10 Tips To Improve Your Computer Security

Computer security is no joke—the FBI recently arrested a man for child pornography, but when they investigated his computer, it turned out that a computer virus had been downloading the images using his account; in this article we’ll give you 10 tips to improve your computer security that may save you from being dragged out in handcuffs in front of your neighbors.

As I said, this is no joke! You would not wish this on your worst, most annoying neighbor. This just proves that your lack of computer security can interfere with your life, but hopefully not enough to get carted away.

Computer Tips #1: Use Top Anti-Virus Software

There are a lot of anti-virus programs out there, but they’re not all created equal. In order to catch viruses before they infect your computer, anti-virus software needs to know what the virus looks like—this is called the virus’s signature.

improve your computer security

It takes a professional security researcher to find virus signatures and some companies that sell generic anti-virus software can’t afford to hire enough security researchers to cover all the viruses. Only the top anti-virus companies and those companies that rely on volunteers have the resources necessary to identify the most recent viruses.

AVG, McAfee, and Symantic (Norton) all make top anti-virus software backed by dozens or hundreds of security researchers whose job it is to identify current viruses. Other software might work, but it might also be too out of date to catch today’s viruses.

Computer Tips #2: Use A Firewall

When other computers try to connect to your computer, it’s the job of your operating system—Microsoft Windows—to handle the connection attempts. But Windows has security flaws. Microsoft tries to fix these flaws as fast as possible, but every time a new flaw appears, hackers can use it to break into your computer.

A firewall changes that. A firewall sits between the Internet and your computer, monitoring the traffic going between them. It looks at every incoming Internet connection to see if you requested it. If you did request it, the firewall lets the connection through. But if you didn’t request it, the firewall blocks it.

Blocking connections you didn’t ask for is simple and takes up only a tiny bit of your computer’s processing power, yet it provides an incredible amount of security, so we highly recommend a firewall for all users everywhere.

Hackers are finding new ways to get your information and even steal your identity so setting up a simple firewall will not hurt you.

Free Privacy Scan

Computer Tips #3: Use A Router

You probably know that routers let several computers share one Internet connection, but did you ever wonder how they do it? Every time your computer tries to connect to a computer on the Internet through your router, your router adds that connection to its list of open connections.

When the other computer on the Internet responds, your router then needs to figure out which computer it’s responding to, so your router looks at its list and matches the connection to your computer. So in other words you can see who is using your Wifi.

But what happens if a computer on the Internet tries connecting to you without you trying to connect to it first? The router doesn’t know what to do because that connection isn’t in its list of connections, so the router simply ignores the connection attempt. That means you router acts like an extra firewall.

But a router is in some ways better than a regular firewall. Routers are dumb, which makes them hard to hack. Even if a hacker finds a fault in your firewall, he’ll still need to get past your dumb router, which increases your security.

Better yet, every connection attempt blocked by your router is a connection attempt your firewall won’t need to block. Blocking connection attempts takes a small amount of computer processing time, which slows down your computer slightly—but blocking thousands of attempts when your computer is under attack can measurably slow down your computer. Your router does all of that work for you without slowing down your computer one bit.

Computer Tips #4: Run A Free Port Scan

The problem with routers and firewalls is that you can’t see them work, so you have to trust that they’re doing their jobs—or do you?

A free port scanning service will pretend to be a hacker trying to connect to your computer. It won’t run any hacker exploits, but it will see if you’re vulnerable. The best part is that port scanners need to be run from other computers on the Internet, so there’s nothing to install on your computer.

I suggest you start with the free port scan provided at SecurityMetrics.com. If you want to try other port scanners, just search Google for “port scan.”

Computer Tips #5: Investigate Problems

Makers of anti-virus software are always trying to track down viruses, so hackers try very hard to hide their code. Often they try to hide viruses in essential parts of Microsoft Windows so the anti-virus software can’t find them, which can cause weird problems.

If you start to see weird problems on your computer—problems you can’t easily explain—take the time to investigate. I know it’s a bother, but most viruses make it easy for other viruses to install themselves, which means that you probably only have a few days from the time you start noticing problems until your computer becomes unusable—or your financial accounts get hacked.

Tracking down most computer problems is usually just a matter of typing the symptoms into Google search and reading the top results. Of course, if you encounter a problem you can’t easily solve, feel free to drop us a line.

Use Faceless.me VPN service to protect your privacy.

Computer Tips #6: Check CPU Use

Viruses are programs, and just like any other program, they need to use your computer’s processor to run. Unlike most other programs, most viruses will try to monopolize computer processor use (CPU).

If you press Ctrl-Alt-Delete in Windows, you’ll be able to open task manager and see the amount of CPU each program uses. If you see a program taking up 80% or more of your CPU and you don’t recognize the program’s name, search Google for its name. The top results on Google will tell you whether its legitimate or a virus.

This method isn’t foolproof—in order to hide from anti-virus software, some viruses will try to hide their CPU use from Windows. However, this will catch many back-door viruses.

Computer Tips #7: Check Running Programs

Some viruses don’t require much CPU—like those viruses that use your computer to send spam email. To detect these viruses, you can use the same method you used to find CPU-intensive viruses—press Ctrl-Alt-Delete and check the program list.

In the program list, look for any programs with suspicious names or names you don’t recognize. If you find a virus, use the End Program or End Task buttons to kill it immediately. Then find the file that was running and place it in the Recycle Bin so it doesn’t autostart the next time your reboot your computer.

Computer Tips #8: Restrict Administrator Access

Installing software on Windows is really easy—that’s one of the things I like about Windows. Unfortunately it might be too easy—even people completely unfamiliar with computer security can install programs.

Not only do you risk catching a computer virus when an uninformed user installs strange programs on your computer, but when every user can install his or her own programs, you’ll never know what should and should not be on your computer.

For households and small businesses where people share computers, I highly recommend only one person have administrator access to install new programs. This applies even when there are several adults in the house. After all, it only seems fair that the person responsible for keeping your computer secure also have the privilege of controlling what software gets installed.

Computer Tips #9: Update Internet Software Frequently

Most threats to your computer come from the Internet, so my next piece of advice should come as no surprise: update Internet software frequently. You could call this software maintenance.

All complicated software has bugs. Internet software is especially complicated, so it has an especially high number of bugs. Many of those bugs are just nuisances, but others are grave security risks. Luckily, most software publishers find out about bugs before hackers can exploit them, and so they publish patches that fix your software.

But that luck turns sour if you fail to install the latest patches, as is the case when you don’t update your Internet software frequently. Updating is easy in most programs, look in the Tools or Help menus of each program for a Check For Updates button and click it. If there are any updates, install them. Try to check for updates every month.

Computer Tips #10: Make Regular Backups

When a virus gets on your computer, it will often install copies of itself into other programs or your documents. That’s one of the reasons it’s so hard to get a virus off of your computer without reinstalling Windows—the virus keeps installing itself again and again.

Backups can’t save you from catching a virus the first time, but they can make recovering much quicker, and they will save you from worrying about whether or not your documents are infected.

Tips4PC has several other great articles about making good secure backups. I suggest you read them, but I also suggest you commit to making a backup of your most important files before you go to bed tonight.  It’s one of the tips most likely to help you sleep.

Install a program to your computer!

A software program will not upgrade your memory but it will clean out all the junk files, detect Malware, delete unused registry keys, Automatic Driver updates, and more. Not taking advantage of the latest updates and security patches can leave your computer vulnerable to attacks. At the moment I am using PC Matic to maintain everything for me. This software is amazing and has won a number of top awards. You can get a free scan for your computer to see how it works before you buy.

Free PC Matic Scan

Comments

  1. says

    Great post. I have been using AVAST for a while, and it has been working well for me. I think I will try the Free Port Scan to chekc if I am vulnerable. Thanks for sharing so great information!

  2. says

    Interesting that a wireless solution, a router, actually provides an added level of security. I never knew that, but it makes sense.

  3. David Douglas says

    I was completely unaware of running a free port scan, will Google it on my PC at home, though, its been a very good reading for me,

    I was also looking for increasing data security in Windows 8 but didn’t find a single article on your blog on Windows 8, I’m sure I’ll be back to here to read about Windows 8

  4. Richard says

    I have used quite a lot of antivirus and think that Kaspersky is just the best. Most of the antivirus consume too much CPU but Kaspersky performs better than others.

  5. says

    awesome post about security. thanks for sharing!
    i am using microsoft security essential is this good anti virus.. i am asking because it is free.

  6. Scott says

    Mitz,

    I have started using a USB device called an Iron Key Personal device. It is a secure Flash Drive, protects data with always-on hardware-based encryption, stores and manages online passwords. Onboard Firefox for safe private Web access.

    It is really awesome! You probably have already seen these devices but I wanted to give a shout out to how great they are at creating a secure tunnel using the Firefox browser while surfing the web.

    Hope you are doing great! Your site is looking fantastic!

    Scott

  7. Marnie Byod says

    I am not aware that there’s a computer virus that works like that!
    That’s quite horrible situation especially when you know that you are innocent.
    Well, I’ve been very careful to my PC and been having backups as well.

  8. says

    I recently had a huge virus destroy my work computer and after that, I’ve been extremely careful in how I use my computer and running regular scans. There are some sick people out there.

  9. says

    Oh My Gosh! What a frightful scenario that is. The hackers today are so sophisticated, you never know how you might get tricked into downloading a virus. I have a good antivirus installed with firewall protection and still had a trojan on my PC. Apparently just visiting an infected site transfers one to your PC. I certainly didn’t know how I got infected, and how I got out of it too. It was a crazy month!

  10. says

    Keep computer safe is become too daisy nowadays. Some websites are spreading malwares and Trojans so we have to avoid such websites. Top Anti virus software is the key for preventing from this type of viruses as they prompt you whenever this type of website is open by us.

  11. David says

    Hi Mitz great post on computer security. I really like the free port scan you mentioned with Security Metrics. I did not know about that one – I am delighted to learn of it.

    PCs can be very vulnerable if people are not careful. There are even sites that try to auto download stuff on your computer without your knowledge.

    I’m glad you listed the many ways that you can help to tighten your own PC security. Keep up the good work Mitz!

    • says

      Avast is actually better in many ways, than many expensive antivirus programs. The price some programs have does not mean anything at all.
      As for the article, it is great. I tweeted it for my friends to read because they have no clue about security…
      Thank you!