Best Steps to Protect Family and Computers Online During the Holidays

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This is a list of 15 mostly free and low-cost things that consumers can do to protect home computers and family members on the Internet. The actions include using ISP security features, Windows update, a patch auditor, openDNS, email filtering, an up-to-date browser, a password manager, a two-way firewall, anti-malware, hard disk clean up and back up tools, a router, broadband, Windows 7 upgrade, and an Internet security suite.

The Internet is a hostile network like the wild west without a sheriff!

This is a list of 15 mostly free and low-cost things that consumers can do to protect home computers and family members on the Internet. To see this press release with active hyperlinks, go to http://www.firewallguide.com/safe-holidays-2010.htm

ISP Offers? Use free or discounted Internet security services or software offered by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). These options may include spam and virus filters for an email account, and an Internet security software suite with firewall, antivirus, and more security features. Before installing ISP software, check for online reviews.

Windows Update? Use the free Microsoft / Windows update service every second Tuesday of the month. Hackers love out of date software. Note: If it has been awhile, run update and reboot, then run it again.

Patch Auditor? Use a free application security patch auditor like Securia Online Software Inspector (OSI) at least once a month to check for security patches. For continuous coverage, download the Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI).

openDNS? Use the free openDNS service to filter everything entering your computer from the Internet. Free basic protection includes anti-phishing, anti-botnet, and more than 50 categories of web content filtering. Filter some or all, it’s up to the user.

Email Spam/Virus? Use email software and/or an online email service that has spam and virus filters.

Browser? Use an up-to-date Internet browser like Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 3.6, Opera10.6, or Chrome 7. Be sure to use the built-in privacy and security features.

Passwords? Use a password manager like Lastpass. Can anyone remember even ten 12 digit passwords with numbers, symbols, lower and upper case letters like ^80enmfVC^6g ? A good password manager makes it easy.

Firewall? Use a two-way firewall. The one included in Windows is OK but one-way, incoming. There are good free two-way personal firewalls available like Checkpoint ZoneAlarm Firewall, Comodo Firewall Pro, Online Armor, PC Tools Firewall Plus, and PrivateFirewall.

Anti-Malware? Use anti-malware software that checks for viruses, spyware, Trojans, worms, key loggers, root kits, phishing... It may take two or more products to cover all of these threats. Top free combo choices include Panda Cloud Antivirus, avast! antivirus home edition, and Microsoft Essentials. All three include antivirus and anti-spyware features. OpenDNS (above) includes anti-phishing, anti-botnet, and web content filtering.

HD Clean Up? Remove software applications that are never used. Try PC Decrapifier and Revo Uninstaller to help remove unwanted software. For cleaning temporary files, cookies, etc., try CCleaner.

Back Up? Back up important files. Try a free online service. Is the entire system backed up? Use a low-cost flash drive or external hard disk. Have a system repair disk? If needed, be very happy there is one.

Retail Items

Router? Use a low-cost hardware router with built in firewalls for to use with one to four computers, wired or wireless. Be sure to get one with NAT, SPI, WAPA… security features.

Broadband? Get Internet service faster than dial-up (cable, dsl, etc.). Keeping a computer secure entails a lot of downloading of patches, updates, and utility software.

Windows Upgrade? Upgrade to Windows 7. Before purchasing, run the Microsoft upgrade advisor to see if it will work on your computer. Windows 7 is better accepted than Vista and much more secure than Windows XP.

Security Suite? An Internet security software suite can include a two-way firewall, anti-malware, anti-spam and more features in a single product. Top rated ones are available from Norton, Kaspersky, PC Tools, Webroot, ZoneAlarm and others. These products are not free.

Important Tips

Remove Old Software. To avoid problems, remove old security software before installing new security software even if the two products are from the same vendor. The free AppRemover utility enables the thorough uninstallation of security applications.

Just One, Not Two. To prevent problems, do not use two software firewalls or anti-malware products at the same time (unless the vendors say it is OK).

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HENRY S MARKUS
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