New Computer for the Holidays? Here’s How to Secure it Out of the Box!

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Rob Pegoraro at the Washington Post has a great article which makes tons of sense. It’s all about how to shore up your brand new computer’s protection against Internet nasties before the nasties have a chance to attack. You know, the old “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

Pegoraro makes a really good point. Many of us set up our present computers before the current explosion of hacking, spyware, malware, etc.. So many of the things we have done to secure our computers were just so many bandaids after the fact. Now we know about the goblins out there, and so making our brand new computers as secure as possible before connecting them to the Internet makes perfect sense to even the most brand new of users.

Here are the things which Pegoraro reminds us to do:

1. Be sure to install a firewall, and turn it on!

2. Find every security patch available for your new computer, and download and install it. Pegoraro advises not to do anything else on the Internet – anything at all – until you have downloaded and installed every last security patch. And rightly so. And, he reminds us, be sure to turn on your computer’s automatic update system, so that you are notified of any future patches.

3. Next, says Pegoraro, be sure to turn on your anti-virus software, and, as with security patches, be sure to turn on its automatic update advisory.

4. Be sure to update Windows Media Player, Real Audio, and Java. All three of these are known to have security holes in their previous versions.

5. Pegoraro recommends that you ditch Internet Explorer altogether, and download Mozilla Firefox. We agree. IE is a known security sieve. A huge number of the security issues and patches throughout the year relate to IE. You can get Firefox from http://www.mozilla.org.

6. And finally, and this is a tough one, Pegoraro says to “use your brain”. In otherwords, he says, “be skeptical”. Be careful and think twice before installing new software, especially from unknown sources. Don’t open attachments which come in email if you aren’t expecting them, even if they seem to be coming from your friend (this is what phishing is all about).

Very good year end advice. Thank you, Rob Pegoraro!

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