Computer Security

This article was produced on the 25th of March, 2015.

Please note that the world of digital security moves extremely quickly and this article may be out of date.


Security on Windows

Security on Windows is much more straightforward than it used to be. While windows machines are still vulnerable to viruses, antivirus software is much better than it used to be and the majority of users engage in much less risky behavior these days.

However, there are still several precautionary steps you can take in order to protect yourself.

Antivirus Software

Antivirus software, even on the latest versions of windows is still a must. While this article won't go into any deep detail on different solutions available, this article goes into great detail on the best anti virus offerings this year, including a decent number of totally free options.

Running programs or opening files from unknown sources

Still, one of the main ways in which viruses are transferred is through malicious code embedded in programs (usually as .exe files). A decent rule to follow is just don't download programs linked in forums or on websites that don't look legitimate.

Viruses can also be embedded in a variety of file formats, including word documents and pdfs. If you get a suspicious looking email from a friend or family member that has a pdf or a .docx attached, it's generally a good idea to ask them personally if they meant to send it to you.

Internet Explorer + Old versions of Windows

If you're still using windows XP on your machine, you really really shouldn't be. Microsoft officially stopped supporting Windows XP last year, and as a result it's extremely vulnerable to viruses and exploits. Upgrade to windows 7 or 8.

Similarly you should not be using Internet Explorer 9 or below. Older versions of Internet Explorer are both insecure and incompatible with many modern websites - So it's recommended to upgrade to either IE 10+, Firefox, or Chrome.


Security on Mac

It's not incorrect to say that generally, there are less viruses produced each year that affect Mac OS X. This is due to a number of factors, including the lower market share of Apple desktop machines. However, there are still exploitative software packages out there that have started to target Macs specifically.

As an Apple user, you may have seen ads for a program called "Mac Keeper". https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4276731?tstart=0. It's essentially an intrusive malware claiming to be a legitimate piece of mac security software.


Internet Security

Most computer security issues these days occur as a result of user error or social engineering online. With so many connected services that contain personal information such as bank account and credit card numbers, addresses and phone numbers, it's important that you take steps to protect your identity and information online.

Phishing

"Phishing" is attempting to trick someone into giving you sensitive information by pretending to be someone else. There are many ways that this can take place, but the most common is forged emails. It's quite easy for an attacker to forge a "from" email address, and send you an email purporting to be your bank, or another service you use. These emails will then contain links to fake sites that have been designed to look like the real thing, and when you enter your username / password they will steal it.

As a general rule, don't click on links in emails if they are from your bank / another service. Simply switch to a browser and enter the URL manually.

You can read more about Phishing here.