How to Protect Your PC | Simple Steps
This article is not about spending bucks on commercial softwares. This is about simple practices that you can follow to keep your computer safe.
1. Minimal use of the Administrator Account
If you're using windows, I'm sure you have a habit of logging into an account that has 'Administrative Privileges'. This is very serious in case you get hit by a virus/trojan. First thing you need to do as we speak, is make an account with 'Limited Privileges'. There's an option of creating a 'Limited Account' in 'Control Panel' under 'User Accounts'.
But habits are hard to shed, so people ask me "What if I continue using an Administrative account?" The answer is simple. In such a case if a virus gets in and gets executed then it can make all the deep changes that an Administrator can make (like screwing up the registry, disabling control panel, adding itself to start-up list etc).
Think of it this way, you have a nice little home and there's one special room in your home where you keep all your extreme important stuff. You always keep that door locked, though the rest of the rooms may be open. You only unlock that room when you HAVE to. In case of emergencies, that room stays locked and protected.
Use your administrator account only when you need to do some 'administrator' stuff. All other times use a limited account and if you need to perform an install of a software that requires administrative privileges, then you can do a 'run-as-administrator', where it asks you to provide your administrative password first.
See? A program that makes complex system changes, has to 'ASK' you first. Similarly, a virus will not be able to make quiet and hidden changes, it will have to ask you too, and of-course you won't give permission.
Hackers/Computer Experts who use Linux never log in as 'root' for their daily stuff. Infact, while I was using 'BackTrack', when I logged in as 'root', it gave me a message saying 'working as root in linux is foolish' or something like that.
So, make a habit of logging into your OS with a limited account.
2. Keep an Eye on the 'Start-Up List'
For those of you who don't know, a start-up list points to all the programs that load up as soon as the OS boots. Each time you log into your account, these programs start-up on their own (like your Yahoo Messenger Tray icon). Viruses, once executed, add themselves to the start-up list so that they can execute on their own whenever the computer restarts. If you keep an eye on this start-up list, it'll give you substantial hints to possible virus/malware infection.
Some common start-up places are : "C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Start Menu\Programs\Startup" and some specific registry keys. You can visit these places manually but save yourself the trouble because there are plenty of Free Software available that will automatically search all these places and provide you with the list.
One such excellent program that I use is: Autoruns version 10.01
3. Choosing the Right Free Anti-Virus Program
You don't have to pay up big bucks for large-scale commercial AVs which are heavy on the system memory and don't always do their job so well. In-fact they take some default action (like deleting suspicious files) on their own which is not always good if you want some amount of control over your AV.
You will probably want to use an AV that is:
1. Free (But does its job well)
2. Light on the system memory (RAM Usage)
3. Provides an easy interface (and is highly-configurable)
My personal suggestion is that you go for Avira Free AV, it has all these features. I've been using it for 4 years or more now and never has a Virus/Trojan slipped passed it, provided you keep it updated.
Otherwise, if you want you can select a commercial AV from the list below :
4. Windows Updates: It has a Purpose
What better way to defend your OS than use the regular patches and security updates released by the OS manufacturers themselves. Instead of relying too much on third-party software for your computer's defense, use the 'Automatic Updates' option in the 'Control Panel' to keep your OS patched.
5. Be Wary of Removable Storage
A Pen drive from your friends computer will mean expired health benefits for your computer, unless you're careful with that drive. Removable Storage Devices are like men with a loose character. Where they've been, you never know and they're filled with viruses and all sorts of infections. So before you blindly insert a pen drive in your computer and double click you should know:
1. Drives have an 'Autorun.inf'. The contents that this file points to, get executed as soon as the drive is inserted (Yes, without your assistance).
2. In a pen drive, the virus file (an exe usually a few Kb in size and disguised) will have the 'Autorun.inf' pointing to itself.
So, Disable 'Autorun' feature in your OS. And scan the pen drive before you click anything. Better use a software dedicated for protection from pen drives like 'USB Disk Security'. Check out 'USB disk Security'.
A Firewall stands between your PC and all the bad slimy things on the internet, so choose it wisely. It closes all unneccessary ports and denies traffic to malicious programs. I suggest you try out these 2 Free Firewalls before you purchase any:
1. Comodo Firewall : Download Now
2. Private Firewall : Download Now
7. A Bootable/Live OS disk
System infected, Experts suggest a clean Re-installation of the OS after a Format of the drives. You need to back up your data before the format of-course but the virus has crippled your OS and you can't get in. You need your data, fast. Now what?
A Live Linux OS Disk comes to the rescue. OR a Bootable CD containing 'Mini Windows XP'. They are on-the-fly OS that you can run directly from the CD. You just have to change your Boot Device order in the BIOS. These MINI OS contain some general programs of importance and you can perform your back up or whatever before you format.
8. Try Ubuntu
Windows is user-friendly and many are used to it, but Linux is secure. And it's open source. That means everybody, everywhere is adding something to this OS and making it better. No harm in trying, right?
Get a Free Ubuntu CD delivered to your home, just fill this.
Well, that's it, folks! Hope you implement these simple steps and get secure. If you any questions or suggestions, do tell.
I really love to read what people have to say about my pages, so please leave a comment.
----- Pranshu -----