Online/Offline Security: A Beginners Guide
Why must one worry about online/offline security?
There are no benefits to having a computer system that is not secure, however there are many benefits of having a secure computer system, so naturally, one would hope for the latter. Hoping will not make it a reality, and for those who are not fortunate enough to already know how to attain this, this webpage is made just for you. Assuming you have an average understanding of how to use your computer, the internet, and your programs, you are easily able to carry out many simple tasks that will be able to effectively improve your computer's security, and it wont cost you alot of time, or any money. Most people would have you buy some useless garbage software to teach you how to do this, or get you to buy their stupid books, but why bother when you can just get the straight goods for free? Using these techniques that i have to offer here will not cost you a minimal amount of time, and no money, which should come as a pleasant surprise to lots of people out there.
As you can see from my website, i do not make any profit out of hosting this information, since advertisements pop up annoyingly all over the place, but this is necessary because this webpage is hosted on a free web-hosting site, and all companies that do this insert such advertisements to make money from their sponsors. Theres not much you can do to stop pop-up advertisements, but they are harmless. This website is not here to tell you how to get rid of those pesky ads popping up all over the place, however, there are many companies that are able to make these advertisements pop up all over you computer, even if no webpage caused them to open. Usually, such advertisements are due to installed applications on your computer, such as SaveNow, BonziBuddy, Cydoor, etc. Lots of the time, this is sneakily added to other software you willfully installed, and you may have not seen mention of getting this other software with it when you accepted the EULA (End-User License Agreement) which is that legal mumbojumbo nobody reads. The problem is however, some companies software, such as Cydoor's, will be installed on your computer EVEN IF YOU DID NOT ACCEPT THE TERMS! So if you were to read the agreement, and see that if you install the software, you have to also install the spyware, and in seeing this, disagree, you will have still had the spyware installed!(For more information, see: http://accs-net.com/smallfish/cydoor.htm)
This is against the law, but theres no real way to enforce it, so such companies can get away with it. Is this fair? Hell no! They are using illegal means to put software on your computer that can potentially collect personal information on you, and flood your computer with advertising messages to make them some sponsor money. So this means that you are pretty much on your own when it comes to keeping this unwanted garbage on your computer. Sure, you may not care, you might think "I dont need a secure computer, I have nothing to hide, let them spy all they want", however, it doesn't matter whether or not you have something to hide, there are several benefits to not having these people spying on you, including:
- Protecting your civil rights - it is your right as a citizen to have personal privacy, why should some corporation be allowed to take that away from you? Having a secure computer is the first step to maintaining your rights to privacy, so that your dont give out personal information to companies you dont trust, having a secure computer will mean only you can decide if you want to give out your personal information, dont rely on your computer to do it for you, it wont. ( i.e. "Never send a machine to do a man's job" :) )
- Preventing yourself from feeding the beast - By not having such spyware installed, you are keeping the corporations from making money by exploiting you, and therefore not contributing to their illegal activities
- Keeping your computer as fast as it should be - Like installing any software, spyware will slow down your computer, and usually spyware will slow your computer down ALOT! If you dont want to buy a new computer every year, keeping your old one fast is an inexpensive alternative.
Now that we know why online/offline security is important, how do we actually implement it?
First off, we need to go through some basic steps, then we can determine the solutions to your security problems. Some of the ideas outlined in my System Security page are relevant here, the same goes with my Internet Security page. However, lets save reading them until later, lets begin:
- Detect and remove spyware/viruses/malware from your computer - You will need a program that scans for spyware and for viruses, two great examples are AVG Antivirus, and Spyboy: Search & Destroy. You can find these at my System Security page.
Completing that step will result in your computer being free of spyware and viruses, should you succeed in donig so. Now, just because they are gone now doesnt mean they are not going to come back right? Which brings us to the second step:
- Install a firewall to help keep spyware/viruses away in the future - A firewall is a program that helps to prevent a hacker or a malicious website from transmitting files to your computer that you did not request, and so they cannot install themselves on your system. However, firewalls, such as ZoneAlarm, Tiny Personal Firewall, and Microsoft's Internet Connection Firewall, which is included in Microsoft's Windows XP operating system (but turned off by default), are only as secure as the operating system they are being run on. You can find ZoneAlarm at my System Security page.
Since firewalls are only as secure as the operating system they run on, it follows that the only way to keep new threats and exploits from attacking your computer, you will need to keep your operating system updated.
- Keep your Operating System updated with the latest fixes - Microsoft Operating systems, which include the majority of the home users chosen computers, can all be updated with the latest bug fixes, security patches, etc, at Microsoft's Windows Update website.
Properly completing the preceding steps should make your computer reasonably secure right? WRONG! All this will do is give your computer a fighting chance against viruses and spyware, your computer will have ways to prevent them from getting on your computer in the first place, and ways to remove any such programs that manage to slip past, or get installed by other users of your computer, or yourself, which will likely happen without your knowledge.
- Control the human element of security - Computers only do what people tell them to do, to the best of their ability. If you get a virus sent to you in your e-mail, and run it, and if your anti-virus scanner does not prevent it from running, you will then have a virus installed and running on your computer in no time at all. You have to be smart, and aware of whats going on on your computer. Many websites trick people into downloading their software all the time, and anti-viruses and firewalls are only designed to protect your computer against programs that you did not request, or consent to having on your computer. Measures have to be taken to prevent people from getting on your computer physically if they are not informed about security, and if they dont know much about using computers, they might get tricked into installing such software. One man, named Kevin Mitnick, was once thought to be one of the greatest computer hackers of all time, and the media was so consumed in making an example of him, that they had him arrested and had his rights to a fair trial taken away, and did not stop to see that he had never done any real damage to any corporate or personal computers. There are people like him who are curious, and they will find ways to break into computers, and they have their own agendas. Most of them merely see doing property damage through a computer as a thrill, few of them actually have anything against you, but that doesnt mean they wont damage your computer. However, in the case of Kevin Mitnick, the most extraordinary part of his story was that he was able to get through computer security without doing any real hacking, he merely "socially engineered" people into giving him the necessary information to "poke at the insides" of things like the telephone or computer networks. And a lesson is to be learned in this: The user plays the largest part in the security of a computer system, if somebody tricks you into giving them your passwords, they are able to get into things you dont want them to get into, and legitimately.