Computer Security: Back to Basics

If you keep getting email that contains the same viruses day after day, you know how tiresome getting rid of the email becomes. Just when the flood of Klez-infected attachments slows to a trickle, email attachments infected with a new virus, such as the Bugbear, show up in your mailbox. After a weeklong flurry of activity, the Bugbear-infected attachments stop, and you're back to a daily trickle of Klez-infected messages—with the occasional Sircam or Yaha.E thrown in for variety. Although I've written about basic computer security in the past, the topic bears revisiting.

If you're an IT professional, you might have overlooked a valuable resource that's targeted at home users: "7 Steps to Personal Computing Security." The Microsoft Web page lists 7 steps that home users should use to secure their computers, but these steps are also extremely helpful for small offices/home offices (SOHOs), small businesses, remote users, and IT pros:

  1. Assess your risks.
  2. Use antivirus software.
  3. Keep software up-to-date.
  4. Check your security settings.
  5. Use a firewall.
  6. Create strong passwords.
  7. Conduct routine security maintenance.

On the Web site, each step links to a checklist that provides good advice and procedures to follow to keep your computers secure and private. Each checklist is simple and straightforward and contains links to additional information that the average computer user can understand.

If you're an IT pro who's responsible for supporting telecommuters or a mobile sales force, I suggest you give those users a hard copy of these checklists as a step toward minimizing network infections introduced by workstations that aren't under your direct control. I'm even willing to bet that if you sit down and read through all the checklists that the Web site provides, you'll realize that you've left one or two things undone within your own network. This Web site is worth a visit from anyone who uses computers.

To change the subject, I've been receiving email from readers asking about Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE). Because I focus on Windows client computing in Windows Client Perspective, I can't cover that product here, but you can find coverage of XP MCE (a consumer-only product) on Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows and at our consumer-focused Connected Home Online Web site.

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