Updated 8 August
You need a both software and common sense to stay safe while on the
The Internet is
a great resource, but while you surf the net your computer can collect
all sorts of nasties. On the net there are viruses, spyware and all
sorts of traps waiting for the unwary. If you are going to spend time
on the net you need to be prepared.
the biggest problems for Windows users is the vulnerabilities in Internet
Explorer. A simple way of avoiding these problems is to simply not use
it. We recommend Firefox as the alternative, it can be downloaded from
the Mozilla homepage.
The reason Windows
users are far more prone to security problems than Mac users is that
Windows users run as Administrators. This means the normal user
can change anything on the system. On Apple Macs and other systems,
normal users do not have these privilege.
We recommend that
Windows users should surf the Net in Restricted User mode. This means
no software can be installed and system files and settings can't be
altered. Microsoft explain the different
types of user on their website and we explain how to set
them up here.
to note that the restriction will affect some software, which is why
Microsoft don't set this up as the default. One account should be setup
as an administrator and password protected. That password should not
be obvious to the other users.
You need a
The most basic
protection for your computer is a firewall. A firewall stops the bad
guys from seeing you on the net and allows you to give permission over
what programs can connect to the Internet. Windows XP has a basic
built in firewall, but third party products like Sygate
Personal Firewall and Zone
Alarm offer more protection.
If you have installed
Windows XP Service Pack 2, you'll find the security centre and firewall
much improved. The firewall is much easier to use than the earlier version
and is turned on automatically. We still recommend installing Sygate
and then disabling the Windows firewall.
All software has
bugs. Most viruses and worms take advantages of those bugs. Keeping
your operating system up to date helps protect you from the obvious
holes. Both Microsoft
have sites to help keep you up to date.
Viruses are the
biggest scourge of computer user and even experienced users can be caught
by them. There are a lot of programs on the market and most of them
are effective as long as you keep them up to date. The free edition
of AVG is
a bit more basic than the full featured commercial products, but does
a good job of basic protection.
You don't have
to be surfing to dubious sites or file swapping to have your computer
clogged with spyware. Even respectable websites can add tracking cookies
and data miners. We recommend using at least two spyware removers, which
you should run every few weeks to keep your system clean.
Defender tool does a good job of keeping the nasties off. This is
a free download but only works on Windows XP and 2000. If you are using
other versions of Windows, then Spysweeper
and Ewido are
looks for software that snoops on your web surfing while advertising
software is the target of Adaware.
Using the two together catches most of the unwanted rubbish that can
clog up your browser. We recommend running them once a month. Like virus
checkers, they need to be kept up to date.
A favourite trick
of the advertisers is to install Browser Helper Objects. These add toolbars
and features to web browsers. Some, like the Google, Norton Anti-Virus,
Bigpond and Acrobat helpers are useful, while most are an annoyance.
Demon is the best tool for checking these, currently it is not being
further developed, but it can still be downloaded from the bottom of
the linked page.
You can filter
your Internet connections. The Net Alert website compares
home filtering systems while businesses tend to use corporate firewall
system like the Watchguard Firebox. These systems aren't
infallible and take some setting up.
If you genuinely
concerned about what the kids see on the computer, we'd recommend installing
the family computers in high visibility places so usage can be
supervised. In businesses, staff should be given an acceptable usage
policy that clearly defines what they can and cannot access on the net.
If you suspect
any inappropriate usage, you should talk the individual concerned as
soon as you become aware of it.
Common sense isn't
infallible, but it's the best protection. Be careful about the sites
you visit, don't agree to download software you don't understand. If
you don't know what if means don't do it, before agreeing at least do
a search on the net for information wheat you are being asked to download.
Do not open suspicious
emails and avoid opening dubious attachments,
even if the email seems to comes from someone you trust,
The net is full
of shady places and characters, you need to take care when strolling
its dark alleys. When you are on the net, use some caution, make sure
your defences are up and avoid the more dubious websites.
By using common
sense and some basic software you can keep out of most trouble. Happy
posted 13 October, 2003