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Internet security software: How to defend your computer against malware

Most ISPs offer home network security software to help you protect your PC and personal data from malware attacks. It's quick and easy to set up the filters and firewalls you need to keep your home network secure - we talk you through making the most of your security software.

By on June 03, 2014 at 15:48 PM
Guides
Broadband
Internet security software: How to defend your computer against malware

Online privacy and security are currently all over the news, as new threats from viruses such as GameOver Zues and Cryptolocker dominate the headlines. Luckily it is simple to keep your computer protected against any major virus with just a few simple updates to your security settings.

Set a good password for your home Wi-Fi network

First things first, don't leave your home Wi-Fi network unsecured. Make sure you set a strong password with a variety of numbers, letters and cases - simple passwords such as "admin" or "password" might be easy to remember, but they are also easy to guess!

Once someone has access to your router, they can also potentially access each device on your network. Simply by making sure your password is secure and updated, you can prevent any unwanted guests creeping in.

Take advantage of your provider's security solutions

Many internet providers will now offer a complete security solution free of charge to their users. Whichever solution you are using, you should ensure the software is up-to-date and that virus protection is active.

Virgin Media

Virgin Media

Virgin Media Web Safe blocks any potential threats directly from the router. Any websites it believes could be fraudulent, for instance fake banking websites, phishing sites or blacklisted websites, will be stopped before they ever mange to reach a machine on your network.

Additionally, Virgin Media is offering its customers 12 months free security from F-Secure worth £79.99. F-Secure SAFE works on up to 5 devices, including PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets, and will protect your device wherever you go from any online threats or viruses.

 

TalkTalk

TalkTalk

TalkTalk HomeSafe protects every device on your network from viruses before they reach your machine. The system uses a Virus Alerts process that pulls information from every computer connected to TalkTalk's network. This way it can determine which websites are safe and which are potentially harmful.

 

Sky

Sky

Sky Broadband Shield will go some way to blocking threats from malware and phishing sites directly from the router, however the network also recommends you take advantage of the McAfee Internet Security Suite offered free to all Broadband Unlimited customers. The suite offers full virus protection for up to three computers in your home and will consistently update itself against the latest online threats.

 

BT/Plusnet

BT / Plusnet

Both BT and Plusnet offer their own version of the McAfee internet security suite completely free as part of their unlimited broadband packages. Plusnet Protect and BT NetProtect Plus will keep up to 7 of your Windows PCs secure against any intruders or viruses trying to access your network.

 

Smartphone security
You enter a lot of personal information on your smartphone - every time you install a new application and it asks you to enter your personal details to sign in, you're creating a potential security problem if the application's developer doesn't have a stringent privacy policy in place. Smartphone security apps can keep your data safe from prying eyes and companies with marketing initiatives. Virgin Media's F-Secure soultion can be installed directly onto both smartphones and tablets, however more mobile security options can be found in your app store.

Use your PC's firewall

The firewall feature is there for a reason - to prevent hackers from accessing the data on your PC and stored in your online applications. Never disable your firewall, and if a programme says it can't run while the firewall is in place, ask yourself how secure that programme is really likely to be.

Things to Avoid to stay safe online

Avoid opening suspicious emails

Avoid opening suspicious emails

If you are in any way uncertain about the legitimacy of an email you should avoid opening any links or attachments it contains. Even if it appears to have come from a friend, if the text doesn't make sense or it doesn't sound like something they would send, delete it straight away.

Some attackers will send out fairly convincing looking emails, claiming to be anything from banks to local law enforcement. Make sure you are completely satisfied with where the email came from before you download anything from it. A good way to check is to look at the email address it came from, for instance banks would never use a simple webmail address such as Gmail or Hotmail.

 

Avoid clicking on pop up windows or banner adverts

Avoid clicking on pop up windows or banner adverts

More often than not pop-ups are used as a legitimate advertisement to sell you a new product or service. However, these adverts can be linked to fake websites that only intend to install malware or viruses on your machine. If you have any doubts about where clicking a link will take you, you should avoid following it at all costs.

 

Don't shop on unsecure websites 

Only shop on ecommerce websites with adequate online security features

"Secure" ecommerce sites encrypt the data that you enter, therefore making it impossible to crack, snatch or steal. If you see a small padlock icon and "https://" rather than "http://", this means that you have now entered a secure part of the site (the extra "s" stands for "secure"). If the "s" is nowhere to be found, make sure you manually type it in and hit enter. If the website loads after that, it might have just been a technical glitch on the merchant's behalf. If it shows an error page, it's better to reconsider making that purchase and find a website which supports secure transactions.

 

Don't use torrent programmes to download files

Don't use torrent programmes to download files

There are some legitimate reasons to use torrent programmes, however most files downloaded from software such as BitTorrent are a legal grey area at best. Cyber criminals will use the desire for free content, such as movies or videogames, to mask malicious files that could harm your computer as simple video or music files. Once installed these files act like a Trojan, allowing larger more dangerous viruses to be downloaded to your machine.

 

Undo any damage

Free security programmes like Ad-Aware and CCleaner can help you to identify issues already on your PC, and remove any Trojans, viruses or trackers from your machine. Use CCleaner to remove unwanted programmes, stop startup programmes you don't need and clear old data on your PC like temporary files.

Many companies will use cookies to determine if you have been to their website before, or which related websites you have visited, much like a breadcrumb trail. 99% of the time this is just a way to make sure they are advertising you the right products, but if you're not keen on the idea of targeted marketing you should make sure to regularly clean your browser. Select 'clear history' or 'delete cookies and other site data' on your web browser to remove cookies.

Be social media savvy

Facebook security and privacy

Facebook security and privacy

Don't add anyone to Facebook you don't know. Set your profile to be private and undiscoverable - if you want to add someone you can send them a direct link to your profile or invite them. Set all of your updates to 'friends of friends', or better yet, 'friends only'. This prevents your boss from accidentally stumbling across your drunken photos, or potential employers from refusing your application due to online oversharing.

Edit your privacy settings so that people can't tag you in posts or photos without your permission, you'll receive a notification and request for approval when a friend tries to tag you and it's safer than being unaware of what you're tagged in.

Don't leave Facebook signed in at work, or on a computer that other people have access to, and make sure that your password is not easy to guess - use upper and lower case characters and numerals.

Don't use Facebook apps and games from questionable developers, or 'like' marketing pages that ask for permission to track your name and personal data. While it may be tempting to sign up to the latest game and play vs. your friends, you don't know how much of your profile information the developer has access to and what it is using it for.

 

Twitter security and privacy

Twitter security and privacy

Don't tweet anything you wouldn't want your boss or mum to see - your Twitter account is probably linked to more places than you realise, like your LinkedIn profile and sometimes even your company website, if you allowed permission for this to happen.

Sometimes you can forget which apps and websites you give permission to access your Twitter account, so take a look at the 'apps' section under privacy, and if there's an app on there from an old smartphone or a service you don't use anymore, delete it.

Set a really good password - Twitter is notoriously vulnerable to hackers and many of us have had spam tweets sent from our accounts without our knowledge because of a badly chosen password.

 

Google+ security and privacy

Google Plus security and privacy

Only add people you know to your circles, as anyone you add to a circle will see updates you share with that particular circle.

Set up a circle for friends, a circle for colleagues and a circle for public posts. You can share updates with multiple circles, if it's just a funny YouTube video, but you can also limit the chances of aunty Nora's best mate seeing your post about last night's bar crawl if you carefully manage which circles see each and every post you make.

Set your public profile information carefully - don't add a mobile number or email address to the public facing 'about me' section, make sure you set that information as private to you.

 

LinkedIn privacy and security

LinkedIn privacy and security

LinkedIn is the most public-facing of all your social networks, and it should be treated more as a sort of online CV than as a social network. Don't add your Twitter feed to your LinkedIn account if you're going to be tweeting about personal things, or your blog, and don't link it to Facebook.

Set a good password and ensure that all of your 'about me' information is suitable for prospective employers.

Download basic encryption software. Pretty Good Privacy converts your data into code which is almost impossible to crack for third party vultures. You can also use an "anonimising" (i.e. Tor or Anonimizer) programme which prevents people from tracking down your PC's unique IP address.

 

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