USA Today columnist Kim Komando guides you on how to test your computer's security.
Bill Husted(Photo: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)
If this was a perfect world, my column wouldn't exist. If the internet wasn't a dangerous jungle with all sorts of man-made beasts ready to savage your data and steal your money, using a computer would be no more challenging that warming up the leftovers in your microwave oven.
Most of you get by just fine sending email and browsing the web. It’s not all that complicated. The computer is pretty much an appliance these days, but there's a big difference between your PC and your microwave oven. With the microwave, you don’t have to worry about having all your money stolen when you bake a potato.
So I try to help when I can. Otherwise, you wouldn't know me from Adam.
Read more: Learn from this guy's computing mistakes
After all, you won't find magazines and columns devoted to advice on using your microwave oven. Nor do you need them.
Instead, you fight a bitter daily war to keep data safe. Here's the ugly truth: Even if you are pretty good with a computer, some of the computer criminals are much better. That makes sense when you realize that, for the best of them, it's a high paying job, not a hobby.
Today we'll talk about the basics of computer security. I'll tell you how to enlist in Husted's Army of Computer Righteousness to give you more firepower in that war with the bad guys.
I'll be your supply sergeant. I can equip you with weapons that will help you survive the coming battles. When you enlist in the Army, you are not expected to pay for your rifle and helmet. So most of your weapons are free, too.CLOSE
These simple steps will help keep your computer from becoming the next ransomware target. USA TODAY
Let's start with the firewall. The firewall blocks attempts to invade your computer. While there are both hardware and software firewalls, most home users are candidates for firewalls of the software variety.
Every computer needs a firewall. Windows 10 has a pretty good firewall, and it should used. I'll add a link here that tells you how to use it.
If you have another version of Windows, then simply type the word "firewall" into the help section of Windows. That'll locate it for you and explain how to turn it on.
Once upon a time, I talked about anti-virus protection. These days, I talk about anti-malware protection. That's because there are numerous threats, not just viruses, and most protection programs now look for all of them. Like the virus, most are just a stealthy computer program. But unlike your favorite game or word processing program, it is software designed to do harm.
When I started writing about computer viruses, most were created with destruction in mind. Some would erase the hard disk, others would put annoying messages on the screen. That’s small change today.
There's been a big change in the ways criminals can harm you these days. Most are not interested in mischief; they want your money. And the ways they do it are out of fantasy land. I'm sure you've run into stories about malware that scrambles the data on your hard disk so that you can no longer use it unless you pay the ransom money demanded by the criminals. I hope you've only read about it. I've heard from several readers who experienced it.
There are also sophisticated programs that open up your computer so that the hacker can return and rummage through your hard disk whenever he wishes.
All that is why you need malware protection. And it should be regularly updated, otherwise it won't be able to find newly created viruses. There are free programs that do a good job. Surprisingly, at least to me, the free anti-malware program that comes with Windows 10 is actually pretty good.
But, in a major change from what I've recommended in the past, I believe — if you can afford the cost — that using a commercial, for pay, anti-malware program is the safest way to go. It's not just that these programs do a marginally better job than the free stuff. There's another advantage that most folks don't consider.
When you pay for the program, you are paying for the right to get help from the company if things go wrong, or if there is something that you don't understand. So these days, I recommend that readers use either one of Norton's excellent programs or Malwarebytes. You can buy them at a retail store or get them online. Just enter the name Norton or Malwarebytes in Google and you'll be taken to the companies' sites.
Read more: Technobuddy: If you need technical support, follow these tips
I wish using a computer was as easy as turning on a microwave. But all that has been ruined by the crooks who seem to lurk around every corner. So you need to enlist in Husted's Army of Computer Righteousness
Unfortunately, given the state of computer security, your term of enlistment is for life.
Bill Husted writes about technology. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Read or Share this story: http://www.vcstar.com/story/money/business/2017/11/08/technobuddy-computer-crooks-getting-worse-daily/813713001/
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