Your PC Security Checklist
Are you taking steps to protect yourself against spyware, malware and phishing? If you have any doubts about your PC security, this checklist will help keep you protected.
by Robin Wark
You never know what is out there. All kinds of nasty programs and schemes lurk on the Internet and in spam emails – each of them seeking a way to take advantage of you and PC. These days it is imperative that computer users be proactive and take the necessary steps to protect themselves.
The following PC security checklist can be used as a guideline to help keep your PC, bank accounts and data safe. Before you complete this checklist, we recommend you get an idea of your PC's current security by doing a scan:
Make sure you have a firewall
A firewall, either software or hardware based, acts like security guard. It screens your Internet traffic and gets rid of what does not meet certain criteria.
Install and use security software
Even with firewalls, it is important to use a security program to regularly scan your computer to remove malicious programs that could gather your confidential information, bombard you with advertising, hijack your browser, or drastically impair your PC's performance. Here are some key things to look for in security software:
- Ability to scan for a wide range of malware
There are a lot of bad programs out there, including: spyware, pop-up generators, adware, keyloggers, Trojan downloaders and others. You want your security software to be able to get rid of them all!
- Thorough scanning
You want a program that will search everywhere for malicious software. It should look in the registry, files, folders and running processes.
- Scan scheduler
You are busy and don't need to try to remember when to scan again. A scan scheduling tool lets you set up times that are convenient for you and keep you protected.
- Customizable scanning
It is very handy to be in control of how your security program searches for malware. For example, you might want to do a full scan, which can take some time because of its thoroughness, once a week but prefer to do a quick scan daily. As well, it is great if you can set which areas you want scanned and if there is an "Ignore" list. Sometimes a scan might identify an item that you are comfortable having on your PC. With an "Ignore" list, you just add that item and it no longer shows up on your scans.
- Extra features
It is always nice when your security programs offer a little extra to help your computing experience. For example, some products might have a feature that allows you to prune the list of programs that launch when you start up your PC. This can improve your startup times. Or perhaps the security software might be able to eject unwanted browser toolbars, add-ons and plug-ins.
- Small footprint
What this means is that the program does not take up a lot of space on your machine. Some security programs can use a lot of memory and other resources and slow down your other software.
- Frequent updates
Security software uses databases that identify known malicious software. If your security program's database is updated frequently, it means you are protected against the latest threats. It also indicates the team behind the product is working hard to help keep your PC safe.
Updates for all kinds of software and the Windows operating systems occur frequently. When you are offered update opportunities, do not turn them down. These can include bug fixes, which can increase your computer's stability, and security improvements, which patch holes for malware to slip in.
Be user safe
By being savvy, you can keep malware and scammers at bay. Only download attachments from people you trust. Use strong passwords that include a mixture of letters, numbers and characters. If you click on a link that leads you somewhere you don't want to be, click on the "X" to completely close out the Window, rather than the "back" arrow.
Avoid being hooked
Phishing scams are schemes where cyber criminals use legit-looking websites to try to dupe you into providing confidential information, such as banking and credit card credentials. A typical phishing scam involved a "hook" being cast in the form of a spam email that might appear to come from your bank, a popular website or a charity. They usually ask you to click on a link to go to a website that looks real. However, all they are looking for is your info to be used in fraud and identity theft. It is a good rule to be wary of opening emails from unusual addresses and, if you are concerned, to contact organizations directly rather than clicking on links.
Computer security can take some time and effort. However, if you take some basic steps, such as the ones on the above checklist, you can dramatically increase your chances of avoiding an infection or falling victim to a scam.
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