Computer security has been in the news a lot lately. From the Target data breach and the Heartbleed bug to problems with Java and Internet Explorer, there are plenty of ways for thieves to access your personal data.
If you own a computer, you need to take some basic steps to secure the data it contains. From enabling your software firewall and installing anti-virus software to regularly updating your settings and installing security patches, you need to take a proactive approach to the security of your system.
You also need to test your security on a regular basis to make sure it is still working the way you intended. Computer security is not a “set it and forget it” kind of proposition. Businesses regularly run drills and test their systems to see if hackers can get in. You need to take the same steps to make sure your computer security is really providing the protection you think.
Check the Update Status on Your Anti-Virus Software
Anti-virus software is only effective if it is up to date. By the time you download anti-virus software or take it out of the box, it is already out of date. The first thing you should do after installing the software is to set the update interval. You should set your anti-virus software to update at least once a day for maximum protection.
That is not the end, however. You need to check the current status of your anti-virus software on a regular basis to make sure those updates have been going off without a hitch. An interruption in your Internet connection or problems with your wireless network could stop the updates from happening, and you need to know about such problems as quickly as possible. Checking the last update date is the only way to know that your anti-virus software is fully functional and up to date.
Run an Online Virus Scan
Having anti-virus software on your computer is essential, but it is also important to run manual scans online from time to time. There are a number of excellent online virus scanners available. Trend Micro and Symantec both offer online scans, as do a number of other anti-virus software manufacturers.
Running an online scan once a month or so is a good way to make sure your system is free of malicious software and other problems. An online scan is not a substitute for quality anti-virus software, but it is a good secondary protection.
Test Your Security Settings and Passwords
If you are using a Windows-based system, Microsoft provides an excellent program that tests the security of your system, the strength of your passwords and other essential settings. The Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer alerts you to weak passwords, tests your user accounts and assesses the settings of both Windows and Microsoft Office.
The Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer checks for accounts with weak or disabled passwords. Such accounts can be an open door into your system and easy prey for online hackers.
Keep Your Browser Plug-Ins Up to Date
A secure browser is just the beginning. You also need to keep your plug-ins up date. Plug-ins like Flash, Java and the like can provide easy back doors into your system and allow hackers to take control of your system.
Java, Flash and other plug-in manufacturers are constantly releasing updates and plugging security holes, and you need to make sure you have the latest versions on your PC. Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, provides a handy plug-in checker that works on all major Internet browsers. Running the Mozilla Plugin Checker a few times a month is a great way to make sure your system is as secure as possible.
Taking these steps on a regular basis can help keep your computer and the information it contains as secure as possible. Testing the security of your system regularly will give you peace of mind and may even help prevent identity theft.