Securing a home PC

Several people have asked us for steps to secure their home PC. We have put together a document that gives some steps that just about anyone can take to add some significant layers of security for a machine.

Essential items that everyone should do

  1. Use a firewall – If you have a complete security suite like Symantec, use the firewall included in that suite. If not, turn on the Windows Firewall. Start/Settings/Control Panel/Windows Firewall.
  2. Turn on Automatic Updates for Windows. Open Internet Explorer and click on Tools/Windows Updates. On the right side of the window the site will tell you whether Automatic Updates is on or off and how to pick a time to install updates
  3. Install an Anti-Virus software package. AND MAKE SURE IT IS UPDATED REGULARLY! If you had an AV software installed when you bought your computer, make sure you are paying for the updates. An outdated AV is worse than no AV! There are some decent free packages available: Anti-vir, AVG Free, Avast Home Edition and ClamAV. AVG is very easy to install, runs a real-time scanner (protects the computer as you use it) and catches a lot of viruses. ClamAV does not have a real-time scanner, but routinely is cited as catching the most viruses.
  4. Use a Local Hosts file from a site like This will keep your computer from being able to contact over 16,000 sites that distribute software called malware that can steal your personal information, user accounts and passwords. About ½ way down the page there is a folder icon with a link to download the file. Download that file, open it on your computer and extract the hosts file and mvps.bat files to your desktop and doubleclick the mvps.bat file. That is all there is to it.

Optional items that most should do as they add significant layers of protection with no additional cost

  1. Install Firefox. It is free and will protect you from many exploits. Internet Explorer is the most exploited browser, if you can avoid using it for daily browsing you will have a more secure system.
  2. Run Secunia Personal Software Inspector. It is free and it will tell you when you need to update your other software (Adobe Acrobat, Firefox, Java, Quicktime, Real, etc).
  3. Firefox has many plug-ins (also called extensions) that can also help you protect your system. The following are highly recommended: NoScript, AdBlock Plus, FilterSet.G for AdBlock Plus, and Flashblock. These all disable some functionality on some websites, but they do this to stop your system from being infected without you knowing about it. You might have to change a few settings here and there to make some sites work correctly. (Tools/Add-ons/Get Extensions from within FireFox and then search for these extensions.)
  4. Download anti-spyware applications that are also available to help clean up or stop new infections like Windows Defender, AdAware, Spybot Search and Destroy and HiJackThis.
  5. Install McAfee Site Advisor. If you installed Firefox as recommended above, you will want to install both the Firefox version and the IE version so that you are alerted when you use either browser. Site Advisor will warn you of malicious sites when you are searching for sites using Google or other search engines. Just watch for the green check or the red X when searching.
  6. Create an every day account that you use that is NOT an administrator account and use it most of the time. You should not use the administrator account or an administrator-equivalent account unless you really need to. This will cause problems with older software and you may find that you cannot accomplish this.

Free software for content filtering has a free package that you can download and it does a pretty reasonable job of filtering your Internet access to the appropriate sites for your kids

Check out the Oct. 2007 Web Seminar, Securing a Home PC for more information.

MOREnet Security | Tuesday, April 22, 2008 | |


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