Security check-list ensures computers work smoothly
by Alan Zisman
(c) 2003 First
published in Business in
, Issue #689 January 7- 13, 2003 High
Lately, my antivirus software has
intercepted more e-mail messages with virus-bearing attachments. One
recent memorable afternoon, I clicked a total of 41 of those
Viruses, spam e-mail messages, hacker
attacks, intrusive Web-based advertising and other potholes on the
Information Superhighway all are increasing in frequency, wasting
increasing amounts of users' time and bandwidth. It's easy to get
frustrated or angry with the people who create viruses or send mass
unsolicited commercial e-mail. But users also have to take some of
Take e-mail viruses, for example.
These have received lots of publicity over the past three years or
there any computer user who hasn't heard a warning about opening
attachments from strangers? Among the infection-bearing messages
I've recently received were "Happy humor Christmas" from rdbarrio,
"Honey" from pbeherendt, and "Snowhite and the 7 dwarves: The REAL
story!" from Hahaha. All, apparently, were from people unknown to
me. Other messages appeared to be business or computer-oriented, but
were also from strangers, with subject lines like "Meeting Notice" or
"A IE 6.0 patch."
I'm sure none of the readers of this
column, upon receiving an e-mail message like one of these, would open
an attachment with a name like Play.exe. But many people are doing
just that, encouraging the ongoing barrage of infected messages that
are showing up in my e-mail inbox.
Business users on a corporate network
should be able to count on their company's IT department, though
checking home e-mail at work raises the possibility of infecting
company hardware. Home users and users at many small businesses,
however, are on their own, and need to take responsibility both for
their own computers and to avoid causing problems for others. Among
the things to do:
- Install an anti-virus program.
There are a number of relatively inexpensive and effective programs.
modern programs make it easy to keep them up-to-date more or less
automatically. (Macs and Linux systems are much less prone to
infection than Windows systems.)
- Use a firewall. Hardware routers or
firewalls work automatically and don't affect performance, but they do
hinder screen hackers trying to get into your system. Software
firewalls may also check for programs installed that are trying to
"phone home" without your knowledge.
- Keep your operating system and Web
browser up to date. Windows systems have a Windows Update icon in the
Start Menu; use it regularly. Recent Windows XP and Mac OS X systems
can be set to check for updates automatically on a regular basis.
- Back up your data. Your operating
system and applications can be reinstalled, but your data, if lost to
error, fire, theft, or whatever, is irreplaceable. Take
responsibility for having multiple copies in multiple locations.
- Know your system. The more familiar
are with your computer and your software, the more likely you are to
notice if something is not working properly or if something new is
installed or running. Find out what programs are running
automatically in the background and pay attention if this list
- Become aware of what other users
are doing on your computer. Children and teens often install software
the family computer that impedes performance and security. If you
know what's already installed and what's running in the background,
you're more likely to notice if something new shows up.
Make it your new year's resolution to
your computer systems safe and secure in 2003. More during the next few
weeks on tools and strategies to help you do this.