Nowadays, computers have become so common that most households
possess at least one of them. A stand-alone computer in itself does
not pose any security threat to the individual using it. However,
once connected to the Internet, each computer becomes a door which
any identity thief or hacker may use in order to take advantage of
the pandemonium of the World Wide Web. In an effort to protect
users from the aggravation caused by viruses, spyware, pop-ups and
spam, software companies have developed various measures aimed at
improving computer security.
Anti-virus software is the predominant development in this field.
McAfee and Norton are the two major companies offering such
anti-virus software, which actually searches through the files on a
computer in order to see if they contain certain characteristics
which could be viruses, or which are often associated with viruses.
The characteristics, known as virus definitions, need to be
regularly downloaded. In addition to files on the computer itself,
e-mails as well as files on CDs and floppy discs should be scanned.
It has already been accepted as an axiom, that anti- virus software
is absolutely essential for computer security.
Software aimed at scanning for spyware comes next. Spyware are
programs that certain websites run in the background of the
computer while gathering data about it. This data could be
relatively harmless information such as finding out what kind of
websites the computer owner visits, but it could also go so far as
acquiring passwords. In any case, spyware usually deteriorates
computer performance drastically and must be removed from the
computer. Ad-ware and Spybot Search & Destroy are popular
software used for this purpose, but they don’t cover all threats.
Furthermore, spam filters and pop-up blockers are also of critical
importance. Spam and pop-ups are serious nuisances to the user, but
worse, they are often the vehicles that sypware scanning software
(as previously explained) use to enter the computer. They also
negatively affect computer performance. An irritated computer user
is more prone to making a security faux pas than a calm one!
There are several more actions computer owners should take to
ensure their computer and information remains their own private
property, in addition to the software options previously mentioned.
As much information as possible should be secured via passwords,
and passwords should be complex enough to make them hard to guess –
the user’s name, spouse name or birth date are not good passwords.
It is also strongly recommended not to check bank statements when
using an unsecured wireless network, since these networks enable
numerous people to use them simultaneously. It’s important to
remember that hackers spend a lot of time and effort trying to
access information, and users have to keep up to speed if they want
to keep their information secure!