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Home PC Security Tips

Safety Tips for Home Internet Users

Secure your PC with the latest Security Updates!

Microsoft releases new security updates quite regularly for all versions of Windows since Windows 98SE.  New security threats and vulnerabilities in Windows, Web Browsers, and Office Suites every few days.  These weaknesses or security holes are published by published immediately by a number of organizations on the Internet, hackers or virus authors often develop software to exploit those weaknesses within a few days -- well before vendors are able to release software updates to correct the flaws.  Therefore, it is important to install the updates as soon as they become available in order to protect your computer from being compromised by viruses or hackers.

Take Immediate Action to Secure Your PC!

1. Install the latest security updates as soon as possible

Now you can get updates for Windows, Office and other Microsoft applications all in one place. Microsoft Update is a new service that brings you all the features and benefits of Windows Update plus downloads for other Microsoft applications including Office.

Visit the Microsoft Update Web site to scan your computer and list any required security or reliability updates.

2. Use the Windows Automatic Updates feature

Get high-priority security updates delivered automatically to your PC.  See how to use Automatic Updates:

3. Protect your PC with Windows Security Centre

Windows XP systems with Service Pack 2, are equipped to use the Windows Security Center.  The Security Center displays the status of three important security components—an Internet firewall, the antivirus software, and the Automatic Updates.  It also provides access to other security-related features and support resources. The WindowsXP Security Center runs in the background, constantly monitoring the state of these three important security components and warning about any problems:

  • Internet Firewall (Microsoft or Third Party) Firewall programs help protect your computer from external Internet threats such as hackers or viruses that are constantly searching for unprotected computers where they can cause a system crash, other damage, delete files, or even steal personal information,
    such as passwords, credit card numbers. Learn more.

  • An up-to-date AntiVirus Program
    Antivirus programs help protect you from malicious software, called viruses, that attach themselves to a program or file in order to spread from computer to computer.  Worms or Trojan Horse are special classes of viruses.  Learn more.

  • Automatic Updates
    Automatic Updates can download and install important security updates automatically, on a schedule that you set. Learn more.

Visit the Microsoft WindowsXP SP2 Security Essentials page and follow the steps illustrated to ensure that your PC and its contents are protected. 

4. Protect your PC from Viruses

Viruses come in many forms.  In general terms, a virus is a software program that was designed to inflict malicious damage on any computer system that it infects.  Some do serious physical damage like deleing data or program files, or crashing the system.  Others run silently in the background for some predetermined event, date or time to inflict their damage.  Others merely cause your computer to become slow and unresponsive, while consuming all available resources to propagate themselves to any other system that they can reach by email or direct assault over the Internet.

Worms are self propagating viruses that continuously redistribute themselves via email, file shares, or any number of other file transfer methods.  Trojan Horses viruses are rather small, simple programs that slip silently into our computers with web pages, and then download reinforcements -- an number of additional malicious programs or "payloads" that inflict more serious damage.

Viruses, Worms and Trojans can seriously compromise the security your computer system.  They can open a back secret back door to allow their evil hacker authors to take remote control of your PC and steal your personal information or use it hider their tracks while attacking other computers on the Internet. 

It is important to check regularly that your virus definitions are updated weekly.  Commercial programs like McAfee VirusScan program subscriptions must be renewed annually to keep getting updates. AVG Free Edition is a great choice for home computers, and it is completely free with no annual subscriptions to renew.

5. Protect your PC from Spyware

What is Spyware, Adware, and Malware?

is a general industry term used for unwanted software that performs certain tasks, such as collecting personal information or changing the configuration of your computer without your appropriate or informed consent and control.  Spyware can significantly slow down your computer, make unwanted changes to key settings, and is often very difficult to permanently remove. Spyware, like viruses, comes in many forms.  Two common classifications are Adware and Malware. Adware is the term used for mostly harmless, but annoying software that monitors your Internet and search engines activity, and uses the information collected to generate pop-up advertisements on your screen that are more or less targeted to your perceived interests.  This information may also be sent back to their home internet site for statistical analysis or sale.  Malware is a more serious threat that can redirect your Internet searches to unscrupulous search engines, loaded with gaming sites, porn sites, and other forms of illicit activity.  It often causes severe system slowdowns, crashes and is very difficult to remove. Anti-spyware software helps protect your computer from spyware and other potentially unwanted software by detecting and removing known spyware programs. It can be scheduled to scan your computer at times that are convenient for you, like the middle of the night.

What are the signs of a Spyware infection?

  • You see many pop-up advertisements even with no Web Browser open.

  • Your Web Browser Home Page (first page displayed) changed without your knowledge.

  • Your Web Browser search settings have changed (when you misspell a web site).

  • You notice a new toolbar in your browser that you didn't want, and find it difficult to get rid of.

  • Your computer takes significantly longer to start up or to complete certain tasks.

  • You experience a sudden rise in the number of computer crashes or freezes.

Where can I get effective anti-spyware software?
A variety of tools that detect and remove unwanted software from your computer are available at no charge.

Windows Defender Anti-Spyware (Beta, not officially released yet.)
Windows AntiSpyware (Beta) can help protect your PC from spyware and other potentially unwanted software.

Tools from other vendors
Anti-spyware programs are also available free of charge from these quality sources:

Note:  Microsoft and Excel Consulting Ltd. are not responsible for the quality, performance, or reliability of any third-party tools. Open Windows XP Security Center

Are you done Yet?
If you have fallowed all these steps, and completed the recommended tasks, in addition to activating the Windows Security Center in Windows XP, then you have armed your PC with powerful technologies to help combat security risks and threats. Click the following link to review the Windows Security Center task and ensure that you have adequate protection in force.

Protect your family

Quiz: Child safety for parents of children ages 2-12

Whether your kids are just starting to go online or are already Web savvy, you can help to guide their use of the Internet as they grow through different ages and stages in their lives.

Quiz: Child safety for parents of children ages 13-17

Parents must learn about many different kinds of objectionable web site content in order to protect their young children from hateful content on the Internet.  They should also teach older kids what to look for and how to decide whether or not a Web site is a hate site.  Click on the Quiz link above for a list of things that you can do to help your kids avoid hateful content online.


More information available at Microsoft At-Home Security.

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Last modified: April 11, 2008