Can you believe this is my 17th podcast? ... yeah, so can I.
Of course the best way to be secure online is to buy a Mac, but that's not an option for everyone so I've compiled some tips to help out those of us still using Windows.
By the way, if you're already a Technology Coordinator or fan of Leo Laporte's you can probably just skip over this. The whole podcast is really for the less technical members of my listener base.
- Explorer (as well as AOL's web browser, which is essentially the same as Explorer) is inherently flawed. Use them for System Updates because you have to, but for everything else you should switch to Firefox of your web browser of choice. It's less vulnerable to spyware and virus attacks and even has a built in pop-up blocker! Mac users get a lot of the same features with Safari, although I must admit I really like the beta version of Camino.
- Get yourself a good firewall. There are a number of software options that are quite good (Microsoft XP's built in firewall software isn't so hot, Macintosh's is a little more decent), but nothing beats a good old fashioned router. If you're using a router, whether wireless or otherwise, you've already got a hardware firewall.
- Firewalls don't block everything, (if they did, you wouldn't be able to get online!) so you also need a decent antivirus. Some people swear by Norton, others like McAffe (I think AOL has this built in now), Leo Laporte swears by NOD32, and still others prefer the free version of AVG since it's ... well ... free. Two things to remember though: A) An antivirus that isn't updated regularly might as well not even be there. and B) Antivirus programs don't play well together, so only have one on your system at a time.
- Ok, so now we have a decent browser, a firewall, and an antivirus. You should be secure, right? So why do you still have all those pop-up windows?!?! The problem is that you could still have spyware on your computer. Using Firefox may protect you from some of these, but they can still get in and antivirus programs don't usually check for them. THe purpose of most spyware programs (their creators will insist that they be called "adware," not "spyware") is to saturate you with advertisements, from which they make a pretty penny. Besides being annoying they can also mess up your bookmarks or in many cases really screw up your system. Luckily there are three decent anti-spyware programs you can get for free that (unlike antiviruses) really do play nice with each other. If you don't have them already, you should go and download the free versions of AdAware, Spybot Search and Destroy, and Microsoft's own anti-spyware program. Each one will catch spyware programs that the others won't catch, so you should install at least two of them if not all three.
- By the way, are you keeping your system updated? Security holes are being discovered and patched every month, so you really have no excuse not to make sure you have all the patches installed. I even have to do this with my Mac, and Firefox had some problems recently. You see, as soon as a patch comes out hackers around the world look at it and discover flaws they didn't know were there. If you don't install the patch then you're vulnerable to whatever flaws the update was made to fix. Bottom line: updates are good.
Well that covers most of the basics right there. If you want more information you can always go to Leo Laporte's Tips Section. That's where I learned most of the stuff I spouted off just now. Until next time, fare thee well!