There are four critical things that every computer user needs to help protect themselves from such nasty things as viruses, spyware, hackers, and identity theft.

These four critical items are:

  1. Windows Updates
  2. Current Updated Anti-Virus Software
  3. Current Updated Anti-Spyware Software
  4. Firewall Protection

Let’s take a closer look at these items one by one.

Windows Updates

When you purchase a brand new Windows based computer, you probably assume that you are getting the most current operating system that Microsoft has to offer.  The truth is, from the time your system was manufactured, shipped, stocked on the shelves, and finally purchased by you, your new computers operating system is anything but new.  Fortunately for you, Microsoft is always improving and upgrading their operating systems, and they make those upgrades available for free.

You can get these upgrades, known as Windows Updates, by visiting The updates are broken into two different categories – Critical Updates and Service Packs, and Optional Updates.  The Critical Updates and Service Packs are the ones that you need to be concerned with.

Critical Updates and Service Packs are software downloads that Microsoft has released to fix flawed programming code in their operating systems. If these flaws go unfixed, hackers can gain access to your computer, and your system is vulnerable to viruses, even if you have anti-virus protection

Please visit the Windows Update website now and download and install the latest updates for your system.

If you would like to learn more about Windows Updates, and how to set up your computer to perform these updates automatically, please click this link for an excellent article dealing with this topic.

Updated Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware Software

Hopefully, everybody understands the need for a good anti-virus program. Another piece of software that is just as, if not more important than anti-virus, is anti-spyware software. Next months tip will be all about spyware – what it is, what it does, and more importantly, how to keep it in check.  Until then, just trust us that this is one piece of the protection puzzle that you cannot afford to do without.

Both of these programs are subscription based services, which means that you need to pay a subscription price once a year to keep your protection active. If your subscription expires, the programs do not stop working, however, you will no longer be able to get updates for the programs, and updating these programs is critical to keeping your system protected.

Updating these programs ensures that they are protecting you from the most current types of viruses and spyware threatening your system, and more importantly, what to do if traces of either are found. In addition to updating these programs, you need to schedule weekly scans of your system to ensure that your computer is free of these types of threats.

Once you become one of our customers, we will send you a courtesy email approximately one month before either of these programs are set to expire encouraging you to renew your subscription.  We would be glad to install and configure these programs for you as well.

Firewall Protection

A firewall is a protective device that is designed to prevent hackers from gaining access to your computer. Firewalls can also be configured to stop critical information from being sent out of your computer without your permission.  Microsoft does have a firewall built into their Windows XP operating system, but that firewall alone is not enough to thoroughly protect you. An additional firewall is needed, and that firewall can be either software or hardware based.

Software firewalls are best used with computer that have dial up access to the internet. Software firewalls are sold by themselves, or as part of a software suite, usually bundled together with anti-virus and other types of system monitoring utilities.

Hardware firewalls are best used with computers that utilize a broadband, or high speed connection to the internet such as DSL or cable. Hardware firewalls can be sold as a separate device, but are usually bundled together with a router. A router is typically used when two or more computers are being networked together, but they are just as effective, and equally as important when only one computer exists that uses a broadband internet connection.  A router cannot be used with dial up internet access.

It is possible to have both hardware and software firewalls protecting a system, but many times the two butt heads and can be difficult to configure.  Having both types of firewalls within a network poses additional problems.  Our recommendation is to always use a hardware based firewall whenever possible.

The last two major virus outbreaks to occur were the Blaster and the Sasser viruses. Even if you had updated anti-virus protection on your computer, odds are, you still would have been infected with both of those viruses.  If you had no anti-virus protection, but were protected behind a firewall, you would not have gotten either of those viruses.

The best line of defense in protecting your computer from viruses, spyware, hackers, and identity theft is a combination of each of the four items we discussed in this months tips.