Five steps to make your computer more secure

March 8, 2008 – 5:58 PM

These days, a firewall, anti-virus software and anti-spyware programs are essential, but they might not be enough to protect you. Here are five things you can do for a little added security:

Leave your computer on.

This is a change from an earlier recommendation that you turn it off to save energy.

Security software and your computer’s operating system are regularly updated to counter new viruses, worms, spyware and hackers probing for weaknesses. If your computer is off at night, you’ll have to update during the day, when you’re working. Or worse, the new threat hits your system before you have a chance to download and install the updates. (Related item: Ask Kim)

So leave your computer on. Turn off the printer, monitor and other extras, and find other ways to save energy.

Use a limited user account.

You can prevent others from taking control of your computer by giving up some privileges.

Too many people use Windows Administrator accounts when they run their computers. Users with administrator accounts can install software and change system settings. Limited accounts don’t have these privileges. So, if you use the Internet with a limited account, and you click on the wrong thing, malicious programs cannot install themselves on your computer.

To create a limited account, click Start, Settings, Control Panel, then User Accounts. Click “Create a new account.” Enter a name and click Next. Select Limited and then click Create Account.

Watch out for crush sites.

Spammers are always looking for more e-mail addresses. Now they’re enlisting the help of unsuspecting teens and adults.

Spammers send out messages with subject lines like “Someone has a crush on you.” A link directs you to a site that resembles a dating service. To find out who has the crush, you must guess by entering the correct e-mail address.

These days, most adults are fairly cautious about disclosing e-mail addresses. Teens may be more naive, particularly when an e-mail message preys on their insecurities.

Watch the status bar.

The status bar is a frequently overlooked tool at the bottom of your browser. You can use it to check links on a Web page. Hold your mouse over a link, and the address of the link appears in the status bar. It may not help if the address is spoofed, but it is still handy.

To do this, you may need to activate the status bar.

For Internet Explorer, close all windows. Open Windows Explorer and click View, Status Bar. Then click Tools, Folder Options. On the View tab, click Apply to All Folders. Click OK.

In Firefox, click View, Status Bar.

Protect your Windows Clipboard.

Malicious Web sites may attempt to copy information from your Windows Clipboard. That is the utility that temporarily stores information from cut and copy operations.

You can prevent sites from downloading information from the Clipboard. In Internet Explorer, click Tools, Internet Options. Click Custom Level on the Security tab. Scroll to the Scripting section. Select prompt for “Active scripting,” “Allow paste operations via script” and “Scripting of Java applets.” Click OK, then OK.

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