Computer security is something we all worry about, yet we don’t really understand. The information below aims to offer an unbiased explanation of modern computer security to ensure that you have a hassle-free computing experience without living in constant fear or paranoia that your systems are going to be compromised.
Good Common Sense
You might roll your eyes when you hear this, but the best security for your computer is good common sense. Over the years, the security systems used online and within your operating system have advanced significantly. Whilst it’s likely that system vulnerabilities still exist, it’s much harder to directly exploit computer systems than it used be. As such, the way malicious software is spreading is not necessarily through system exploitation, it’s through user exploitation. That’s right – the biggest security risk to your computer systems sits between the monitor and the chair. In fact, you’re often much better off having sharpened wits and NO antivirus at all than be clueless with the best anti-virus system known to man. It’s not the advice that antivirus companies want you to hear, but it’s true. Here’s an example of a phishing attack that an antivirus can’t protect you from:
“But I’m not as tech savvy as a computer technician!” you might say. Don’t worry, we hear you. We were clueless about security at one point too. To save you learning the hard way, here are some quick tips we can recommend:
GOOGLE EVERYTHING. This should go without saying. Sounds a little dodgy? Google it’s name, various blocks of text, web addresses and contact information. It only takes a moment. If it’s something to be avoided, the web results should give a pretty good indication of this.
READ and understand various computer prompts and warnings. Although we don’t expect you to read entire licence agreements (who does?), you should still read prompts before dismissing them. This is especially true when installing free software – often there will be unwanted software, toolbars and offers bundled with the install packages. Make sure to decline or uncheck those “special” offers to avoid filling your PC with garbage.
Keep up with current scams on ScamWatch and in the Little Black Book of Scams. Remember that you are the target, not your computer, so make you don’t get tricked by phone and email scams.
Sharpen your ability to detect fake phishing emails. Take the Sonicwall, McAfee and OpenDNS phishing quizzes. Repeat them until you get them ALL correct. It only takes 5 minutes and is actually quite fun to do.
Beware of what you click on, what website you are on, and where you input sensitive personal information. Remember that you can check the URL at the top of your browser or hover your mouse over a link to see the real web address. If it doesn’t align with the rest of the content, avoid it.
And lastly… If it’s too good to be true, it probably is! (but you knew that, right?)
Antivirus and Antimalware
Whilst it can be maintained that the best security is good common sense, we have pre-loaded security software to help keep your computer free of malicious software infection. Before cracking into detail about these two programs, it’s a good idea to explain the types of security software for your PC.
Most security software can be categorised as either an Antivirus or Antimalware software package. Antivirus software protects your system in real time from viruses, which is a form of malicious software intend to cause serious harm to your system. Viruses infect your system via illegal means and often without the knowledge of users. They are well known for infecting your system inoperable and spreading the infection to other systems via any means possible, such as through email, removable media, or computer networks.
Antimalware software on the other hand is software designed to protect against Malware. Malware is a more general, umbrella definition of malicious software which is typically spread through quasi-legal means, but is typically not as harmful. It is highly common however, as many users accidentally install malware as it often distributed with legitimate software. Malware often takes the form of toolbars, adware and scareware, and will often try to coerce or trick users to spend money on the software. Malware often has a tendency to change browser home pages and search options, inject intrusive advertising into the operating system and collect personal information. It also can cause file damage to the operating system and cause significant performance issues. Here’s an example of how potential malware gets into your system. Pay particular attention to the what the “recommended” installation mode intends to do to your PC.
To help protect your system (emphasis on the word help – even the best security systems won’t detect 100% of security threats) we’ve installed an antivirus called Microsoft Security Essentials (also known as Windows Defender on Windows 8/8.1) and an antimalware called MalwareBytes Anti Malware.
Microsoft Security Essentials It is a free antivirus from Microsoft which has real-time monitoring, updates itself and scans itself periodically. It’s a lightweight and simple Antivirus system that is free and will remain free forever. It is very unintrusive and will only bother you if there is a serious issue with your system, however it does not have the best detection rate compared to some other Antiviruses. Saying that, it is more than enough for 95% of home users and we mean that – for most people there is really no need to spend any money at all on an antivirus. However, if you really want to try a more powerful antivirus system, we’d recommend Avast Antivirus (or Bitdefender Free if your computer is a bit older or slower), which also happens to be free. Just remember to uninstall your existing antivirus before installing it (on Windows 8 and above it will disable itself).
If you were to spend any money on security software, consider MalwareBytes Antimalware. Malware is far more common to infect your system these days rather than viruses and is highly annoying to deal with. Whilst the free version which is already pre-installed on your system can remove malware already in your system, the real value of MalwareBytes Antimalware comes in the premium version, which has an excellent real-time scanning system to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Whilst it’s not strictly needed for everyone (remember that good common sense is the best computer security system) it’s a worthwhile consideration if you want a bit more security.
There is no denying that most forms of malware are distributed via questionable internet ads. Banner ads are one of the most common ways to trick unsuspecting site viewers into downloading unwanted software for their PC. In addition to this, many ads online are intrusive, flashy, or downright annoying. To combat this issue, an extension for Chrome called uBlock (or Adblock Plus if your system was setup before 11/03/15) has been pre-installed on your system which will block all annoying ads while browsing the web – including most popup, banner and video ads.
Please note that if you are still using Adblock Plus (ABP icon in top right hand corner of Chrome), we recommend you switch to uBlock instead. It does everything Adblock Plus does, except it’s designed to run more faster and more efficiently, making your web browsing experience smoother.
You can install uBlock here, but remember to uninstall Adblock Plus by right clicking on the ABP icon and clicking “remove from Chrome”.
To demonstrate the effects or uBlock, here is an example of the popular internet speed test website with adblock enabled and disabled, respectively.
As you may notice, browsing without ads is a much nicer experience and greatly reduces the risk of accidentally clicking on something you shouldn’t. It also blocks annoying video ads.
You can see how many ads are being blocked by looking at number next to the red “µ” icon on the top right hand corner of Chrome. Whilst uBlock works well on most websites, there is the occasional site which may rely on ads for its functionality. If you are having difficulty with a website not functioning as it should, click on the µ icon to bring up the menu. From here you can easily enable or disable ad blocking for that particular website by clicking on the On/Off button. Please note that you will need to refresh the webpage by pressing F5 or CTRL + R for these changes to take effect.