How to prevent unauthorized computer access

Below is additional information about helping to secure your computer and prevent any unauthorized access from other people or software programs; helping keep your information safe.

Operating system and software patches and updates

Software updatesThere is no such thing as perfect software, often a software program may have several issues and could potentially have security vulnerabilities that can leave your computer open to attacks that compromise your computer and your data.

Software patches, updates, and drivers are made available, often for free, to consumers to help keep a software program and operating systems running properly and secure. If the program you're using does not have any method of checking for updates on its own it is up to you to verify the program is up-to-date. Often this can be done by visiting the website of the developer who created the program. A listing of third-party companies and links to each of their pages can be found on our third-party support page.

Passwords

passwordMake sure a password has been set on computer. Default passwords such as "password," "root," "admin," or no password allows easy access to your computer or your Internet account.

  1. Change passwords often. It is recommended at least once every few months.
  2. Create a BIOS password.
  3. When creating a password, add numbers or other characters to the password to make it more difficult to guess; for example, 1mypassword23!.
  4. Do not use sticky notes around your computer to write down passwords. Instead use a password manager.

Get a hardware or software firewall

Picture of 3Com SuperStack 3 FirewallWe highly recommend all computer users have a firewall solution. There are two ways a firewall can protect your computer and network.

  1. Hardware firewall - A hardware firewall is a hardware device that is connected to your network. Often many home users who have a home network can use their network router as a firewall solution a network security device with a firewall and other security options, like the ZyXEL ZyWALL.
  2. Software firewall - A software firewall is a software program that you install on your computer that helps protect that computer from unauthorized incoming and outgoing data. Below is a listing of a few of the more widely used software firewall programs.

Agnitum Outpost Firewall
BlackICE PC Protection
Kerio Personal Firewall
Sygate Firewall
Tiny software Tiny Personal Firewall
Network Associates
Zone Labs Zone Alarm

Note: A software firewall is only going to protect the computer that has the firewall installed on it.

In addition to the above listed firewall software programs many of the antivirus scanners released today also include their own version of a firewall program. If you have an antivirus scanner that also has a firewall program you do not need to worry about getting one of the above programs or another third-party firewall program.

Trojans, viruses, spyware, and other malware

Computer VirusSoftware Trojans, viruses, spyware, and other malware can not only damage or destroy your computer data but is also capable of monitoring your computer to learn more about your viewing habits on the Internet or even log all your keystrokes to capture sensitive data such as passwords and credit card information.

To help protect your computer from these threats we suggest installing a virus protection program as well as a spyware protection program.

Know how to handle e-mails

Today, e-mail is one of the most popular features on the Internet. Being able to identify threats sent through e-mail can help keep your computer and your personal information safe. Below are some of the most common threats you may encounter while using e-mail.

  • Attachments - Never open or run e-mail attachments. Viruses, spyware, and other malware are commonly distributed through e-mails that have attachments. For example, an e-mail may want you to open an attachment of claiming to be a funny video, when it's really a virus.
  • PhishingPhishing - Phishing or an e-mail phish is an e-mail that appears to be from an official company (such as your bank) indicating you need to log onto the site to check your account settings. However, the e-mails are really sites setup to steal confidential information such as your passwords, credit card information, social security information, etc. See the phishing definition for additional information about this term as well as examples of these e-mails.

Alternative browser

Before the release of Microsoft Windows XP SP2 and Internet Explorer 7.0, Microsoft Internet Explorer was notorious for security and spyware related issues. Although it has improved since then we still highly recommend considering an alternative browser such as Mozilla Firefox.

Run system scans to check for vulnerabilities

There are several sites on the Internet that allow users to check their computers for potential threats or issues their network or computer may have that can allow users unauthorized access to their computer. Below are a listing of recommend sites to try:

Gibson Research Corporation - The Gibson Research Corporation, or GRC, is a great location to learn about network security as well as well as test your computer or network for vulnerabilities.

Hacker Wacker - Another great site with computer security related information, help, and programs to help test your computer and network.

Additional information