National Cyber Awareness System:
12/15/2015 06:07 PM EST
Original release date: December 15, 2015
Why Should I Care About Computer Security?Computers help us maintain our financial, social, and professional relationships. We use them for banking and bill paying, online shopping, connecting with our friends and family through email and social networking sites, researching data posted on the Internet, and so much more. We rely heavily on our computers to provide these services, yet we sometimes overlook our need to secure them. Because our computers play such critical roles in our lives, and we input and view so much personally identifiable information (PII) on them, it’s imperative to maintain computer security that ensures the safe processing and storage of our information.
Following are important steps you should consider to make your home computer more secure. While no individual step will eliminate your risk, together these defense-in-depth practices will make your home computer’s defense stronger and minimize the threat of malicious exploit.
- Connect to a Secure Network
- Enable and Configure a Firewall
- Install and Use Antivirus and Antispyware Software
- Remove Unnecessary Software
Back up important files and data before removing unnecessary software in case you accidentally remove software essential to the operating system. If possible, locate the installation media for the software in case you need to reinstall it.
- Modify Unnecessary Default Features
- Operate Under the Principle of Least Privilege
- Secure Your Web Browser
- Apply Software Updates and Enable Future Automatic Updates
When you set up a new computer (and after you have completed the previous practices), go to your software vendors’ websites to check for and install all available updates. Enable automatic updates if your vendors offer it; that will ensure your software is always updated, and you won’t have to remember to do it yourself. Many operating systems and software have options for automatic updates. As you’re setting up your new computer, be sure to enable these options if offered. Be cautious, however, because intruders can set up malicious websites that look nearly identical to legitimate sites. Only download software updates directly from a vendor’s website, from a reputable source, or through automatic updating.
- Use Good Security Practices
- Use caution with email
attachments and untrusted links. Malware is commonly spread by people clicking on an
email attachment or a link that launches the malware. Don’t open
attachments or click on links unless you’re certain they’re safe, even if
they come from a person you know. Some malware sends itself through an
infected computer. While the email may appear to come from someone you
know, it really came from a compromised computer. Be especially wary of
attachments with sensational names, emails that contain misspellings, or
emails that try to entice you into clicking on a link or attachment (for
example, an email with a subject like that reads, “Hey, you won’t believe
this picture of you I saw on the Internet!”). (See Using Caution with Email
- Use caution when
providing sensitive information. Some email or web pages that appear to come from a
legitimate source may actually be the work of an attacker. An example is an
email claiming to be sent from a system administrator requesting your
password or other sensitive information or directing you to a website
requesting that information. While Internet service providers may request
that you change your password, they will never specify what you should
change it to or ask you what it is. (See Avoiding Social
Engineering and Phishing Attacks.)
- Create strong passwords. Passwords that have eight or more characters, use a variety of uppercase and lowercase letters, and contain at least one symbol and number are best. Don’t use passwords that people can easily guess like your birthday or your child’s name. Password detection software can conduct dictionary attacks to try common words that may be used as passwords or conduct brute-force attacks where the login screen is pummeled with random attempts until it succeeds. The longer and more complex a password is, the harder these tools have to work to crack it. Also, when setting security verification questions, choose questions for which it is unlikely that an Internet search would yield the correct answer. (See Choosing and Protecting Passwords.)
Author: US-CERT Publications
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