Basic home computer security

This is the second in a series of posts that explain the need to properly secure your home computer and that provide recommendations to do so. This post does not assume that you have a technical background. Each recommendation presented can be followed without learning any new technical skills. My post on Intermediate home computer security presents basic technical recommendations.

Why should I care?

You may not be convinced that the security of your home computer is important. If this is the case, you may wish to read my post explaining why attackers are interested in your computer.

How does my behavior affect the security of my computer?

Many attacks against your home computer will succeed only if an attacker can convince you to run a program on your computer. If you take some simple precautions, you will reduce the chance that you will accidentally run a malicious program.

  • Obtain all of your software from reputable sources, such as your computer manufacturer and stores. If you run a piece of software that you obtained from a family member, friend, coworker, or the internet, you have no guarantee that the software is what it claims to be and nothing more.
  • Install and run only software that you actually need. Extra screen savers, games, and other programs not only slow down your computer, but can also be security risks.
  • Unless you know and understand exactly what you are doing, never download anything from a web site. Only certain types of files can be downloaded from web sites without substantial risk. If you cannot readily distinguish safe files types from those that are potentially dangerous, your only safe course of action is to avoid downloading anything. You may wish to seek the advice of a technically proficient individual to determine whether each item you wish to download is safe.
  • When a warning message appears that you do not understand, click “No”, “Block”, or the negative option. Warning messages often ask you to allow something that could result in an attacker running a program on your computer