Security is not an easy thing for the average consumer. The methods and procedures to ensure that you are not vulnerable to attacks are typically difficult and prone to configuration errors. With so many solutions out there, where does a consumer start?

Since Windows dominates the consumer market, let’s focus on securing this beast. Let’s use the analogy of physically securing one’s house. If I lock the door with my super expensive medico lock, but I leave my basement window open, am I secure? So I then lock all my windows, great I am now secure … Wrong!! The thief kicks on my door which has the expensive lock but I forgot to reinforce my door frame and within 5 big kicks, the thief is in. I reinforce my door to the point that the thief will need to drive a car through it. Haha, I showed that thief that he cannot mess with me … Wrong again!! The thief breaks my basement window and enters my house again. Now I need lock bars across all Windows and make it look like Alcatraz except people are trying to get in instead of out. I hope that you are starting to see my point.

A layered security approach is required and it takes many security controls implemented to ensure that I minimize the amount of risk that I am willing to accept … you can never be 100% secure and if any vendor says their solution is, they are wrong and I have swampland in Florida to sell you.

Where does one start? To not overwhelm the average consumer, I will focus on 4 things:

  • Windows software up-to-date;
  • Latest anti-virus definitions installed;
  • Personal firewall running; and
  • Never click on links.

Users should enable Windows automatic updates which will ensure that security software updates are transparently downloaded and installed as soon as the patches are available. Keeping your software up-to-date will prevent attackers from exploiting vulnerabilities within the software.

With latest anti-virus definitions, newly identified viruses or malware will be detected and mitigated. This will only protect you from known malware. It is one layer of your security onion.

A personal firewall that is stateful will monitor all communications from the Internet and can filter out unwanted traffic in accordance with the policy rules enabled. For example, the personal firewall could deny all hackers trying to find live IP addresses by blocking ICMP (Ping) echo requests.

User awareness is probably one of the most important aspects of keeping the bad guys out. Attackers can deliver malware using many mechanisms through the web or e-mail:

  • Clicking on malicious links;
  • Downloading bad software;
  • Visiting high risk sites;
  • Opening infected attachments; and
  • Inserting infected media.

This is a never-ending list as attackers find creative ways to stay ahead of security defences. The easiest way is get users to click on malicious links. Links may look fine and when visited, the site appears fine but what you do not see is potentially the malicious code being downloaded and a backdoor for an attacker to remote connect to your computer. E-mails or Facebook are the easiest ways to massively deliver these links. If a trusted friend is infected, the attacker can generate an e-mail which comes from your friend’s e-mail account. As there are many things to look for in a link, I would recommend for novice users to never click on links, regardless if it comes from a friend. Your friend may have actually sent the link and does not know that it is malicious. In another post, I will give you tips on what to look for in a link.

Safe browsing!!