Protecting your computer from hackers and viruses
By Charles Hopkins
Published 11/28/2007 | Internet
Whenever you are connected to the Internet, it is a sad fact of life
that your computer is at risk of being infected with a virus or
spyware, or even of being hacked. This can happen without you even
knowing about it. It doesn't matter whether you are just browsing
through websites or signing up or logging in as members on others, you
are still in danger of being compromised. The good news is that you can
protect yourself by following a few simple steps.
Routers and Firewalls
It is recommended that you get yourself a router if you don't
already have one - this is still important even if you only have one
computer in your home. The router will act as a hardware firewall - the
best kind. It will protect personal information stored on your computer
and keep it safe and will also protect your computer from all kinds of
Hackers may try to gain access to your computer by port scanning
and a hardware router is more likely to be able to completely block the
scans or at the very least slow the hackers down. Most of the hackers
on the net don't want to waste too much time trying to over-ride a
router and are much more likely to move on - onto another victim who
hasn't got such powerful deterrents on their computer.
There are also lots of software firewalls to choose from if
preferred - check your operating system to see if there is one included
- Windows Firewall for instance is included with the Windows Operating
System. Or there are large brand names (Norton, McAfee for example)
that usually include other components and have several packages to
There are four main types of protection that you will need to have in order to protect yourself and your computer. These are:
1. A firewall
2. An automated virus scanner
3. A spyware scanner
4. A general anti-virus protection program
A firewall is essential to stop anyone or anything intruding or
hacking into your computer. There are many software versions available
and some are free to download and use. ZoneAlarm is highly recommended
and is available for free for non-commercial users. You can get it
and it includes the following features (taken from their website):
A. Intrusion Blocking systematically identifies hackers and blocks access attempts.
B. Stealth Mode automatically makes your computer invisible to anyone on the Internet.
C. Automatic Program Configuration provides safety and simplicity by automatically configuring programs.
D. Automatically decides whether to allow or deny Internet access to individual programs.
E. Expert Controls give savvy users precise control over security settings.
Whilst the free firewall does provide you with basic protection
from intruders, an anti-virus program does not come with the free
version of ZoneAlarm, which would normally be included with any retail
firewall software. This means that you will need to install other
programs to run alongside it.
2. Automated Virus Scanner
Virus Scanners are automated programs, which run in the background
whenever your computer is turned on. They run quick scans of every file
in the background and they don't utilize much memory to run so are an
ideal addition to your protection suite of programs. There are free
virus scanner programs on the net which you can use, A2 Guard or
ASquared are highly recommended or check your ISP for any special
offers that they may have running - some offer big reductions on the
larger retailers software.
3. Spyware Scanners
Spyware Scanners are protection programs that scan your computer
for spyware - you can usually set it to run at certain times, probably
once a month would be adequate. Again check with your ISP to see if
they include a free spyware scanner to run in the background or there
are others available for free, including Ad-Aware which is very easy to
Spyware can be installed without you knowing it when you browse a
website which has infected cookies. The spyware protection program will
stop these being installed, or will at the very least ask you to choose
whether to accept or reject the cookies when it suspects something
suspicious is going on. It is highly recommended that you reject them.
4. Anti-Virus Protection
A general anti-virus protection program scans your computer for
viruses and will either delete them or it will quarantine them until
you decide to delete them. There are free anti-virus programs
available, or you can buy complete packages. Once again, check with
your ISP to make sure that they are not running any special offers on
anti-virus protection programs.
If you have these protection programs installed on your computer
and have them set up correctly to run in the background whenever your
computer is turned on, you should have no trouble whilst browsing
websites on the Internet.
Staying vigilant and being armed with protection is certainly the
best way of keeping hackers, viruses and spyware away from your