Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Laptop Security

One of the most under-addressed topics about computers is security.  You hear about computer security, both physical and virtual, again and again, but where should it really be addressed?  I figured I would discuss a little bit about general computer security, as well as good anti-virus software options.

Virtual Computer Security

This, in my opinion, is almost more important than the physical computer hardware itself.  It is no good having a virus-ridden computer running your information such as phone numbers, bank accounts, passwords, and other such private and important entities.
First of all, pay-for anti-virus vs. free anti-virus never seems to make a difference to me.  Why pay for something when you can find a free program that does the same thing?  The number one thing you should watch out for when choosing anti-virus is if it conflicts with anything else on your computer.  Having multiple anti-virus programs at one time can be very dangerous as well, as one may recognize the other as a virus and battle it out.  So, lets discuss some good options for free anti-virus, and also anti-spyware.  All the programs I discuss work very well simultaneously with each other on my computers and run cleanly, but remember to check your computer specs before installing anything to make sure that it is compatible with your computer.

I swear by this.  Malwarebytes is the ultimate (and FREE) anti-spyware program on the market.  We use it at work, and I use it at home.  It is also a program that does NOT auto-scan, so you don't have to worry about a program running in the background or interfering with your current anti-virus.  I think every computer should have this, as it works wonders as a final combatant of viruses that sneak through.

Panda Cloud
Panda's first free anti-virus progam, and it is also cloud software, so it is a very small file for your computer.  It is also very simplistic, so good for those "tech illiterates" out there.  Claims to cover spyware as well as viruses, but I run Spyware Doctor simultaneously with it just for added security, which leads us into our next topic.

The Panda Cloud status screen.  So basic, yet so productive! 
Spyware Doctor
Completely free, if you know where to look.  The Google pack is where you need to go.  Feel free to download everything included in the pack, but we are examining Spyware Doctor.  I absolutely LOVE this program.  It finds everything, from hardcore spyware to minor tracking cookies on your computer.  As one who doesn't like anything outside on my computer, I love deleting tracking cookies without deleting my entire internet history.

Other anti-virus and anti-spyware programs I have used and have been happy with include AVG Free Anti-Virus, Avast!, Super Anti-Spyware, and SpyBot.  These can all be found on CNET.

Some quick tips for avoiding viruses, that are sometimes ignored by the general public (not your average "don't download it!" tips):

  • Use alternative web browsers to IE.  I recommend Google Chrome, personally.
  • If using P2P, shut down uploads.  Allow only downloading, and turn upload limits to 0.
  • Regularly check your processes.  If you are unsure of something, Google it and find out if its malicious.
  • Frequently update.  Yes. RUN YOUR WINDOWS UPDATES. For God's sake.

Physical Computer Security

This website, released by Microsoft, sums up physical computer security very well in 9 tips.
In short, the article states:

  1. Avoid using computer bags
  2. Never leave access numbers or passwords in your carrying case
  3. Carry your laptop with you
  4. Encrypt your data
  5. Keep your eye on your laptop
  6. Avoid setting your computer on the floor
  7. Buy a laptop security device
  8. Use a screen guard
  9. Try not to leave your laptop in your hotel room or with the front desk

And remember: just because your computer uses a Windows password does not mean your data is safe.  For someone that knows just a little about how Windows operates, it takes under a minute to crack a password.

Hopefully you have learned something new or found some helpful reminders in this post! Check back soon for new tips and tricks about computers, and reviews on the latest technology!