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| Secure Your Computer |

We use computers for everything from banking and investing to shopping and communicating with others through email or chat programs. Although you may not consider your communications "top secret", you probably do not want strangers reading your email, using your computer to attack other systems, sending forged email from your computer, or examining personal information stored on your computer (such as financial statements).

The bad news is that you probably cannot plan for every possible risk. The good news is that you can take some simple steps to reduce the chance that you'll be affected by the most common threats and some of the steps help with both the intentional and accidental risks you're likely to face.

Basic Steps:
Before you can run, you must learn how to walk and you can consider your first baby step into computer security installing the basic software needed to detect and eliminate threats.
  1. Use a Firewall
    You can think of a Firewall as a sort of shell around your computer that identifies and filters out threats, while letting secure information pass through it and reach your computer. Because a firewall serves this all-important filtering role between your computer and the internet, using a firewall is the very first step on the path to computer security.

    Suggestions:
    • If you're using Windows XP, then you already have a firewall installed. It is not very customizable. It does NOT block outgoing traffic, nor it filters it anyhow but still better than nothing. You need to check to make sure that you have it activated. To enable the firewall, navigate to the Control Panel and select Network Connections. From there right click your active internet connection and select the Properties menu. Finally choose the Advanced tab and check the Internet Connection Firewall box.
    • If you don't have Windows XP or you simply want (we recommend) to upgrade beyond the standard protection it provides, there are a host of third-party software firewall options out on the market, among the best of which is ZoneAlarm. Its Free, Safe and Easy-To-Use. Another good free third-party firewall option is Comodo Firewall Note that Comodo Free Firewall is now bundled with the installer for Comodo Internet Security. If you already have an AntiVirus and want to install only the Comodo Firewall, UNCHECK the box for Install Comodo AntiVirus on the installer screen.

    We also suggest that after installing your Firewall test it with an online service to make sure it's configured correctly and working properly as even well-known firewall from a reputable company can also be leaky if it's misconfigured and. A holey firewall combined with an unpatched copy of Windows could permit malicious hackers to break into your system! But a good firewall does its job in the background. So how do you know whether all is quiet because your firewall is operating perfectly or because the hackers just haven't yet spotted your vulnerable system? Testing your Firewall protection is the only sure way to know that your computer is really being protected.

    There are a couple of online sites that you can use to check if your firewall is protecting your computer properly -

    • Steve Gibson's ShieldsUp! and LeakTest for Internet Vulnerability test.
    • HackerWhacker's default Port-probing and Trojan Horse tests.
    • PC Flank's Stealth, Trojan and Exploits tests.
    • AuditMyPC test your Firewall, Browser & Privacy protection, Scan your Computer or Server for Exploits.
    • Exhaustive Standard Audit from E-Soft's SecuritySpace site.

  2. Install, Update and Use Anti-virus Software
    A good firewall will filter out many of the threats facing your computer, however, some malware is always going to find its way onto your PC. For example, viruses, worms, Trojan horses and other forms of malware can find their way onto your computer by various means a firewall cannot detect, including downloading malicious email attachments and files from the internet. So to protect your PC you'll also need strong regularly updated anti-virus software. While a firewall protects your computer from the outside, an anti-virus program will work from the inside of your computer, hunting down hidden viruses and deleting them, while also scanning attachments and downloads before they can infect your computer.

    Suggestions:
    • For those of you that don't mind spending a few dollars on security, Kaspersky Anti-Virus offers one of the best products in the personal anti-virus market. They also offer a free 30-day trial for their anti-virus software, so you may want to give it a try even if you don't plan on ordering, just so that you can clean your computer out and start fresh. Another good one is NOD32.
    • If you're looking for a highly regarded free anti-virus alternative, then can try any of -

      You can also review independent tests of the Top Anti-Viruses at AV Comparatives and find out the best and worst performers.

    Now, one piece of advice that applies equally to Anti-Viruses and Firewalls- YOU ONLY NEED ONE OF EACH! Having more than one Firewall and Anti-Virus can cause possible conflicts and system instability. Although you may think you have more protection by having more than one of each, it could actually cause you problems you were not expecting.

  3. Anti-Spyware Software
    Even though firewalls and anti-virus programs are more well-known when it comes to basic security steps than installing anti-spyware software, it may actually be your anti-spyware program that provides your computer with the most significant increase in security.

    Today, the most common form of malware that internet users encounter is spyware. In fact, a recent study estimated that 9 out of 10 computers connected to the Internet are currently infected with some form of spyware! Spyware can take a variety of forms, however, some of the most common effects are that it causes unsolicited pop-ups to appear, steals personal information, monitors internet activity for marketing purposes, or routes your website requests to other spammy advertising sites.

    Suggestions:
    • We would suggest Spybot with TeaTimer Resident. It is by far a really excellent anti-spyware program. The interface doesn't drive you nuts, or give you headaches. All of its features are straight to the point and the descriptions can be well understood by beginners. Absolutely no one would have a hard time using this. It protects you from massive amounts of spyware. Most of all it's FREE.
    • Another good anti-spyware tool is SuperAntiSpyware.

  4. Use Alternative Browser
    For most people, their web browser is central to their interaction with the Internet, connecting to global web sites and helping them consume online services providing everything from booking flights to banking services to online shopping. This reality makes browsers a key tool when evaluating the security experience of users as the browser interprets Web content and programs delivered from around the world. With regards to security, Internet Explorer 7.x has about 13 times more vulnerabilities and advisories than Firefox 3, according to security site Secunia.com.

    Suggestions:
    • So if you really care about the health of your PC then DON'T use Internet Explorer anymore! Microsoft's Internet Explorer is subjected to the largest number of security threats, most hacker friendly browser and main target for hackers and hijackers! So switching to a popular safer alternative such as Mozilla's Firefox or Opera will dramatically improve your PC security right away.
    • For those dead set on using Internet Explorer, you should raise the security level from the default to high setting and specify which websites are trusted enough to bypass the browser's security filter. You can do this by opening up a new browser window, selecting the "Tools" menu, followed by "Internet Options." From there choose the "Security" tab and finally drag the bar to the "High" level.

  5. Keep Windows Updated - Sounds obvious, but again, not everyone does it. Windows is a complex operating system and is not immune to its own bugs and security holes. Its common tactic for hackers to use the latest known security hole to break into a system and work backward from there until they find an open door that gives them full access. In fact 99% of system breaches are executed using known security vulnerabilities that haven't patched. Use the Windows Update or Automatic Update feature to keep your system up to date. Microsoft introduced Automatic Updates as a way of ensuring that users were aware that patches were available. Make sure that Automatic Updates is turned on - you can set the updates to download and install automatically if you want, or you can just ensure you are advised when patches are ready and then decide when it's convenient for you to install them. You can also use the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer to check your system for known vulnerabilities.

  6. Don't Open Unexpected E-mail Attachments - Viruses often hide in e-mails from strangers, but can also appear to come from someone you know. Opening an attachment can activate a virus and place your computer at risk. If you are not expecting the attachment then either delete the e-mail directly or obtain further details from the sender before opening the attachment. The safest way to read an attachment is to first copy it to disk and then open it using the appropriate program (word, excel, ...). You can also run an anti-virus check on the file before opening it.

  7. Don't Click On Links Within Pop-up Windows - Because pop-up windows are often a product of spyware, clicking on the window may install spyware software on your computer. To close the pop-up window, click on the "X" icon in the title bar instead of a "close" link within the window.

  8. Beware of Unexpected Dialog Boxes - Visiting a web site sometimes results in dialogue boxes. If you don't expect them or don't understand them then either select "No" or "Cancel", or close the dialog box by clicking the "X" icon in the title bar. If you click "OK", you may be agreeing to transfer and run a file containing a virus.

  9. Avoid Nastier Sites - Avoid the nastier sites on the web, like Pornography, Hacker sites, sites offering 'Freebies' and other dubious sites. By even just going to such a page - not doing anything else mind, just visiting the site - can result in an infection. This is known as a "drive-by" - without your knowledge or consent you can find your system is home to some real nasties.

  10. Be Cautious On Downloading Files - Don't download files unless you know they are genuine or from a reputable source. This includes P2P (Peer to Peer) file sharing programs. The actual P2P application itself might be clean, but you have no guarantee that the files you download are clean - so don't take the risk!!

  11. Keep All Important Softwares Patched - It's also essential to keep all other software on your system patched up to date. Vulnerabilities are found regularly in programs such as media players or e-mail clients that, if left unpatched, could increase your likelihood of infection. You can use Secunia Software Inspector to test all installed applications. It will also check that all Microsoft patches are applied. It runs through your browser, so there's nothing to install.
Additional Security Steps:
  1. Disable Remote Assistance
    Unless you actively use the Remote Assistance feature (Windows XP only), we recommend you disable it. It can be an entry point for hackers or worm-type viruses.

    To disable remote assistance feature:
    • Click on Start ->My Computer
    • Right Click and Select Properties
    • Go to "Remote tab"
    • Ensure that the box next to "Allow Remote Assistance invitations to be sent from this computer" is NOT checked

    Note: The Windows XP firewall, by default, has an 'exception' for remote assistance requests. We recommend that you go to the firewall setup and remove this exception if you are using the built-in firewall of Windows XP -

    • Go to Start ->Control Panel ->Network Connections
    • Select your connection and right click, choose "Properties" and Go to the "Advanced tab" and then click on the "Windows Firewalls Settings"...
    • Select the "Exceptions tab" and ensure that the "Remote Assistance" item is deselected
    • (If you have more than one connection, follow the same procedure for them ALL).

  2. Disable File and Print Sharing
    Most home computers are not networked, or 'linked', to other computers for sharing files directly and for other local networking capabilities like printer sharing. However, Windows XP Home comes with these things enabled when you get your computer. It is a good idea to disable these to increase network security and to save some memory if you are not using them. A good example of someone who does not use file or print sharing is a person who has one computer in their home. You might be wondering if disabling networking also disables your connection to the Internet. The answer is NO! it does not unless you have set something incorrectly or did not follow the steps exactly.

    Instructions for Windows XP-
    • Go to Start -> Control Panel -> Network Connections
    • Select each connection in turn
    • Right click on the connection and select Properties
    • Under the General tab, find File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks
    • Ensure the checkbox is NOT ticked.
    • Close the connection dialogue box.

    Instructions for Windows Vista-
    • From the Control Panel, double-click on the Network and Sharing icon.
    • In the drop down menu below File Sharing, choose Turn off file sharing.

  3. Disable Dangerous Services
    Windows XP has a lot of services, some of which are not needed at all for most of the normal users and some can open serious holes into your operating system. Some services don't just subject you to security risk but also slow down the operation of your computer. Turning off these unnecessary services in Windows XP will not only greatly reduce your exploit risk but can also improve the system performance by recapturing your system from those resource hogs!

    To disable these services in Windows XP -
    • Click Start | Run Type in services.msc and click OK. Or
      Click on Start >Control Panel >Administrative Tools and click on Services
    • Select the Service you wish to modify and Right click on it
    • You'll have several options from where you can immediately modify the status of the service
    • But to change the "Startup Type" click on Properties and then on general tab set the Startup Type from the drop down list to Automatic/Manual/Disabled for the service.
    • NetMeeting Remote Desktop Sharing - Allows authorized users to remotely access your Windows desktop from another PC over a corporate intranet by using Microsoft NetMeeting. Very Dangerous - allows remote access to your PC. Only use if Absolutely Essential and If Running Effective Firewall.

      Default: Manual; Recommendation: Disabled

    • Remote Desktop Help Session Manager - Manages and controls Remote Assistance. Could create a MAJOR security hole so disable it unless absolutely necessary.

      Default: Manual; Recommendation: Disabled

    • Remote Registry - Not available on Windows XP Home. Allows remote registry manipulation. This service lets users connect to a remote registry and read and/or write keys to it-providing they have the required permissions. Hacker could use this to attack other PC's.

      Default: Automatic(Started); Recommendation: Disabled

    • Server - Provides RPC support and file, print and named pipe sharing over the network. The Server service allows the sharing of your local resources (such as disks and printers) so that other users on the network can access them. You should carefully consider the full implications of enabling this! October 24, 2008: A vulnerability in the Server Service has been discovered for Windows 2000 -> Windows 7 (basically, all versions in the last 9 years). Please check the security bulletin and update your PC accordingly- http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/MS08-067.mspxFebruary 26, 2009: The Server Service issue is still causing quite a stir on the internet. Ensure that you have fully updated your system as to not be infected by "Conficker" or its several variants.

      Default: Automatic(Started); Recommendation: Disabled Unless Absolutely Needed. Better still REMOVED. But if it is Absolutely Essential for you then first ensure that you have Fully Updated your system as to not be infected by "Conficker" or its several variants.

    • SSDP Discovery Service - Used to locate UPnP devices on your home network. Used in conjunction with Universal Plug and Play Device Host, it detects and configures UPnP devices on your home network. For security reasons Disable this service. Please read the section in the guide on UPnP. Please note that even the FBI recommends disabling and preferably deinstalling this!!

      Default: Manual (Started); Recommendation: Disabled for security reasons, better still removed totally.

    • TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper Service - Enables support for NetBIOS over TCP/IP (NetBT) service and NetBIOS name resolution. Only required if you Need to Share Files with others.

      Default: Automatic (Started); Recommendation: Disabled

    • Telnet - Not available on Windows XP Home and for good reason!! Allows a remote user to log on to the system and run console programs by using the command line. Very Dangerous. Unless you need to let people telnet into your computer and have a really good reason for doing so, disable it!

      Default: Manual/Disabled (Depends On Service Pack); Recommendation: Disabled, preferably deinstall

    • Terminal Services - Allows multiple users to be connected interactively to a machine as well as the display of desktops and applications to remote computers. The underpinning of Remote Desktop (including RD for Administrators), Fast User Switching, Remote Assistance, and Terminal Server.
      The idea of Terminal Services is to allow Remote Desktop Administration of a system, like the user was on the actual console. But it's a Big Security Risk! If you need remote desktop administration then there are better tools out there. In almost all circumstances you Should Disable it unless using any of the services listed in the description above. Provides a multi-session environment that allows client devices to access a virtual Windows 2000 Professional desktop session and Windows-based programs running on the server.

      Default: Manual (Started); Recommendation: Disabled (unless absolutely necessary)

    • Universal Plug and Play Device Host - Used in conjunction with SSDP Discovery Service, it detects and configures UPnP devices on your home network. For security reasons disable this service immediately. Please read the section in the guide on UPnP. Please note that even the FBI recommends disabling and preferably deinstalling this!!

      Default: Manual; Recommendation: Disabled for security reasons, better still remove totally as per the Steve Gibson instructions in the UPnP section. Also take note that UPnP are not the same thing as PnP (Plug and Play) devices. In the architecture of Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), the concepts of PnP are extended to the whole networked world. UPnP is for connectivity on networks via TCP/IP to devices, such as scanners or printers. A UPnP device is external and a part of the local network.

    • WebClient - Disable this for security reasons.

      Default: Automatic (Started); Recommendation: Disabled

    • World Wide Web Publishing Service - Not available on Windows XP Home. Provides HTTP services for applications on the Windows platform. Required if you are running a web server, but consider firewalling such a local web server so it is not visible to the world. Use an ISP web server for greatest security. Most common entry point for hackers!

      Default: Not Installed; Recommendation: Leave not installed or Disabled

    To Disable other unnecessary services to speed up your computer Check Here.


  4. Renaming and Disabling Default Accounts
    By default Windows 2000/XP creates an Administrator and a Guest account, however being that they are named just that, makes it that little bit easier for someone to compromise your system as they will already know two login names. This is easy enough to workaround though.

    • Click on Start | Run type in secpol.msc and click OK
      OR Go to Control Panel > Performance and Maintenance > Administrative Tools > Local Security Policy.
    • Expand Local Policies and select Security Options

      Local Policies

    • Double click on "Accounts: Rename administrator account" policy and type in another name to use for this account, click Apply and then OK.

    • Once renamed, select "Accounts: Guest account status" and ensure it is set it to Disabled, which will disable anonymous access to the system using that account.


  5. Use Limited User Account for Everyday Computing Needs
    IS&T recommends that everyone operates as a Limited User rather than an Administrator to do daily tasks such as reading e-mail and browsing the Web. This way, if you download a web site or open an e-mail attachment that contains malicious code, the infected code will have only User rights to execute.

    When tasks require more privileges than the User account (e.g., installing new software), log on as Administrator (with Fast User Switching this can be done easily) or use Run As command.

  6. Turn Off Simple File Sharing
    Simple File Sharing (SFS) is a new feature in Windows XP that was intended to make it easier to share files on small networks. SFS is enabled by default on Windows XP Professional systems that are members of a workgroup.

    With SFS enabled, you cannot specify an Access Control List (ACL) for each shared disk or folder. As in previous versions of Windows, the ACL specifies which users are allowed to have access. With SFS turned on, there are no passwords or access restrictions and most everything that's shared is accessible by everyone on the network. By disabling SFS, you have more control over who can access your shared disks and folders.

    To disable SFS on Windows XP Professional:

    • Click Start > My Computer > Tools > Folder Options > View.
    • Scroll to the bottom of the list of advanced settings and un-check Use Simple File Sharing (Recommended).
    • Click Apply, then OK.

  7. Use the NTFS File System and Set File Permissions Where Applicable
    NTFS stands for New Technology File System. Microsoft created NTFS to compensate for the features it felt its FAT (File Allocation Table) file system was lacking. NTFS features include automatic repair of errors, enhanced security, and native support for file compression. However, the greatest benefit of NTFS is the ability to set file and folder level permissions. This means that you can control which users and groups can read, write, modify, read and execute, or list folder contents. You could use NTFS to prevent all users, except for your user account, from viewing or changing your private information.

    To use NTFS file permissions, your hard drive must be formatted with the NTFS file system. You cannot set file permissions on FAT or FAT32 volumes, but Windows XP makes it easy to convert FAT disks to NTFS if necessary.

      Notes:
    • Once you convert to NTFS you cannot revert back to FAT or FAT32.
    • You may need to choose FAT or FAT32 if you have a computer that will sometimes run an earlier version of Windows, such as a dual boot configuration.
    • Note: IS&T does not support dual boot systems, because they are typically less secure than standard configurations. Most earlier versions of Windows cannot access a partition if it uses the latest version of NTFS. The two exceptions are Windows 2000 and Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 4 or later.
    • For more information about setting NTFS permissions on files, go to the Start menu and open Help and Support Center. Go to System administration > Access control > Best practices: Access control.

  8. Disable AutoRun for the CD-ROM and USB Drives
    Microsoft Windows comes with a feature called Autorun which can put PC into potential malaware risk or even virus infection. A common malware tactic for hackers is to infecting a removable drive, such as a USB drive or CD, so that it will automatically attempt to spread malware when the infected USB drive is connected to a new PC. In this day of rapidly spreading autorun trojans, disabling autorun feature is necessary and can help prevent the spread of malicious code.

    To disable this function in Windows XP Pro or Vista Business/Ultimate version-
    • Click on Start | Run
    • Type in gpedit.msc and click OK
    • Then go to Computer Configuration > Expand Administrative Templates
    • Now for Windows XP, click System and for Windows Vista, click Windows Components > Autoplay Policies
    • Now Locate the entry for "Turn Off Autoplay" in the right side pane
    • Double Click the item > Set the radio button to Enabled and change the "Turn off Autoplay on" to All Drives.
    • Click Apply and then OK(Click Here to see an example).

    Note that with Autorun disabled, you'll no longer get an automatic installation prompt when you insert a program's installation CD or perform similar Autorun dependent tasks. Instead, you'll need to double-click the installation or other program on the CD or removable drive yourself.

Advanced Security Steps:
Before implementing any of these changes on your XP machine, it is strongly recommended that you backup your system (including the "System State"). Click here for examples of how to backup your machine.
  1. Use Strong Password & Account Policies:
    The easiest way for a hacker to break into your network is via weak passwords and account policies. Using "Local Security Settings" (or Group Policy if you are using Active Directory), you should set the following:

    Password Policy (these make it hard for hackers to guess passwords) -

    • Enforce password history: 24 passwords remembered (prevents users from using the same passwords over and over again)
    • Maximum password age: 42 days (maximum amount of time that a user can use the same password)
    • Minimum password age: 2 days (minimum amount of time that a user must wait before they can change their password. This works in conjunction with the "Enforce Password history" policy, preventing a user from quickly changing their password many times in order to be able to use the same password again)
    • Minimum password length: 8 characters (minimum number of characters a password must have. Use AT LEAST 8 characters here. Remember that weak passwords are the easiest mechanism a hacker can use to break into your system)
    • Passwords must meet complexity requirements: Enabled (requires passwords to obey the following rules)
      • Passwords must be at least six (6) characters long.
      • Passwords must contain characters from at least three (3) of the following four (4) classes:
        • English upper case letters (A, B, C, ... Z)
        • English lower case letters (a, b, c, ... z)
        • Westernized Arabic numerals (0, 1, 2, ... 9)
        • Non-alphanumeric ("special characters") such as punctuation symbols
        • Passwords may not contain your user name or any part of your full name.
    • Store passwords using reversible encryption: Disabled (this may create problems for Macintosh or RAS users in your network)

    Account policies (these make it hard to run dictionary attacks against your machine) -
    • Account lockout duration: 60 minutes
    • Account lockout threshold: 3 invalid logon attempts
    • Reset account lockout counter after: 60 minutes

    In the figure above, if a user enters a password incorrectly 3 times ("Account Lockout Threshold"), their account will be locked out (disabled) for 60 (the "Account lockout duration") minutes. The system keeps a count of how many times a user has typed in an invalid password. After 60 minutes, this counter is reset ("Reset account lockout counter after").

    If a hacker tries to guess passwords on your system, these mechanisms will temporarily disable the account the hacker is trying to break into and prevent the hacker from further break-in attempts.

    Note that these account lockout policies do not apply to the Administrator account. That is why it is very important to rename the Administrator account, as hackers will often run dictionary attacks against the Administrator account.

  2. Enable Security Auditing in Windows XP
    Windows XP Pro comes with a tool called Event Viewer (available under the Programs > Administrative Tools menu). This tool logs Application, System and Security Events. Unfortunately, the default installation of Windows XP does not enable any Security logging; you must turn on Security Auditing manually. By turning it on you can track and log when user accounts login or when there are failed login attempts. You can track when files and folders are accessed or denied access. After a security incident, or when you suspect that there may be a security incident, this data can be valuable in determining what happened and when.

    It is recommended that you configure the following using "Local Security Policy" or Active Directory Group policy (if your machine is a member of a domain) -

    • Audit account logon events: Failure
    • Audit account management: Success/Failure
    • Audit logon events: Failure
    • Audit object Access: Failure (Note: This allows you to audit failed access to files. In addition to enabling this policy, you must also explicitly configure the file or directory for auditing. Click (here to see an example of this)
    • Audit policy change: Success/Failure
    • Audit privilege use: Failure
    • Audit system events: Success/Failure

    Of course, it is very important to periodically review the Event Viewer Security log and backup ALL log files. To prevent the security log from becoming full and overwriting older entries you may need to reconfigure the Log Size setting on the Security Properties (right-click on Security under System Tools, Event Viewer in Computer Management). By default, the maximum log size is 512 KB and events older than 7 days are overwritten. Depending on how you configured the audit policy and how much objects and users you configured for auditing, you may have to increase the log size and/or change the number of days. You can choose to overwrite events as needed, or never overwrite events. The latter would also cause new events to be discarded when the maximum log size is reached. In a domain environment, these settings can be controlled by using Group Policy.
    For other OS check here.

  3. Remove "Everyone" Access to Your Computer
    By default, Windows XP is configured to grant the user group called "Everyone" the ability to access your computer over the network. By deleting the Everyone account, you gain more control over who can access your XP system.

    To remove access to your computer by the Everyone account:

    • Click on Start | Run type in secpol.msc and click OK OR Go to Control Panel > Performance and Maintenance > Administrative Tools > Local Security Policy.
    • In the Security Settings tree, click Local Policies > User Rights Assignment.
    • On the right pane, double click the setting for Access this computer from the Network.
    • Then on the Properties dialog box select Everyone(if listed) and click on the Remove button.
    • Click Apply and then click OK.

  4. Clear the Page File at Shutdown
    The Windows XP Page file can occasionally contain passwords and other sensitive data that your system has stored into memory.
    To set the computer to clear the page file at shutdown-

    • Click on Start | Run type in secpol.msc and click OK
    • Expand Local Policies and select Security Options
    • Then on right hand menu - right click on "Shutdown: Clear Virtual Memory Pagefile"
    • Select Enable, click OK and then Reboot

    Please note, this will significantly increase the amount of time it takes to shut down your computer.

  5. Additional Local Policy Security Settings
    In addition to Local Security Policy settings for password and account lockout, Windows XP provides more than 50 local security options that can be customized for your computer.

    To review and customize these settings to meet your needs:

    • In the Local Security Settings window, expand Local Policies, then click Security Options.
    • To change the options to meet your needs, double click any of the options listed in the right pane and adjust the properties as appropriate. It is recommended that you adjust the following settings at minimum:
      • Network access: Do not allow anonymous enumeration of SAM user accounts and shares: Enabled
      • Network security: Do not store LAN Manager hash value on next password change: Enabled

    Note: The Network access setting above is designed to prevent a hacker from getting a list of all user accounts, real names, group membership and shares on the computer without needing a password. The Network security setting above provides a trivially decrypted set of passwords on the local machine.

Tips To Avoid Virus Infection:
  1. The most common viruses can be disguised as attachments of funny images, greeting cards, or audio and video files and spread by sending them via e-mail messages.

    • So DO NOT open e-mail attachments unless you know who it's from and you are expecting it.
  2. Instant Messengers are getting more and more famous. Unfortunately, many bad people are taking this opportunity to spread computer viruses to the people who are using messengers around the world. This kind of virus is very destructive and they spread from one to another by forcing your messenger to send the virus automatically to your friends by offering some sort of interesting words and notable files such as a message like "is that you on this photo?" with a zipped file which probably be named as "photo0050.jpg" or "photo0050.zip". These files are definitely viruses.

    • So, DON'T open files without first checking with your friend to make sure they really DID send it, but not the auto-virus. Some types of Malware can cause your messenger program to send out fake links and files without you doing anything.
    • Always use the most up-to-date version of your instant messengers. New versions are often released because of a loophole or security risk in the previous version.
    • Don't set your messenger program to automatically accept file transfers. If your friend's machine is infected (and thus the file they send), you will end up infected by auto-accepting the file.
    • Never open a file without first scanning it with your computer protection program.
    • You can be infected just as easily by clicking a link, so beware what you click! Most of the MSN virus variants out there will make it seem as though your friend sent you a message. Most of these are along the lines of "Check out my newest pictures!" with a link. Clicking on that link can get your machine infected faster than you can sneeze. So again, check with your friend first to make sure it's really a link to their pictures.
    • You should judge a file by it's size with your common sense.
  3. Viruses can easily spread by carrying it on a removable medium such as floppy disk, USB drive or CD.

    • Therefore, you should always scan diskettes, CD’s and any other removable media before using them.
  4. Internet is the main media for virus to spread. Every downloadable file may consists of viruses.

    • You should always scan files downloaded from the Internet before using them.
    • You are advised not to install any software if you don't know the source or You are absolutely positively sure you know what it is. unapproved software on your computer.
Additional Useful Tools:
  1. Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA) is an easy-to-use tool that helps small and medium businesses determine their security state in accordance with Microsoft security recommendations and offers specific remediation guidance.
    Download - Home

  2. Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) The Secunia PSI is a FREE security tool designed to detect vulnerable and out-dated programs and plug-ins which expose your PC to attacks. Attacks exploiting vulnerable programs and plug-ins are rarely blocked by traditional anti-virus and are therefore increasingly "popular" among criminals.The only solution to block these kind of attacks is to apply security updates, commonly referred to as patches. Patches are offered free-of-charge by most software vendors, however, finding all these patches is a tedious and time consuming task. Secunia PSI automates this and alerts you when your programs and plug-ins require updating to stay secure.
    Download - Home

  3. Windows XP Security Console allows you to assign various restrictions to specific users, whether you're running XP Pro or XP Home. XP Home leaves you completely without the Group Policy Editor, while XP Pro lacks the ability to use the Group Policy Editor to selectively apply policies to specific users.
    Download - Home

  4. Process Explorer - Find out what files, registry keys and other objects processes have open, which DLLs they have loaded, and more. This uniquely powerful utility will even show you who owns each process.
    Download - Home

  5. Process Monitor is an advanced monitoring tool for Windows that shows real-time file system, Registry and process/thread activity. It combines the features of two legacy Sysinternals utilities, Filemon and Regmon, and adds an extensive list of enhancements.
    Download - Home

  6. CCleaner is a freeware system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system - allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally it contains a fully featured registry cleaner.

  7. Hijackthis is good tool to peak under your registry and other hives where malware/spyware might be lurking. If you are not sure what you see with this baby, DON'T remove it. But if you take few lessons and use Google, you can and will find this program VERY useful!

  8. Pick good passphrases & change all your passwords (or to be more exact passphrases) every now and then. And make sure you don't type your passphrase so that someone might be watching, A good technique for choosing a passphrase is to use the first letters of a phrase. However, don't pick a well known phrase like "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" (Aaadktda). Instead, pick something like "My dog's first name is Rex" (MdfniR) or "My sister Peg is 24 years old (MsPi24yo)."... Secure passphrase is something over Your passwords should be 8 or more characters (14 characters or longer is ideal) in length; 14 characters long, contains letters, numbers, marks and is hard to guess. If you are facing trouble remembering all passwords, consider using a good password keeper like RoboForm or Password Agent or Password Safe that can store all you passwords in one encrypted database behind one major passphrase and then you can save the whole packet in a floppy or usb drive and carry it with you all the time!
    Never use the same passphrase on two different places! And remember to change your password every few months at least!

  9. Advanced SystemCare Free is a comprehensive PC care utility that takes a one-click approach to help protect, repair and optimize your computer. It provides an all-in-one and super convenient solution for PC maintenance and protection.
    This utility offers a one-stop-shop for cleaning and maintaining your computer for better overall system performance. The interface is very simple, featuring only a few buttons, which makes it easy to get down to cleaning immediately (in fact, it automatically runs on start-up) and doesn't confuse you with multiple steps.


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