Beginner's Guide to Securing Your Computer
So you've probably heard about spyware and all the problems it can cause with your computer, but did you know that even with an anti-spyware tool installed, your computer is still exposed to hackers, trojans, and viruses that can steal your financial information, hijack your email, or even destroy your hard drive?
Anti-spyware tools protect you against only a few types of malicious software programs and privacy attacks. For complete security, you'll want a complete set of antivirus, firewall, and antispam programs.
Learn more about these different types of internet security programs and how they protect you below.
The most obvious threat to your computer's health is a computer virus. Viruses are usually delivered through email attachments or corrupted downloads, such as are typically found on file sharing networks. Once on your PC, a virus can destroy your operating system, corrupt your hard drive, use your email client to send spam, delete your personal files, or in rare cases, even physically destroy your hard drive. Once a virus runs on your computer, it can quickly spread to infect others.
Antivirus software is designed to protect you against the harmful effects of viruses. This software runs in the background and continually checks for virus activity. It will also scan your hard drive on a regular basis to detect and repair infected files.
Anyone with an email address today has probably received spam emails, and lots of it. For the most part, spam emails are annoying and a waste of time, but they can sometimes be a threat to your computer.
If you happen to open an email with an infected attachment, you can inadvertently install a virus on your computer. While a good antivirus program will protect you against this possibility, it won't necessarily protect you against attachments that install trojan horses or activity monitoring software on your computer. These types of invaders allow outsiders to copy data, activate webcams and microphones, capture keystrokes, log IM and browsing sessions, and access personal files. While a random hacker would have little use for much of this data (other than perhaps credit card information), there are commercial programs available that jealous spouses or paranoid employers can use to monitor your activities.
For the most part, antivirus programs do little to protect you against these programs. Anti-spam software can stop an email attack, but unfortunately, they can be installed in a variety of other ways. This is where firewall software comes in.
(Note: we've performed some testing of anti-spam software which you can access via the menus on the left.)
Ultimately, for an invader to gain access to your PC they must be able to communicate with it. Firewall software closes the doors by which outside invaders may enter your PC, keeping you a bit safer.
Of course, not all malicious software is installed anonymously. It can also be installed unknowingly through bundled software or knowingly through activity monitoring software. This is why good firewall software also polices outgoing activity and stops unknown software from communicating with the outside world.
While this will most likely cripple an invading software program, there are no guarantees. Spyware makers are getting smarter all the time, and some spyware programs can contact the outside world by hijacking the communication channels of known programs such as browsers. In any case, a firewall program won't stop a spyware program from running and slowing down your computer. So here's where the final piece of the puzzle comes in: Antispyware.
For more information on firewalls, read our article "Firewalls: What They Are and Why You Need One" or navigate here for firewall product reviews.
Antispyware products help to secure your computer and make it run faster by finding and disabling malicious spyware programs and trojan horses. Once these programs are removed, they no longer consume system resources. A lighter load on your computer means all your other programs will run faster.
It's important to know that antispyware programs won't protect you against viruses, guard your email, or prevent unauthorized access to your PC. This is why you need all four programs for a complete solution.
For more information on antispyware programs, check out the articles on the left or click here for spyware product reviews.
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