Are you concerned about viruses, hackers, and the security of your personal information? Should you get a firewall? Do you need a virus scanner? Hopefully your questions are answered on this page.
Q. How can I keep my computer virus free?
If you use email, then there is a very high chance that at some stage you will be sent a virus. So whats the best way to keep your computer virus free? Easy. Get a virus scanner and most importantly, be sure to keep it up to date. Most virus scanners these days set themselves up to moniter activity on your computer at all times. Everytime a files is saved, opened, accessed or executed the virus scanner checks the file to make sure it is not a virus. If the file turns out to be a virus, the virus scanning software disables access to the file and cleans it before it has a chance to do any damage.
So how does the virus scanner know if a file contains a virus or not? Virus scanners have a library of known viruses, what they look like, and how to kill them. This means that if you get sent a virus that is not in the virus library, your virus scanner will not detected it. This is why you must constantly keep the virus library up to date. You should be updating it at least once a week. A virus scanner that is not kept up to date is almost useless.
Along with a virus scanner you should also be causious with the emails you receive. Anything with an attatchment may potentially be a virus. Take note of who the email is from, the name of the attatchment and the contents of the email. If anything seems a bit suspicious its best not to open the attatchment.
Q. Should I be concerned about hackers?
In most cases there is no need for casual Internet users to be concered about people hacking into their computer. Computers connect to each other over the Internet through ports. Ports can be thought of as doors to the outside world. If you want to allow access to a certain part of your computer, you must open the appropriate door to allow people in. The main reason why hackers aren't an issue for the casual Internet user is because a standard computer has no open doors for hackers to enter.
Generally the only way you may become vulnerable to an attack by a hacker is if your computer is infected by a virus that opens one of these doors and waits for someone to enter. These types of viruses are known as trojans, and may be used by hackers to gain access to your computer.
So how can you protect yourself from these trojans? Easy. Trojans are picked up by virus scanners, so make sure you install a virus scanner and keep it updated. See the previous question on protecting against viruses for more information.
Q. What about firewalls? Do I need one?
Firewalls are programs that are designed to prevent hackers from accessing your computer. They work by monitering all Internet traffic that your computer sends and receives through your Internet connection. Anything that does not fit the criteria for safe traffic is blocked. All versions of Windows from XP onwards have a built-in firewall, and we recommend that all users have this turned on. Many ADSL routers also contain a firewall and we recommend that this also be enabled. Please check your operating system and/or router documentation for further information about how to configure these features.