How to Defend Against Hackers—now!

Cyberspace appears to represent a playing field for so-called hackers whose sole intent is to infect or negatively affect your computer system and cause a myriad of problems. It is rare to find an Internet user who has not at one time or another fallen prey to their malicious attacks or damaging softwarein the form of Trojans, worms and viruses. But there are techniques and mechanisms designed to prevent these hackers from carrying out their evil schemes against you. In fact, you have the power to foil their harmful, illegal plots and avoid becoming their next, unsuspecting victim.

Know your OS

Every operating system (from Windows to Linux to Apple) has built-in security features that most users do not always take advantage of. From making personal folders private when in a workgroup to enabling strong passwords or disabling unnecessary services, users often simply lack the understanding or know-how for implementing such procedures.

Familiarizing yourself with your own computer and its operating system is fundamental but crucial on the road to protection against potential attackers. This does not imply having to become some brainy security guru; it does not require forcing yourself to delve into the technical intricacies of the registry hives. Using common sense is more like it. Start with the basics. Go through the virtual system tours or formal guides included by the OS. Search for keywords such as protection and security under the Help section. There are a myriad of OS support sites online that can also enhance your understanding of how your computer and operating system work. It would not hurt either taking a computer class at a local community college. Your aim should be to grasp as much about its inner workings as possible.

Secure your system

Once you have a foundation and understanding of the OS, it is time to fully utilize all existing technologies that will keep your system secure. Start by performing a good backup of all important data. Then, enable your firewall immediately if you havent done so and configure it to optimal (medium to high) security levels. Install anti-virus software and dont forget to apply the latest definition files daily. Download (often, it is free!) anti-spyware that provides real-time monitoring capabilities. Most OSes have some type of automatic system update feature that you will also want to configure. Critical system updates can help to block security holes in the OS originally unforeseen by system developers and programmers. Using these technologies provides wide-ranging system protection and does not have to consist of a long, drawn-out process.

Employ Online defensive techniques & develop safe surfing habits

Risks and threats abound as you surf online, access websites or merely read your email. For increased protection, you will want to go on the defensive rather than waiting by idly before being victimized. When you defend your ground, when you become less vulnerable, chances are hackers will experience greater difficulties preying on you and may choose to pass you over altogether.
To this extent, there are several useful defensive techniques. An important one is trust. Many trusting people open email from unknown sources only to discover the true malicious motives of those sending them. Others innocently follow the destructive orders dictated by hoaxes because they seem to trust the authority of the source. You, on the other hand, now know better. Be cautious when dealing with email from unknown sourcesespecially, when opening attachments or clicking on links from within an email. Carefully read license agreements and privacy statements and never agree to pop-up windows unless you absolutely understand the implications thereof. Dont let paranoia suffocate you. Simply, limit your trust.

Another way to minimize exposure to attacks is by developing good online surfing habits. If you use an administrator account to surf the web, change to a typical or limited user account. Limited user accounts cannot install applications so it makes virus execution less likely. If you enjoy those free-for-download, wonderfully captivating screen savers and backgrounds, consider using the ones already included with the OS. Malicious software is sometimes embedded with such freebies. If you shop online, ensure that you type the exact name of the website correctly. Hackers masquerade using variations of legitimate sites. And, when doing business using credit cards and other personal facts, the information on the Address Bar should start with https (the s makes the transaction more secure). You may be less prone to attacks when you stick with a more practical online routine.

Keep abreast of current happenings

Knowing what the newest method of cyber attacks not only makes for a good conversation piece but it can help you to better prepare for potential trouble. Some news reports about viruses and malware quite often provide preventative measures. At minimum, you may, for example, learn what actions to take or not take to avoid getting your browser hijacked.

You can stay informed about current hacking happenings through a myriad of channels and resources. Some websites are explicitly dedicated to giving details on the latest malicious softwarefrom worms to rootkits to spyware and spam. There are many blogs and discussion forums that cover the subject exceptionally well. The search engines even have tech-related sections where up-to-the-minute information about hackers and their on-going wicked games and ploys can be easily found. Educating yourself and learning about computer-related security issues and problems will doubly benefit you in combating hackers.

Learn what to dojust in case

Obviously, awareness doesnt necessarily guarantee safety. Nor does being proactive exempt you from becoming a target. Sometimes, the most secure computer networks tend to experience a high number of attacks and are likely to get hacked. But, if your system gets infested with malware or viruses, here are some things you can do.

First, pinpoint exactly what the problem is. There can be several signs to look for during your initial investigation. If your computer suddenly seems unusually slow, you may have a worm; if applications are not starting up properly or your system restarts abruptly for no reason, you may have a virus. Strange hard disk activity that you hear may indicate a Trojan, port scanner or dialer program executing in the background. Perhaps you are simply getting pop-ups revealing the symptoms of a damaged or corrupted file. Do realize, too, that not all attacks are easily detectable and thats why multiple monitoring tools (such as AV and anti-spyware) should be used regularly to determine whether or not your system is, in fact, infected.

Once the problem is discovered or identified, your next step consists of the purging process. There are many tools and utilities designed for the removal of malicious software. Some can be downloaded for free and are relatively easy to use. Others may be run directly from a website. (Do a search for HijackThis, Adaware and Housecall, just to mention several). Many problems can be resolved by using these quick-fix tools.

You can also attempt to repair your computer by exploring or implementing various integrated system mechanisms. For instance, on Windows XP, you can disable some questionable startup programs by typing msconfig on the Run command. In the Startup tab, simply, uncheck the culprit component. To repair a damaged computer, you may use System Restorealthough its effects against worms and viruses are limited. Using Windows Task Manager to end memory and CPU-intensive processes is limited, too, but can occasionally help. So is running Disk Cleanup, since you may rid yourself of possibly damaging ActiveX controls.

If the problem(s) persists, it is recommended that you further research your particular issue online. As mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of security-related websites where you can post computer questions and problems. Someone there who has experienced similar problems may provide a solution. Additionally, most anti-virus vendors offer tricks and tips on cleaning an infested system within their help and support sections. Even if after taking all these steps, you still end up having to reinstall the OS (because all efforts have proven futile) your knowledge base would have increased substantially and youd be better equipped for battling any similar cyber attacks in the future.

Its up to you.

Just like the typical street criminal, hackers prefer to prey on the vulnerable, inexperienced and predictable user who leaves himself open for attacks. They use malicious software to make a victims system unstable or render it useless. But you dont have to be yet another mark on their scoreboard. By arming yourself with the right kind of information and by taking the best corrective measures, you can establish a strong defense against any potential hacker. Start doing so today!

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