The Internet is a powerful tool for home-based businesses. If used effectively, it can be your best friend; but if you don’t secure your computer, it can be your worst enemy. I’m sure you’ve had your fill of warnings about the latest killer computer virus. So I’m not going to harp on about the latest threat, or the potential for damage. What I WILL do is provide some protection tips and links for the layperson.
(And now for the obligatory disclaimer: I’m no tech-head – I’m an advertising copywriter and website copywriter. So this article is certainly not definitive or exhaustive. It’s simply an overview of some useful and easy to use solutions which should meet most of your requirements. I have no affiliation with the vendors or their distributors, and would encourage people to shop around before buying.)
When you run a home-based business – with one or two computers – the main things you need to protect against are malicious hackers, worms, viruses, hijackers, trojans, spyware, and adware. For most people, the following tools are all you need.
Firewall – e.g. Outpost Firewall Pro
Basically, a firewall stops unwanted stuff getting in. Agnitum Outpost Firewall Pro is powerful and easy to use. You can get it from http://www.agnitum.com/products/outpost/ for USD$39.95. It claims to provide the following protection.
• Detects and blocks all intrusions by hackers
• Blocks data theft attempts
• Operates your computer into stealth mode, making it invisible to intruders
• Analyzes your inbox and Quarantines Internet worms and viruses
• Monitors network activity of your PC
• Protects your children from illegal, inappropriate web sites
• Provides full access to a thorough history of your connections
• Prevents data leak from your PC
• Averts invasions of your privacy through the Internet
• Conceals your surfing habits when browsing the Web
As a general note, your firewall will be the hardest security software to use because it’ll ask you a lot of questions, such as:
• Such and such program is trying to connect with such and such server on the internet.
• Such and such server is trying to connect to your computer (these are the ones you have to be very careful of, as they may be people trying to hack your computer).
• A particular application has changed in some way. Do you want to make changed components shared with all other applications which interact with it?
• A program is attempting to change a registry value. Is that ok?
You’ll also get a lot of these sorts of questions when you first install the firewall. Once you’ve set up a few rules, they’ll go away because the rules will handle most things.
Virus Protection – e.g. BitDefender 8 (Standard)
Basically, virus protection identifies and quarantines known viruses on your computer. You can get BitDefender 8 (Standard) at http://www.bitdefender.com/bd/site/products.php?p_id=2# for USD$44.95. It claims to provide the following protection.
• Scans and disinfect infected files on access, minimizing data loss
• Allows you to recover infected documents
• Filters against viruses that spread via instant messaging and file-sharing software
• Monitors your file system, registry and Internet activity
• Blocks infected e-mail messages
TIP: Set your virus protection up to do a full system scan every night. (If you choose BitDefender, do this by clicking Antivirus from the left of the main window, then clicking on the Scheduler tab.)
Various Free Utilities
Basically, the following tools grab the things the virus and firewall software miss.
• Adaware – http://www.download.com/3120-20_4-0.html?qt=adaware&tg=dl-2001. Scans your PC for known data-mining, advertising, and tracking components and cleans your system, so you have more privacy while you surf the Web.
• Spybot – http://www.download.com/3120-20_4-0.html?qt=spybot&tg=dl-20. Searches your hard disk and registry for threats to your security and privacy.
• Spyware Blaster – http://www.download.com/3120-20_4-0.html?qt=spyware+blaster&tg=dl-20. Prevents spyware from being installed on your computer.
• CCleaner – http://www.download.com/3120-20_4-0.html?qt=ccleaner&tg=dl-20. Cleans up junk and temporary files and invalid registry entries and gives you a lot of extra space on your hard drive.
TIP: Update and run each of these utilities at least once a week. You’ll be surprised what you’ll net – especially if you haven’t purchased a full firewall system and anti-virus system.
In my humble opinion, it’s well worth your while to invest in a firewall application and an anti-virus application. There are a few freeware programs out there that claim to do the same job, but in my experience, they don’t quite measure up. And when it comes down to it, they’re so inexpensive – especially in comparison to the cost of downtime and/or computer repairs!
Outpost and BitDefender offer online purchases, and send you a license key in an email, which you then use to download the product. You can pay a little extra for them to send you a CD.
The applications listed above certainly aren’t the only ones available. I’m not even claiming they’re the best. But when used together diligently, you should find you have a lot less trouble with your computer, you’ll have the peace-of-mind of enhanced privacy, and you’ll minimize the risk of lost income due to downtime.