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Online Safety

Firewalls & Antivirus

Online Safety

If you don't already have antivirus software on your machine...quick! Stop reading this article and get some! It's cheap, or free, and it's your best bet to stay protected. You can buy it at a store, order it online, or download it from a trusted site.

Scan your system regularly. If you're loading antivirus software for the first time, let it scan your entire system. Often, the antivirus program can be set to scan each time the computer is rebooted or on a periodic schedule. Some will scan in the background ("real time") while you are connected to the internet. Make it a regular habit to scan for viruses.

Don't open attachments. One of the best ways to prevent virus infections is not to open attachments, especially when dangerous viruses are being actively circulated. In fact, email attachments are the number one attack vector for infections from viruses. Even if the email is from a known source, be careful. Your friend might send you a virus without realizing it - many viruses take the mailing lists from an infected computer and send out new messages with a destructive payload attached. To be safe, scan every email attachment with your antivirus program before opening it.

Update your anti-virus software. Now that you have virus protection software installed, make sure it's up to date. Most anti-virus programs have a feature that will automatically link to the internet and add new virus detection definitions whenever the software vendor discovers a new threat.

Stay informed. There are new virus and security alerts almost every day. Keep up-to-date on breaking viruses and solutions. Remember that the bad guys may try to use social engineering to exploit you. Staying informed is the best countermeasure.

A firewall is a program or device that is used to control access to a computer or network. It sits between a restricted system and the internet, so all traffic in or out must flow through it.
Firewalls work like security guards to protect a computer. The firewall uses policies set by the firewall’s user to determine whether to allow the computer to access sites or other computers on the internet. Current computer operating systems may come with a firewall that is automatically turned on. It is important to always have your firewall active to protect your computer.
If a computer has no firewall, nothing is controlling who and what can enter and leave. When you connect a computer to a network, including the internet, your system can be a target. Some things that can happen include:

  • Exposing information from your computer to others.
  • Allowing resources, such as disk space, to be used by an attacker.
  • Causing your system to be unusable.Firewalls can help prevent attacks from getting through and harming your computer.

The best setup is to have both antivirus and firewall active together. A firewall will stop most threats to your computer, while antivirus will quarantine and remove most of what manages to slip past the firewall. Keeping your firewall active and your antivirus up to date provides the best, most complete protection to your devices.