Improving computer security
One of the best ways to improve your security is upgrade to the latest version of your operating system. Windows 2000 is in a completely different safety league to Windows 95. Linux is even better. A joke in the computer industry goes "The software package said 'Requires Windows 95 or better', so I installed Linux".
Unless you're a technical wizard able to spot viruses hiding inside files, you must run anti-virus protection software. You should also update the virus recognition data file regularly. Here are more details. Anti-virus software also gives good protection against hackers, since it recognises most of the hacking files they try to install on your computer.
Unbelievably, many computers on the Internet have file sharing switched on. This is wonderful news for hackers, since any computer with Internet file sharing activated offers its content freely to outsiders. It's a particular problem for computers built before 2000, as they often have file sharing switched on as a default. You can easily check and change the setting.
From the Start menu select Settings, Control Panels, then Network. Under the Configuration tab, select TCP/IP. Now click on File and Print Sharing. If either of the two check boxes that appear show ticks, click on them to uncheck them.
Unless you create VB Scripts (and if you don't know what I'm talking about, you're not creating them) you can disable Script Hosting. This is the weakness exploited by I Love You and similar viruses. Here are detailed instructions from ZDNet.
For the best Internet security, install a firewall to foil hackers. It's almost essential if you're running an "always on" connection through DSL or cable. Firewalls used to be clumsy things that took a degree in computing to set up, but the latest versions are wonderfully easy. My recommendation is ZoneAlarm2. It sits in the background and checks any program that tries to connect with the Internet, including any hacker files on your computer. It also makes your computer invisible to Internet intruders. You can download it free from ZDNet. If you're operating a regular stand-alone machine, once you've installed it change the Internet Security setting from medium to high.
If you're looking for even greater security, you'll need to apply patches, which are small software add-ons designed to deal with specific security holes and other computer problems. You'll find all the patches you need, and a lot more besides, on the Microsoft site.
In practice, most people can't be bothered with patches unless they need extra security for professional reasons.
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