This is a guest post by Sarah Rexman. If you are interested to guest post in this blog, just head over to the Guest Post Guidelines.
Most people don’t require that security since we don’t use our computer for keeping extremely sensitive materials. Therefore, we have no need for Government Grade security measures to protect our computers and files. On the same note, we do need some type of protection from those that would want to compromise our identity and steal our information. For those purposes we can get by with doing a few minor tweaks that can help us and that aren’t too difficult. The hard part is getting into the routine of running some of these programs on a regular basis. Each software name also will act as a link to download the app.
Software – All Free
This software is one of the best (if not best) free spyware/virus sweeper on the market and is extremely small and completely free. What I love about this is that it is constantly updated (at least once a day). With that consistency, you have the assurance that the library is never outdated and their scope is rather wide.
Tip: You should run this at least once a week.
CCleaner- Originally known as “Crap Cleaner”, this light application is one of the best and most secure file destroyers out there and it’s free to boot. As of a couple years ago they started offering paid versions of their apps, though the free version isn’t lacking any of the original features. Not only does it allow the user to dictate how many times it wipes over a file (up to a maximum of 35 times), it has other great features such as registry cleaner, uninstaller, and drive wiper to name a few. I’ll go into some depth as to what each feature does.
Cleaner– This is the application’s main feature and it is rather feature heavy in and of itself. Within this screen you can adjust which files it cleans since it doesn’t just wipe out the Recycle Bin it also wipes out all the temporary files that such programs as your browser leave behind. This Cleaner can take up space on your ram and hard drive which can slow down your machine. As of update 3.0 they also included the ability to clean cookies better. Before this program simply cleaned form cookies, or the cookies that held sensitive information like saved passwords, addresses, and other information that you put in form fields.
Registry Cleaner– This Cleaner can help you clear up those old and unused registry addresses that your computer stores from installed programs and sometimes holds onto even after you uninstall a program. This one is one of those that can be rather dangerous, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. I have had to reinstall my Operating System multiple times because of my lack of understanding of this feature. So, for the average person I’d suggest that you don’t use this feature.
Uninstaller- This is pretty self-explanatory, this feature allows you to uninstall programs that you don’t want on your computer any more. This program does more than just uninstall programs, but their site doesn’t provide any extra information. It also gets rid of temporary files associated with that program that you’re removing.
Drive Wiper- Programs often dump items on those unused sectors of your hard drive unknowingly. This is where the Drive Wiper feature comes in, by getting rid of those bits that they place on your hard drive. It can also speed up your hard drive by cutting down on file fragmentation (or file scattering).
Tip: You should run this app at the end of the day before you sleep, and at least go with the 3 passes option minimum.
The greatest weapon in an Identity Thief’s arsenal is the key logger; the key logger loves to attach itself to anything and everything, like a pilot fish, which makes it rather hard to find and spot. Once installed, the malicious tool records every time you press any key and what site or application you’re doing it in. Thieves use the tool to steal credit card numbers, passwords for sensitive sites like PayPal, or your bank account and other information that is better kept to yourself and no one else. That’s where LastPass comes into play; it does away with the need to fill out password forms by auto-filling it for you. All it requires you to do is install it on your computer via one of the links provided (they have an executable file for any and all systems, Linux included). After that, you simply set up an account, and then every time you enter your password you are asked if you’d like to link it to your LastPass account, go with “yes”.
This is its own section and is rather controversial since everyone seems to have their own favorite browser, but for plugins, Firefox is one of the best and has the largest selection of plugins that I have found. This will focus on that browser and the plugins that it provides since they have great security plugins. I’ll be covering five of the best of them. Firefox has one annoyance and that is that it loves to save anything and everything you plug into any field. I have gone a day of use and by the end of that day I would run CCleaner and notice that Firefox had accumulated almost 1GB of temporary files. It seems that most of the other browsers I’ve used don’t have this issue, they seem to destroy files every time you close the browser to avoid taking up space on your hard drive.
Most malicious things love to hide behind Java Scripts; these are commands that tend to run in the background, and if the site is a little “shady” they could use “Scripts” to gather information that they shouldn’t be. The only problem with this “extension” is that it hates embedded videos and sites that use them like YouTube. It does allow you options like “temporarily allow”; this allows the extension to allow this site, but when you close the tab it turns itself back on so if you visit the site later it will disable all Java Scripts again. You do have the option to add specific sites to the exception list to avoid this issue.
This extension is excellent at disabling ads, mix that with Firefox’s great pop-up blocker and you have a very good combo. Not much to add here, this runs in the background and doesn’t really require much tweaking on your part.
WOT is a great web ranking tool and what it does is simple. iWOT tells you if a site is safe or not. The greener the ring, the safer the site is. It goes from a deep pine green to a crimson, crimson means the site is dangerous and if you stumble on said site it will darken the whole site and warn you about it before you can enter it. This tool merely suggests a sites safety and leaves it up to you to give the final decision. Yellow means that the site is iffy and for the most part I’d treat it the same as crimson, unless it’s a forum that you visit regularly. FYI: sometimes yellow gets flagged even though they might be safe but the content might revolve around hacking.
Remember the annoying issue I brought up in the beginning regarding using Firefox; this program takes care of that problem. Before you are ready to close Firefox click on the toilet paper roll icon to wipe all the data regarding your session. As I said, you should do this every time you are done using Firefox. Not only does it free up hard drive and RAM, it also gets rid of those pesky cookies (or bits of information that sites leave behind).
This should provide you with enough tools to help keep the average person safe. If you need more protection, then you are already probably using them and this tutorial is irrelevant. Here are some extra tips:
- Keep your firewall on at all times, if you need extra protection visit Filehippo.com it’s a great site and it has a lot of great and free software in a variety of fields.
- If you are using Wi-Fi in home make sure to use a WPA2 128-bit encryption setup, this can be accessed through your routers page (usually something like 192.168.1.1, it depends on your router) or the application that came on the CD provided to you by your router company.
- In regards to files, keep sensitive information (like financial information, or anything that contains personal information) on a special flash drive and use the encryption program included with most modern drives. Never keep them on your actual computer in the off chance you do get hacked.
- Always use a password to log in to your OS
- Run these programs listed regularly, they will be the best help in preventing an attack
- Remember nothing is 100%, these lessen your chance of being a victim, but don’t guarantee anything
- If you do a lot of online shopping look for sites that use PayPal, not because they are more trust worthy, but more so because it’s an extra layer of security and also is a service that doesn’t need you to input your credit card number every time you use it.
- Check your bank and credit card statements at least one time a week
About the Author: Sarah Rexman is the main researcher and writer for bedbugs.org. Her most recent accomplishment includes graduating from Florida State, with a degree in environmental science. Her current focus for the site involves researching bed bug hotels and eliminating bed bugs.