10 Fast and Free Security Enhancements
Before you spend a dime on security, there are many precautions you
can take that will protect you against the most common threats.
1. Check Windows Update and Office Update regularly
(_http://office.microsoft.com/productupdates); have your Office CD
ready. Windows Me, 2000, and XP users can configure automatic updates.
Click on the Automatic Updates tab in the System control panel and
choose the appropriate options.
2. Install a personal firewall. Both SyGate (_www.sygate.com) and ZoneAlarm (_www.zonelabs.com) offer free versions.
3. Install a free spyware blocker. Our Editors’ Choice ("Spyware,”
April 22) was SpyBot Search & Destroy (_http://security.kolla.de).
SpyBot is also paranoid and ruthless in hunting out tracking cookies.
4. Block pop-up spam messages in Windows NT, 2000, or XP by
disabling the Windows Messenger service (this is unrelated to the
instant messaging program). Open Control Panel | Administrative Tools |
Services and you’ll see Messenger. Right-click and go to Properties.
Set Start-up Type to Disabled and press the Stop button. Bye-bye, spam
pop-ups! Any good firewall will also stop them.
5. Use strong passwords and change them periodically. Passwords
should have at least seven characters; use letters and numbers and have
at least one symbol. A decent example would be f8izKro@l. This will
make it much harder for anyone to gain access to your accounts.
6. If you’re using Outlook or Outlook Express, use the current
version or one with the Outlook Security Update installed. The update
and current versions patch numerous vulnerabilities.
7. Buy antivirus software and keep it up to date. If you’re not
willing to pay, try Grisoft AVG Free Edition (Grisoft Inc.,
w*w.grisoft.com). And doublecheck your AV with the free, online-only
scanners available at w*w.pandasoftware.com/activescan and
8. If you have a wireless network, turn on the security features:
Use MAC filtering, turn off SSID broadcast, and even use WEP with the
biggest key you can get. For more, check out our wireless section or
see the expanded coverage in Your Unwired World in our next issue.
9. Join a respectable e-mail security list, such as the one found at
our own Security Supersite at _http://security.ziffdavis.com, so that
you learn about emerging threats quickly and can take proper
10. Be skeptical of things on the Internet. Don’t assume that e-mail
"From:” a particular person is actually from that person until you have
further reason to believe it’s that person. Don’t assume that an
attachment is what it says it is. Don’t give out your password to
anyone, even if that person claims to be from "support.”