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February 22, 2012

Serious Security For Your Computer

You want serious security for your computer? Then don’t just stop at one level of defense. Instead, look towards multiple layers of protection to really minimize the chances of any threat.

When you set up multiple levels of security, each one acts as a separate barrier that slows down any attack. Unless your system is being hacked into by an extra-persistent hacker or a highly-sophisticated program, your chances of fending off malicious intent is higher with more than one layer of armor protecting you.

What kinds of layers of security should you look into for your home or office network?

  • Use a router with a firewall. Even if you’re only using one PC at home, avoid plugging in directly to your ISP’s modem. That’s just asking for trouble. Instead, install a router with a built-in firewall and enable it. Additionally, set it to work on “stealth mode” to make your machine less visible to hackers.
  • Enable your PC’s firewall. Chances are, your OS already comes with a built-in firewall. All you have to do is activate it and fiddle with the settings to put in your preferences. There are also many third-party PC firewall programs if you want specific features that the bundled firewall doesn’t include.
  • Use VPN encryption. VPN software will allow you to encrypt all network traffic, both incoming and outgoing, effectively creating an encrypted pipeline of data. Personal VPN accounts can go for as cheap as $5 a month. More sophisticated ones (which should also be more expensive) even allow you to install the VPN right on the router, so all machines in your home that connect online are automatically protected.
  • Install an antivirus and anti-malware software. There are many software packages that protect from both viruses and malware. Personally,  I prefer installing separate packages from different vendors — a specialized antivirus software and a specialized malware remover. Either approach should be good.
  • Password-protect everything you want protected. From folders to files to services, use password protection for everything you don’t want anyone else to access. And use strong passwords that will be hell to guess.
  • File encryption. If you keep confidential files in your computer, you may want to go past password protection and encrypt those specific files. Both Windows and OS X have built-in encryption tools that will render files unreadable even for people who physically have your machine. You can also purchase one off the shelf if you want specific feature sets that the bundled programs don’t have.

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