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FreewareBB _ Help, Hints, Tips & Advice _ Online Security & Staying Safe

Posted by: marko Dec 31 2008, 03:07 AM

It's great that you've found FreewareBB and you will soon realise that we are passionate about your safety when downloading although staying safe online is more than using a responsible site like ours, it's about adopting sound policies that you will use each and every day and above all else show and teach everyone else in your home the same.

We've listed some of the key practices that everyone should adopt in their computing life and although there is no foolproof method of staying 100% safe, following these simple guidelines will certainly help minimize the chances of you and everyone else within your home running into trouble when online!.

The simplest method of ensuring any changes you make on your PC are not altered or any software you install isn't removed is by making all the accounts on your PC "limited" accounts. Even your own everyday account on the PC should run as a "limited" user and you should create another "admin" account with full permissions to make any system-wide changes required from time to time. This has the benefit of stopping viruses and malware spreading throughout your computer and when you do need to perform administrative tasks you can simply log on with the "admin" account, perform the necessary tasks then log off and log back on again with your limited account.

The biggest threat to you, your computer and your personal data isn't a virus or malware, its ignorance! Not knowing or understanding the threats can have dire consequences, especially when kids are involved. Suffice to say you may only pay the bills and browse a select few sites on your computer and so there can't possibly be any chance of contracting a virus, right?. Well, if you're the only one using the computer that may be the case but when kids are involved it's easy to leave them to their own devices, although by their very nature they are curious and may end up stumbling on a few sites that will leave a few nasty surprises on your machine. The next time you visit your online banking you may end up paying out more than you imagine if someone manages to steal your information because you have a virus or malware!.

The quickest and easiest method of blocking sites that you wouldn't want the kids visiting is by using a service from OpenDNS, which is a free service and requires no installation. The recommended method of implementing this is through your home internet router if you have one, remembering to keep the password for the router itself secret otherwise your tech savvy kids could remove the service. Using OpenDNS you can block a multitude of categories from porn to gambling and administering the service is Childs play. Full details can be found on their site at

As an IT pro I am still staggered by the amount of computers I find WITHOUT any form of antivirus or spyware protection. This ranges from those who simply don't know anything about computers to those who have had their antivirus or firewalls removed by the kids because they "slowed" the PC down too much! I have also seen first hand parents give children passwords for internet filters because they couldn't be bothered administering the system themselves and would rather the kids didn't pester them every 2 minutes complaining they couldn't get onto this, that and the other website!. It should go without saying that the parents are responsible for all computers within the home, even the kids laptop in their bedroom and even social sites like bebo and myspace should be monitored with caution as like any social networking site they can attract the wrong type of person or result in cyber bullying. Encourage your children to show you their social sites and if they refuse consider it a problem and either block the site outright or threaten to do so unless they conform. Be careful though that they don't create another social space simply to satisfy your request while still harbouring their real one, and if in doubt there is usually a creation date of the site somewhere in the preferences. Remember that when you or your children befriend someone online you only have their word about their age and intentions therefore they should not be trusted with personal information and the same applies to the different forms of messenger services where one contact can quickly grow into hundreds and in some cases thousands resulting in chat with people you have never met and know nothing about. Responsible adults may not allow themselves to be caught out by the perils online but kids may need supervision online, and although it's impractical to monitor them all the time you should still perform random checks on their online activity such as entering their rooms when they are online and if they dive across the computer screen it's fair to say they are up to no good or simply don't want you to see what's being said or done!. Better they are embarrassed about boy or girl talks than wind up chatting to an undesirable stalker.

Everyone nowadays has access to email, even the kids. It's no use setting up an email account for them and keeping an eye on it because chances are they'll have created another account on hotmail, yahoo, AOL or any one of the many free email providers and will use this as their primary address unless of course you decide to block these sites using OpenDNS or any other content filtering service/software. Email is an essential part of our lives today and without it I know I would struggle in my day to day tasks but with the advantages come the associated risks, and while most email accounts now come with built in virus protection it's still too common to find people willing to click on spam messages or reply to phishing attempts. If you have ever received an email out the blue that says your bank need to confirm your account details then this will undoubtedly be a "phishing" attempt. This happens when an organisation ask you to confirm your account details such as usernames or passwords and by responding to them you will likely find that the account in question is then compromised and used for fraudulent purposes. These requests can claim to be from anyone like a bank, a bebo account, paypal account or anything else for that matter and the thing to remember when you receive emails like this is NEVER respond to them as organisations DO NOT ask you to give private information in this way. At the very least, responding to such emails will only confirm your email address and could result in masses of spam mail coming your way. If you receive an email claiming to be from an organisation you have an account with, visit the site in question by entering the URL manually in your web browser or go there via your bookmarks and NOT the address in the email message then at least this way you know you won't be taken to a phishing site. If in any doubt at all contact the organisation directly and raise your concerns and educate everyone in your household of such, explaining to the kids that if they receive an email like this they should tell you immediately. Remember also that most modern browsers now have build in phishing protection and can alert you to such sites and where your choice of browser doesn’t have this protection you may find that there is an available “add-on” from the makers website.

Another area regularly neglected on PC's is the updating of the operating system and associated security software. Admittedly, most of the updating is done automatically nowadays but it's always worth checking your antivirus, firewall and spyware software is on "auto-update" as well as your operating system. Windows XP and Vista usually come with automatic updates enabled by default but other operating system may not, and again it's worthwhile checking the associated website for your operating system to find out how to check and ensure your running on "auto".

Despite our best efforts, sometimes things do go wrong whether it is due to a virus or hardware failure and if your computer failed today would you be able to live without the data you once had on it? Many people consider failures such as this not to be a concern although when you explain to them that a rebuild of their PC will wipe everything from any pictures or bookmarks they often have a different opinion therefore its always worth keeping a backup of your most important data if the unthinkable happened. There are no end of free programs available to backup your important data and I would always recommend having a spare USB memory stick available for this and when creating and running backup jobs have the data placed on the stick rather than the computers on hard drive then at least if the hard drive failed you could replace the hardware itself, reinstall your operating system and restore the data!.


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