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Protect Your Computer From Intrusion By Hackers And From Viruses

Dec 12, 2007
If you're connected to the Internet (especially with an "always on" connection such as cable or DSL), you're at risk for intrusion from hackers or with infection from a virus or spyware. This can happen without your knowledge. You can be browsing, logging on and off various web sites, etc., and be compromised. However, you can protect yourself from this type of intrusion by following a few simple steps.

Using Routers and Firewalls

If you don't already have one, you should get yourself a router. This is important even if you only use one computer. This is a type of hardware firewall, which is the best kind. It will protect any personal information you have stored on your computer and will keep it safe. It will also protect you computer from being infected with various viruses.

Because hackers try to gain access to your computer by doing what's called "port scanning," a router can completely block the scans or at least slow a hacker's progress down. Most hackers want to work fast and won't waste a lot of time trying to get around a single router. Instead, they'll move on to someone else who doesn't have a computer that's well protected and that can be hacked.

You can also use a software firewall. Oftentimes, your operating system will already have one included. One good example of this is Windows' firewall. Others include Norton, McAfee, or ZoneAlarm. All of today's software firewalls have several packages to choose from.

In order to protect yourself from unwanted intrusion, spyware, viruses or hacking, you'll need the following components:

- An antivirus protection program
- A spyware scanner and removal program
- An automated virus scanner and removal program
- A firewall

Antivirus protection program

An antivirus protection program will scan your computer for viruses and then will quarantine them or will delete them if it can. It will give you the choice, oftentimes, as to whether or not to delete or quarantine. There are many good antivirus program is available. You can also buy complete packages. Many ISPs also provide their own antivirus programs, so make sure that your ISP does not offer one before you purchase one.

Once an antivirus program is downloaded and installed, it will run in the background to make sure that your computer is always protected. Most antivirus programs will update hourly to daily. You can set them so that they will update automatically and therefore keep your computer protected with new definitions all the time. Again, this is especially important if your computer is "always online," as with DSL or cable connection versus dial-up. If set up correctly, your computer will have maximum protection from new virus intrusions.

Being armed with the proper virus protection is the best thing you can do for your computer to keep it running smoothly and to avoid unwanted intrusion.

Spyware scanning and removal program

Spyware can be installed on your computer without your knowing it whenever you download something for "free" from a web site, for example. At its most innocuous, it's meant to keep track of your browsing habits online; however, more malicious spyware can even give hackers the opportunity to access personal information such as credit card numbers, for example. Regardless, spyware is something that really doesn't belong on your computer. Even if it's "innocuous," it can eat up system resources and slow down your browsing significantly. Simply put, it should be removed.

To do this, there are many spyware programs available, for free. Again, Windows has its own spyware component called "Windows Defender," that does quite a good job of protecting your computer from spyware, including its installation. Other programs, such as Lavasoft Adaware, have both a paid version and a free version. Adaware does not protect your computer from new spyware, but will remove spyware once on your computer for free.

An automated virus scanner and removal program

In most cases, the virus scanner and removal program will be included with your antivirus software. Because your computer has the antivirus software running in the background all the time, your computer is protected from new viruses as often as it's updated. Therefore, frequent updates will help ensure that your computer is not infected with new virus definitions. However, if a virus does happen to make it onto your computer, you'll need a regular virus scan (usually daily to weekly) to make sure any viruses that have gotten on to your computer are removed.

As part of your antivirus software (generally), when you run the virus scan, the program will opt to either automatically quarantine or remove any viruses it finds or will ask you what you would like to do with them, depending on the options you set. In most cases, it's probably best to go with the default choice the program gives you. Most of these programs tell you to let the program choose what to do with the viruses it finds.

A firewall

A firewall is your first line of defense against anyone hacking into your computer. There are many software versions available if you don't want to use a router, and some are free to download, although most of these also have paid versions with more features. One of these which is highly recommended is ZoneAlarm. If you are not a commercial user, you can get it for free by visiting the Zonealarm site.

This software lets you set individual Internet access capabilities for individual programs, allows for automatic program configuration, and puts your computer into stealth mode, which makes your computer invisible to anyone else on the Internet. It also blocks intrusion to anyone trying to hack into your system automatically. A paid version also includes virus protection with ZoneAlarm if you choose.
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