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Adam Vincent

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Securing Your New Computer

The home computer is used for everything these days – from surfing the web, playing video games, paying bills, downloading music and movies, shopping, social networking with family and friends, and so much more.  Today’s home computer is in constant demand in most households, and is constantly connected to the Internet.  In addition, most home computers contain an electronic warehouse of personal and financial information.

As you unbox that new computer this holiday, take some precautions before you start using it for banking online, playing the latest computer game, or hitting your favorite social networking spot.    Just like any new house would have locks and an alarm system, a new computer should have appropriate protection too.  Unfortunately, not all the necessary protection comes pre-packaged.

Anti-Virus, more IS better

Despite what you may hear, all Operating Systems (Windows, Linux, MacOS) are susceptible to malicious software (malware) such as Viruses, Worms, etc.  Most new computer’s come with a free trial Anti-Virus (AV) from one of the major AV vendors such as McAfee or Symantec, and a trial period can last anywhere from 30-days to a year (or more).  We’re not going to recommend one AV products over another, but we do recommend that you have one running at all times.   Take note that certain malware will not be caught by every AV products, so if you are truly worried about malware, run 2-3 different AV products on your computer.  There are many free AV products that you can download and install, that don’t conflict with your purchased products and provided added protection.

Updates, not just annoying, also useful

Most, if not all, software has vulnerabilities that a malicious person can exploit.  Software companies continually release patches to remove these vulnerabilities as they are discovered by security researchers.  Keep your software up to date – apply patches as they become available.  It can go a long way toward keeping your system safer.  When you first remove your computer from its packaging, it is most vulnerable, because no patches have been applied to its pre-installed software.  Despite how annoying it is to wait for EVERYTHING to be updated, you need to make sure your Operating System (OS), your AV, your Browser are the most up to date version and have all the patches, service packs, etc. before you get started.

Your new computer is only as secure as your home network

If you are going to plug your new computer into your home network, make sure it’s secure.  If you have a dedicated Internet line for that one computer, then you don’t need to do anything additional, but if you have a router for your network, then we recommend you check out our blog that tells you how to secure your wireless router.

Disable the stuff that is just plain bad

There are some basic functions that computers have that tend to leave you much less secure then you should be.  While you can use these functions, if you don’t know them very well, they can be very dangerous.  If you don’t know how to apply any of these recommendations, Google “How to” whichever item you need to do.  (For example, “How to turn off Auto-Run for Windows 7”)

  • Make sure Auto-Run is turned OFFfor removable media (Thumb Drives, CDs, etc)
    • Remember, never a good idea to put a Thumb Drive in your computer if you don’t know where it came from!
  • If your computer has a Bluetooth function, make sure it is turned OFF (unless you are using it)
  • Make sure fire-sharing is turned OFF
    • File sharing is very useful, but if you aren’t sure what you are doing, you are likely sharing those files with EVERYONE.

Enjoy the holidays!!

There are additional things you can do to protect your computer.  Consider what you use it for when deciding how much protection is needed.  These basic tips will ensure that your system has a good baseline of security.  Be safe, be secure and Happy Holidays from Cyber Squared.

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More Stories By Adam Vincent

Adam is an internationally renowned information security expert and is currently the CEO and a founder at Cyber Squared Inc. He possesses over a decade of experience in programming, network security, penetration testing, cryptography design & cryptanalysis, identity and access control, and a detailed expertise in information security. The culmination of this knowledge has led to the company’s creation of ThreatConnect™, the first-of-its-kind threat intelligence platform. He currently serves as an advisor to multiple security-focused organizations and has provided consultation to numerous businesses ranging from start-ups to governments, Fortune 500 organizations, and top financial institutions. Adam holds an MS in computer science with graduate certifications in computer security and information assurance from George Washington University. Vincent lives in Arlington, VA with his wife, two children, and dog.