Computer Security: How to Keep Your Computer Safe 

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Keeping ones computer secure is just as essential as keeping ones car or credit card secure. Everything from sensitive files to personal email accounts is easily accessible from a local computer. The following article will outline some simple but effective methods to keep malware from invading PC’s that are under your control.


Computer SecurityKeep Programs as Up to Date as Possible

Keeping programs as up to date as possible is absolutely essential to remaining secure. Popular programs, applications, and operating systems are often targeted by malicious groups. As back doors and exploits are found in specific platforms, custom malware is written to take advantage of the security holes.

Manufacturers work very hard to patch security holes as they are discovered, but their patches only work if the updates are applied. Ensure that all programs, other areas, and especially operating systems are kept as up to date as possible.

Special Notice: On April 8, 2014, technical assistance for Windows XP will no longer be available. This means that all holes found to execute malicious software will not be patched following that date. I strongly recommend that all Windows XP based computers that are connected to the internet are updated to a newer OS such as Windows 7 or 8.1. Click here for more information.


Microsoft EMET

EMET is short for Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit. It is a free tool from Microsoft that can greatly increase the security of Windows users. EMET does this by forcing all programs to use two security features built into Windows Vista, 7, and 8:

  • Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR): ASLR makes it more difficult for malicious programs to find the unique place in memory necessary to perform malicious operations.

  • Data Execution Prevention (DEP):  DEP, to put it simply, makes it more difficult to exploit security vulnerabilities in Windows.

In order to use EMET, download it from Microsoft and install it. Once installed, you will have to wrap specific programs with EMET protection. This is done by launching EMET and going to the “Configure Apps,” button in the bottom right corner. Once there, click “Add,” which will bring up a program selection menu. It is a good idea to add EMET protection to all apps that access the internet. Not all apps will play nice with EMET, meaning that applying EMET system wide is probably a bad idea. Applying EMET system wide will force many extra layers of protection on items that do not need it, such as system tasks and processes. This may cause system instability.


Force Apps to Run in a Sandbox

Running an app in a sandbox will prevent it from making any changes to the computer. The ‘sandbox’ in which the app is running is all of the computer the app will ever see. This can be done by using the software Sandboxie, which requires a paid license.


General Safety Essentials

  • Only install mandatory applications and services.

  • Use strong passwords, and repeat passwords as little as possible.

  • Use of an Anti-Virus is absolutely mandatory on any internet connected computer.

  • If all else fails: wipe the computer and reinstall a fresh copy of the operating system. This should only be done as a last resort, but it will guaruntee that a specific malware is wiped from the computer.

 

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