June 1, 2010

Surf’s Up – Internet News

By Chris Cournoyer
e-mail: webmaster@ccx.net
Domain: www.ccx.net

Keeping Your Computer Safe, Secure and Updated

With continually expanding hard drive space, your computer can hold a lot of personal information. You depend on security programs to keep that information safe. Perhaps you already have a firewall, anti-spyware and antivirus that you keep up-to-date. Does that ensure that your data is safe and secure?

Not necessarily. There are many other programs and processes that affect your computer’s security, including Java, Flash and your Windows settings that can create vulnerabilities without you even knowing how or why.

This article will attempt to give you some ideas on how you can test your security and protect your data with free programs that you can download.

Safe Web Browsing

Many of us use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to browse the Internet, but even with the Windows updates that are constantly being downloaded to fix the security holes, issues continue to appear. I have had good
experience thus far with the Firefox browser. It’s free and I have read that it is inherently safer. Take a tour and decide for yourself at: http://www.mozilla.com

Keeping Your Computer Updated with the Latest Security Upgrades

Software developers are always releasing updates and upgrades for their software to better protect against security holes. But you might not know they are out unless they have a way to directly notify you. Here are two free programs that you will find invaluable for keeping your programs updated:

• Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) – http://secunia.com

This program is a free security tool designed to detect vulnerable and out-dated programs and plug-ins which expose your PC to attacks. Attacks exploiting vulnerable programs and plug-ins are rarely blocked by traditional anti-virus and are therefore increasingly “popular” among criminals.

The only solution to block these kinds of attacks is to apply security updates, commonly referred to as patches. Patches are offered free-of-charge by most software vendors, however, finding all these patches is a tedious and time consuming task. Secunia PSI automates this and alerts you when your programs and plug-ins require updating to stay secure. It includes checking for Windows, browsers, iTunes, Flash and much more. You run it directly from your browser and the check takes a few minutes to let you know what needs attention. It won’t perform the updates for you, but will give you a link so you can do it yourself and explain why the update is necessary.
• Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA) – www.microsoft.com

The Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer provides a streamlined method to identify missing security updates and common security misconfigurations. It performs an in-depth check of your Windows software and settings. While there is some overlap with Secunia, MBSA can find security problems in others areas such as user account passwords, alerting you if you have any weak or disabled passwords that could easily be hacked by criminals. It also checks your account settings to ensure that you are getting automatic updates where they are available and that your Windows firewall is configured correctly. It shows you what settings are preferred and explains why.

NOTE: These programs will not check your antivirus/anti-spyware programs or a third-party firewall. These security programs will often update themselves, but you need to make sure automatic updates are enabled. Otherwise you can perform manual updates yourself, but make a note on your calendar to do it regularly!