There are a lot of good reasons to upgrade to Windows 7, but today I am just here to talk about security! I recently had to completely re-load my son's computer at home due to a particularly pernicious virus. After doing the clean up and the reloading of everything, I realized that there were a few things I could have and should have done to help protect that computer. The fact that 'nothing valuable' was on it did not make it less costly and time consuming to fix! Please note, these are really tips for you home usersÂ… if you are on a corporate network, some of these settings may be an issue, and you should just call IT (after all, IT guys gotta make a living too).
Clearly, you need to have anti-virus software. Everyone should be nodding their heads at this point in agreement, glad in their knowledge that they have already taken this critical step. Unless of course you are not nodding your head. Then I'd advise hopping on Amazon.com or running the the nearest store and buying a good security suite, or heck, there are good free ones (Avast, Microsoft Security Essentials, AVG Free) that you can download.
But of course I know we already all had that step down. What I wanted to talk about was configuring Windows 7 to really help keep the world of computing a happier, safer place.
First - Turn on Automatic Updates!
Make sure Windows Update is turned on. To do this, just type the word 'update' in the search box when you click on the Start Button and (without hitting enter) click on Windows Update, which will be listed above. In the left pane click on Change Settings then under Important Updates you can choose to install new updates automatically. You can also select the day and time that will least inconvenience you. Under Recommended Updates chose "Give me Recommended updates the same way I receive important updates" by checking the box next to it and then click OK. Easy Peasy.
Second (and building on our newfound confidence in complex windows configuration as shown in our achievement of the above step) -
Turn on Windows Firewall!
Now this is starting to sound important, right? Well, this one is simple! Click Start and select Control Panel. Click on Systems and Security. Take a break. Let your fingers rest. No reason to get carpal tunnel here. Ok. Now click on Windows Firewall and to the left you will see Turn Windows Firewall on or off. Click on it and then select the button for Turn on Windows Firewall for each type of network. Just turn them all on. Again, bask a moment in the glory of the control you are taking here! If you have never configured anything other than iTunes, this is pretty cool stuff!
Third - Windows Defender
Windows Defender is the built in anti spyware software in Windows 7. Let's make sure it is on and working for you! Click on the Start button and type in "Defender" and hit enter. If you get a dialog box that says This program is turned off, AND you don't have any purchased anti spyware running (remember above when we bought that fancy security suite?) Check the box and see if it is doing this! If not, then click on the words "click here to turn it on" at the bottom of the dialog box. Done.
Fourth - Getting to Know the User Account Control
This User Account Control is the doorman at the IT party. It keeps out the undesirables and ensures that your computing fun is only enhanced by all the things that may want to come in. Click on Start button and click on control panel. Type UAC in the search box and click on the Change User Account Control Settings link. Now we get to tell the doorman how selective we want him to be! PowerÂ… so much power. Ok, let's focus, we are almost done here. The settings here are from lowest protection (Never Notify) to highest (Always Notify) I strongly recommend using one of the top two settings. This may slow you down on occasion when using the internet, but it will give you a chance to recognize and respond to strange files downloading and executing themselves. Now, unless you give them permission (which my son still did) they can't install or take any action. Go for the big beefy hard to please doorman at the top of the list. You'll thank me later.
Final Step - The Action Center
This is it. We have reached the Star Chamber and have shown we desire mastery and enjoy the control of our own computing destiny. The Action Center is the home base of PC security. This is where we validate we have done everything correctly. Click on Start button, Control Panel, System and Security and Action Center. Sit back and look at the status and revel in the protection you have created for your home Windows 7 computer! If anything is missing, you have the steps above to fix it!
Happy (home) computing!