PC Security

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TemplateWarning.png If your computer is showing any signs of an infection you should not complete the steps listed below in this guide.

This is a guide and tutorial for helping end-users properly and safely secure their computers. Each section will detail a key program for adding to the security of your computer.

Windows Updates

Keeping Windows up-to-date is your best bet in keeping your computer safe and secure. The second Tuesday of every month is known as Patch Tuesday. This is the day that Microsoft releases monthly updates and service packs for software installed on your computer. Be sure you have the latest service pack, hotfix rollup, and/or updates installed on your computer. These patches resolve known issues and other bugs that would put your computer at risk.

It is recommended to use Microsoft Update to get updates for both Windows and other Microsoft software such as Office. You can install Microsoft Update on Windows XP by clicking the Microsoft Update link in the Windows Update page. On Vista and higher click Change Settings and apply a check to the Use Microsoft Update box and click OK.

There are several methods you can use to keep Windows up-to-date:

  • Automatic Updates - This is the recommended method for keeping your computer up-to-date. This is a type of "set it and forget it" method. You can easily configure Automatic Updates to run on your computer at any given day and time.
  • Manual Updates - This is not recommended for most users. This is more for those who are experienced with their computers and have a better overall knowledge.
  • Alternative methods - Simply see what we recommend below.

Windows Vista, 7, 8

Windows Update Control Panel Icon from Windows 7

You can access Windows Update by going to your Control Panel and clicking Windows Update. To configure your settings click on Change settings.

It's recommended to also use Microsoft Update. Do so by doing the following under Change settings.

  • Under the Microsoft Update section, apply a check to "Give me updates for Microsoft products and check for the new optional Microsoft software when I update Windows".

Recommended settings for Automatic Updates are:

  • Automatic (Recommended)
    • If you shut down your computer when not in use set it to Install new updates: Every day at 5:00 PM
    • If you leave your computer on all the time, set it to Install new updates: Every day at 2:00 AM

The above times are estimated times. If there's a time where it works better for you please set it accordingly.

If you're more experienced with computers you may prefer the following settings:

  • Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them
    • This allows Windows to check for updates and detect if new update(s) are available. It will prompt you with a balloon tooltip saying there are new updates available but you have control over when to download and install them.

Clicking View Available Updates allows you to review the updates before you install them. Depending on your version of Windows you may wish to exclude and hide the Language Packs. Select all the updates including the Optional updates and proceed to update your Windows install.

Updates that you may not want or need include the following:

  • Language Packs
  • Bing Toolbar
  • Bing Desktop

These show up under Optional Updates and can safely ignored.

Driver updates are often better to get straight from the official manufacturer.

Windows XP

Automatic Updates on Windows XP

Automatic Updates will display a small globe icon in your system tray near the clock that will resemble the Automatic Updates icon seen to the right. It will notify you of all the activities occurring as your system is updated. This icon will only appear as it downloads updates and also when you have updates or a reboot pending due to updating your system.

To access Automatic Updates click Start and select Control Panel. Inside the Control Panel is the Automatic Updates icon which you can also see to your right. Double click the icon and configure the settings as you desire or like our example pictured in the image below the Automatic Updates icon image.

  • Windows Update can generally be accessed by clicking Start -> (All) Programs -> Windows Update. This will cause your your Internet Explorer web browser will open up and it will automatically direct you to the Windows Update page on Microsoft's web site. You may be prompted to install an ActiveX component for Windows Updates. This ActiveX component is safe to add and install.
  • When checking for updates you will need to choose either Express or Custom. Express will download and install all of the High-Priority updates needed for Windows as a totally automated process. Using the Custom section of Windows Update allows you to select the updates that you want, including Optional updates that will also benefit your system.

Updates that you may not want or need include the following:

  • Language Packs
  • Bing Toolbar
  • Bing Desktop

These show up under Optional Updates and can safely be ignored.

You should not install any drivers from Windows Update, always get them from the manufacturer.

Alternatives

WSUS Offline Update - For those on a high speed connection and having multiple computers in their homes, this is a wonderful application. WSUS Offline Update downloads updates for Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Microsoft Office 2003 and up.

It then creates an ISO for a CD/DVD that you can use to update computers without an Internet connection. This is a great tool for technicians and can also be easy to use for most users too. If you are in need of a CD/DVD burning software then check out our Freeware section. We recommend using ImgBurn for burning ISOs.

Windows Update Not Working

Securing Your Computer

This section covers the programs that are recommended to users quite frequently. These programs have been selected and tested to be the best freeware available.

Anti-Virus

Avast Home Edition - A lightweight, easy to use and highly customizable anti-virus. Avast is very easy to configure to automatically update. You can have it notify you or silently update. Avast has several forms of protection, including Instant Messaging, Internet Mail, Network Shield, Outlook/Exchange, P2P Shield, Standard Shield, and a Web Shield.

Microsoft Security Essentials - A free consumer anti-malware solution for your computer. MSE provides protection from both viruses and spyware. MSE replaces Windows Live OneCare and the free Windows Defender, which only protected users from adware and spyware. If you use this anti-virus solution you do not need to worry about installing Windows Defender to protect you from malware, as MSE covers malware protection.

Firewall

Outpost Security Suite Free - Provides antivirus and firewall protection from both inbound and outbound attacks and is also much easier on the user when gaming or using fullscreen applications. If you already have one of the above anti-virus solutions Outpost will automatically detect this and disable/not install their anti-virus.

Anti-Malware

Microsoft Security Essentials - A free consumer anti-malware solution for your computer. MSE provides protection from both viruses and spyware. MSE replaces Windows Live OneCare and the free Windows Defender, which only protected users from adware and spyware. If you install this application, you should not run another anti-virus program with it because MSE is an anti-virus and anti-malware solution.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware - A free (and also offers a Pro) anti-malware application for scanning and removing malware. One of the top rated and top recommended anti-malware solutions.

Microsoft Security Essentials is recommended for end-users because of the Real-Time Protection. Not only is it fast, it's very user friendly and has an excellent protection for your system.

Securing Your Browser

Securing your browser is a great asset in protecting your computer. By properly securing your browser, you can stop all kinds of malware from getting in. This section will cover ways to add extra protection to the top three popular browsers.

There are also alternative browsers that you can choose from.

  • Firefox is an open source web browser that is highly customizable. You can customize it with helpful Add-ons and even Themes to change the appearance of Firefox.
  • Opera is another fast, easy to use web browser that has many common features integrated. Things such as a email client, torrent downloader and much more. Downloading the Classic installer is recommended.
  • Chrome is a browser that has built in plugins and other features. It automatically handles Flash, PDFs and more.

SpywareBlaster - This excellent product will protect both Internet Explorer and Firefox. Unfortunately it does not cover Opera according to the Javacool Knowledge Base.

SpywareBlaster adds a large list of malicious websites to Internet Explorer's Restricted Sites list. It also restricts malicious ActiveX components and ad/tracking cookies. The Firefox protection also blocks ad/tracking cookies.

Web of Trust (WOT) - A free Internet security addon for your browser. It will keep you safe from online scams, identity theft, spyware, spam, viruses and unreliable shopping sites. WOT warns you before you interact with a risky website. This addon makes use of the OpenDNS project titled Phishtank to help detect bad websites. WOT is available as an add-on for Internet Explorer, and Mozilla Firefox and as a bookmarklet for Opera, Google Chrome, Safari, and any other browser supporting Javascript and bookmarks/favorites. After downloading the addon to the user's browser, the WOT logo appears in the web browser's navigation toolbar. When the user navigates to a website, the color of the logo will change color based on a traffic light system (Green, Light Green, Yellow, Light Red or Red); depending on the reputation of a website determined by its users.

It would also be worth reading over and reviewing our Blocking Malware and Advertisements Safely wiki article.

Internet Explorer

Adblock Plus is available for Internet Explorer down to version 6 of IE. This is a highly recommended method to help protect yourself if you use Internet Explorer.

You can also use SpywareBlaster to help protect Internet Explorer.

Be sure to enhance Internet Explorer's security with the Web of Trust addon.

Firefox

Adblock Plus will help to block and stop numerous advertisements. Ads can sometimes contain malicious downloads though it is extremely rare for this to happen. Regardless, this will allow you to safely browse the web and filter out unwanted content, keeping yourself safe.

Firefox gets protection from SpywareBlaster, which blocks third party cookies related to ads and tracking. Though cookies are not a threat, many users value their privacy and security.

You can also use SpywareBlaster and Adblock Plus to help protect Internet Explorer.

Be sure to enhance Firefox's security with the Web of Trust addon.

Opera

Opera has a Permanent Opera immunity feature in Spybot S&D. To access this feature, click Immunize in Spybot S&D and click the checkmark in the box titled Permanent Opera immunity.

Be sure to enhance Opera's security with the Web of Trust bookmarklet.

Securing Your Internet

OpenDNS Filters

In this age of the Internet, adware, spyware and phishing attacks are on the rise. Thankfully you can add a layer of protection to your home network or computer by using OpenDNS. DNS stands for Domain Name System.

Many routers support adding OpenDNS in an easy to configure manner as well as several open-source firmwares. One such firmware is the Tomato firmware which is most commonly used on the WRT54GL router.

OpenDNS can help to filter out bad websites that contain adware and phishing attempts. It makes use of PhishTank which is a community based anti-phishing service. PhishTank is used by Opera, WOT, Yahoo Mail and by PhishTank SiteChecker

OpenDNS is very easy to set up. Simply follow this guide to set up your router or computer (if you're not behind a router) to use OpenDNS. While an account with OpenDNS is not required, it is recommended. Best of all it's free. Having an account allows you to filter out all types of websites.

Using OpenDNS is highly recommended to prevent infections from adware, block phishing and filter out other unwanted parts of the Internet.