatively safe to connect to the network in order to download and install any software patches necessary


Install and use antivirus software

With all the malicious software floating around the Internet (viruses, worms, Trojan software, etc) an up-to-date antivirus software package is a definite MUST.


Spyware/Adware Protection

A growing problem is the plethora of spyware and adware that can be surreptitiously installed on your system, either while browsing the Internet, or sometimes by downloadable programs that we install on our own


Pop-Up Protection

Pop-up Ads! We all get them; we all hate them! There's nothing more irritating that surfing along, minding my own business, and getting blasted with multiple windows popping up and begging me to buy the latest junk software. At least, nothing other than SPAM, but we'll get to that later.


Phishing has become one of the fastest growing threats related to identity theft. Phishing attacks use a fake e-mails or webpage to fool you into giving up sensitive personal information that can be used to steal your identity (for financial purposes). This information can consist of personal financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames and passwords, and social security numbers.


Wireless (Wifi) Security

Another hot item found in many Christmas stockings this year is wireless routers. This presents a whole new host of security issues that need to be addressed. A wireless router makes it easy to expand your home network. No more dragging cables around your house, or trying to snake them through the walls. Simply purchase a wireless router and wireless network card and you're ready to go… right? Wrong!

Sure, you can plug everything in and if all goes well you can be up and surfing in no time. The problem is that wireless network is completely insecure. If you just set up the equipment and use it right out of the box you have very likely opened your whole network and Internet access to anyone else with wireless connection. The default settings allow ANYONE to connect to your wireless router and, by extension, your Internet connection. Wireless networking can provide connectivity beyond the walls of your home. Your neighbors, or even someone driving down the street with a wireless laptop could connect to your network without your knowledge. There are some steps that you should take to provide some measure of protection to your wireless network.


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