I've seen a number of e-mails from friends and family talking about different ways to handle computer security and to ward off bad things. Almost every time what's recommended in these e-mails or articles won't help or are of at best dubious benefit. Instead of this snake oil, there are a number of things that you can do to keep your system safe. In fact, for the longest time, I didn't even use an anti-virus application and as of yet, I have not gotten a virus or malware on my system. (I've since started using one, just as a precaution ....)
The top 4 most important things your an do:
- Always patch your computer and keep your applications up-to-date. (Use Windows Update, Apple's SoftwareUpdate, or the appropriate updater for your system)
- Don't open attachments from someone you don't know
- Don't click on random links in e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc, especially if you don't know who it's from
- Use a hardware firewall (like a router, any router). This means you can reach out onto the Internet, but stuff outside the internet cannot reach back to you. (I generally like Linksys, but just about any company's router will do)
In addition to the above, here are a few more things you can do:
- Avoid pirated software and most music sharing sites as many of the files contain malware, viruses, worms, etc.
- Be aware that Windows by default hides the extension of a file, so the file you see as image.jpg may very well be image.jpg.exe (where .EXE is an executable file that could contain a worm, virus or some other bad thing)
This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, but these are the basics, like locking the doors on your house and car, keeping valuables out of sight, etc. They won't deter a determined intruder, but will save you from the drive-by and opportunistic attacks.
Keep this page bookmarked as I'll continue to add links and details as I have more.