The Top 7 Threats to your Computer in 2007

By: F. Aldo

Now that the holidays are behind us, the cost-conscious among us will be looking for those "post-holiday" deals that are even better than the holiday specials. If you are not the type that has to be at the leading edge of technology, most retailers will be trying to unload last year's models to make room for the new ones. So if you are in the market for a new personal computer system, this is a very good time to reel in one of the outgoing models at a terrific deal.

Before you whip out the plastic and part with your hard earned money, consider this is a good time to make a short checklist of how to secure your brand new computer. If you go through some of the technology websites, you will notice that most of the news revolve around how threats to your computer will escalate this year. So protecting your brand new computer should be the first order of business. In a way, this will ensure that your computer will hit the ground running, instead of just hitting the ground and shattering into a hundred bitty electronic pieces.



Here are the top seven threats you should take into account as your unpack your just-delivered computer:

7. Outdated anti virus program

Most computer systems ship with an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) version of an anti virus program. OEM programs are watered down, no frills versions of a software vendor's product. This means many other functionalities that are available in the retail version may not be available in the OEM version. It is very likely that your computer retailer shipped you a system that has been in their inventory for several months, so the anti virus software is many months old as well. Once you activate your anti virus program, immediately update it. You may have to refer to the accompanying documentation on how to do this. But before you do anything else, be sure to update the anti virus program because this will be your first line of defense. You may also consider purchasing a full version of an anti virus software or an entire security suite to replace your OEM version. Aside from the anti virus program, a security suite will also include anti spyware program, email filter and firewall. Having all these programs working on your computer considerably beefs up your defenses.

6. Unpatched operating system

Most mailicious software exploit the flaws in Windows' codes. Very likely, your computer will come with Windows XP and very likely too it will not be patched with all the security updates that Microsoft has released throughout the life of Windows XP. So your next order of business is to head over to Microsoft's website and download all those security patches. An outdated anti virus program running in an unpatched Windows environment is a sure recipe for disaster. As an aside, the forthcoming Microsoft Vista has many a computer security expert prepping their networks for the possible onslaught of new attacks.

5. Outdated Internet Explorer and Outlook Express

Since Windows comes with their own browser and email program, these usually become the users' first choice. So if you decide to use these bundled programs, you should know that older versions of these programs are also easily exploited by malicious software. So after patching your operating system, you should next download the patches for Internet Explorer and Outlook Express.

4. Internet Telephony

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the technical term to describe internet telephony. Many providers offer internet telephony where you can make long distance and overseas calls at greatly reduced prices. The popularity of this service has increased steadily over the last two years. But because this service uses the internet to deliver voice calls, it therefore becomes susceptible to all the other security problems that haunt the internet. Without going into technical details, the very infrastructure of VoIP makes it vulnerable to many types of attacks. Choose your VoIP provider wisely. There are many security hardware available to VoIP providers and reputable ones are more likely to have security measures in place.

3. Wireless Insecurity

Wireless networks are great to have around the house. You can hook up several computers to share an internet connection without several meters of cables slithering around the floors and walls. If you have a laptop, you can also take it with you to malls or coffee shops and enjoy a drink while surfing through their wireless facilities. But a poorly configured wireless network coupled with weak passwords can easily compromise your computer as others with a wireless laptop snoop around for vulnerable systems.

2. Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are on the rise and will continue to. Phishing scams usually come in the form of an official looking email from a financial institution or online retailer that you may have a relationship with. The email will ask that you update your account by providing them with your personal information or you may risk cancellation of your account. The email will provide a link to a bogus website that will capture your sensitive information and, well, you know what will happen next.

1. Time Magazine's Person Of the Year

Last December, Time magazine voted "you" the person of the year for making social networking the global phenomenon that it was in 2006. Obviously not tech-inclined, we will pardon Time for not posting a caveat that social networking will be the biggest threat to netizens this year. As of August 2006, one in every 600 social networking-related site is infected with some form of malicious software, just waiting for a visitor to click on the poison link and with the sheer number of social networkers, those virus-laced sites need not wait very long.

Right now, social networking sites are the honey to which the bees are drawn and cyber criminals are very much aware of this. So for them to divest you of your cash, all they have to do is be where the action is and thank Time magazine for it.

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