Protect Your Computer from Cyber Threats
11 March 2011
With so much of our lives dependent on the Internet, it’s vital that people not only understand the potential security threats that may affect us every time we go online, but that they take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. Every time our computers are connected to the Internet, they can be compromised and used for malicious purposes by cyber criminals – for example, to propagate viruses and worms or to commit cyber fraud.
So, how can we protect our computers?
- Install and update anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
These software help prevent computers from being infected by malicious software such as viruses, worms and Trojan horses. Make sure that they are configured to update automatically.
- Install and update personal firewall software.
A personal firewall prevents unauthorised connections to and from your computer. Make sure that they are configured to update automatically.
- Enable automatic updates of your operating system.
Operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and Macintosh OSX regularly update their operating system to correct security flaws. These corrections are known as patches or fixes. When you enable the automatic installation of the fixes, you reduce the chance of being exposed to security threats.
- Use only supported operating systems.
It is important to update your operating system to one that is supported by the vendor. Old operating systems (such as Microsoft Windows 98 and 2000, for example) are no longer supported by Microsoft and, therefore, are particularly vulnerable to attacks.
- Update your web browser and enable its security functions.
Web browsers are regularly updated to fix security flaws. It is important to update your web browser to the latest version. Your browser's security functions can usually be found in one of the dropdown menu items. Most browsers provide advice on each of the security settings and explain the advantages and disadvantages of enabling or disabling functions and high and low security settings.
- Set strong passwords and change them regularly.
A strong password is at least 8 characters in length, consisting of uppercase and lowercase alphabets, numbers, and symbols.
- Enable a limited rights account for each user and use it for routine online activities such as browsing the web and reading email.
The importance of using a limited account for daily tasks lies in the fact that many malware authors depend on the likelihood that users are running as ‘Administrators’, also known as privileged users, by default. Operating as a limited user greatly reduces the effectiveness of many types of malware but does not mean limited users are protected from malware completely.
- Stop and think before you click on links or attachments.
Many malware authors rely on links and email attachments to install viruses, worms and Trojan horses on computers. Even if the sender is friend, relative or colleague, it is best to exercise caution before opening any email attachment or following links received in emails, on social networking sites or by instant messenger. The sender’s computer could have been compromised by some malware and is being used to spread malware to all the contacts saved in the sender’s address book.
- If you are not using your Internet connection, turn it off.
An always-on computer and Internet connection has a higher chance of being attacked by a cyber criminal. Turn off your computer and Internet connection when it is not in use.
- Backup information stored in your computer.
Backup important data to external storage devices (such as flash drives or external hard disks) regularly. This ensures that data will always be available in the event of a hard disk failure or if your computer becomes compromised.