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What Security Measures Are Available to the Average Computer User?

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 When looking to secure your computer, you'll want to consider a few different factors: the security of your data against malware and hackers and the physical security of your machine. Operating systems come with basic levels of security and you can use free software to add additional security like data encryption and network firewalls. These options are available to any user, meaning you don't need to budget for expensive business licenses and complex installations.


Security Software

o    There are a few different types of security software available to protect your computer against malicious software, or "malware." These programs range from spyware scanners and firewalls to anti-virus programs and full security suites like Comodo Internet Security, ZoneAlarm Internet Security and AVG Internet Security. The suites have many features tied into one program, so one suite is generally enough to protect your computers. If you want to use individual programs for each function so you have more control, you can download any anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall program you like. Many of these options are completely free for anyone, so you don't need to purchase a company version with multiple licenses, which can be pretty pricey.


Encryption and Passwords


o    You may know that you can enable a password on your user account, but this only goes so far. You can add an additional layer of security by enabling a secondary password through BIOS. This password will be required even to start the computer and access different settings. Enable this via the "Security" tab of your BIOS. You can also encrypt your data to make it harder for people to access your data. This protects your data even if someone else steals your physical hard drive. Use free software like TrueCrypt, AxCrypt or Cloudfogger (links in Resources) to encrypt your hard drive and all that data on it.


Network Security


o    For any computer connected to the Internet, network security is very important. Enabling your router's firewall prevents incoming and outgoing traffic from being hijacked, and enabling your wireless network passwords prevents random strangers from accessing your account and thus any computers on your network. Access your router's control panel to enable these options. Remember to use a strong password of numbers, letters and symbols, and avoid using any personal information like names or birthdays. You can also use Windows Firewall to select how strict your firewall is depending on what type of network you're using. Alternatively, if you're a little more tech savvy, you can use replacement router firmware like Tomato or DD-WRT, though what you can use depends on the model of router you have. This upgraded firmware has plenty of options and additional security as well as greater end-user control.


Physical Security


o    All the digital security in the world means little if a thief can walk away with your computer under their arm. A few methods of physical security exist to help combat or at least deter computer theft. Computer locks make use of a durable cable and lock and vary by whether you are using a laptop or desktop. Laptop locks tend to lock a laptop to a sturdy object with one cable, whereas a desktop lock will let you lock up to three devices -- like towers and monitors -- together. Companies like Kensington and Targus manufacture locks for all types of devices (see Resources). You can also use proximity detectors that sound an alarm whenever your computer is moved out of a specific area without your permission. If there are any lockers in your building you can use them to store your computer overnight when you aren't at work.



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