All the attempts to protect your online privacy can have no effect in case you ignore your local PC security. Even you are using anonymizing service to hide your IP address and to encrypt your entire Internet traffic, your computer may be vulnerable to network attacks, viruses, spyware applications, and data loss because of insufficient access protection. Viruses can be easily created using various “virus constructors” and sent to you by email as an attachment or uploaded exploiting your computer network vulnerabilities. As an example of specially created spying viruses (trojan viruses) we can refer to infamous “Magic Lantern”, an FBI program that can monitor keystrokes.
You will need special applications that will care of your computer security. There are many excellent products on the market today that provide protection at the highest level.
1. Personal firewall
A firewall acts as filter with custom defined rules to cut off undesired or suspicious traffic. It is a wall actually repelling the attacks from the outside (from the Internet). Also, good firewall software should allow you to configure it so that only “authorized” applications could communicate over the Internet. This will prevent any undesirable connection attempt from inside of your PC, e.g. spyware or a trojan virus may try sending data collected from your hard drive.
Due to large number of network security vulnerabilities in the operating systems it is highly recommended to use firewalls to protect your computer.
2. Antiviral software
Internet is highly contagious environment. It is a general truth nowadays when so many have suffered from virus attack. Antiviral software is a “must” on any Internet connected computer. It should be mentioned that simply buying any antiviral software is not a good idea. Most antiviral software use pattern matching algorithms and heuristics analysis, which may not be effective when it comes to fighting the viruses written by professionals (“Magic Lantern” trojan, for example). In addition to the above methods good antiviral software should perform a real-time audit of active applications and file systems, e.g. monitoring file size changes, issuing warnings about new executables, etc. This approach can guarantee that customer will be warned about any suspicious changes in the system. Even unknown virus or spyware will be detected and deleted.
It should be noted, that virus databases for your antiviral software should be updated as frequently as they are released by the vendor.
3. Hard drive data protection
The best solution is to use the software, which allows encrypting all the hard drive, including the operating system area, not only selected folders. This would guarantee that only the PC owner could access all the data on a PC. Unfortunately only few hard drive encryption tools will satisfy these criteria. Please avoid utilities “hiding” your folders. Using these tools you can hide something from your kids only (and not in all cases). The only way to protect data is to encrypt it, not to hide.
Good hard drive encryption utility should solve several problems for your privacy.
- Computer access security. Password based access to your computer combined with hard drive encryption will make it impossible to copy the data from your hard drive or install spyware while you are out of home or office. Please note, only utilities allowing whole hard drive encryption can provide this level of protection.
- Confidential data protection. When it comes to confidential data protection, two problems should be solved: restricting access to the confidential data, and deleting this confidential data when you do not need it anymore. Hard drive encryption will solve both problems. Overall encryption would safeguard your laptop (even a desktop) even in case of theft. Only the person knowing the password will be able to access confidential data. Your private data will remain private. Deleting files is not always as good as it sounds. Even wiped files can be restored in many cases. And, are you sure that all the files were deleted? It is more comfortable to know that all the data is encrypted.
- Temporary files and cached files protection. There are many utilities to delete browser cached pages and temporary files. Unfortunately this gives only the illusion of protection. Many applications would create their own temporary files in the most unexpected places, adding records to the operating system registry, etc. We recommend using encryption software for protecting data stored on your local hard drives including system area (where most of the temporary and cached files remains) for the peace of mind. Please note, only utilities allowing whole hard drive encryption can provide this level of protection.
- Protecting data on your backup media. In case you perform backups from your working files and confidential data, these backups should be protected as well. Encryption utility should support your backup media.
One more point: your data will be safe as your password is safe. Do not ever share your hard drive passwords.
4. “spyware removal” tools
Sometimes people are using so-called “spyware removal” tools, e.g. software detecting spyware. Those tools deal with unwanted adware and spyware on your computer. The main source of spyware are websites that make use bugs in users’ browsers to install code on your computer allowing to research your browsing habits, etc. Also, “spyware removal” tools can detect and destroy spyware designed to obtain account details for online payment systems like e-gold, PayPal and many others. In case you use online payment systems it is quite important to check your PC with “spyware removal” tool before logging in. In most cases using personal firewall and antiviral software cannot block such spyware. Most of “spyware removal” tools have built-in database of known spyware and tools to remove it, and it is important to keep the database up to date. It should be noted, that only disabling java and ActiveX can guarantee your browser safety and prevent your PC from infecting through the web browser. Not all custom developed spyware (especially those targeted to a separate group of Internet users, e.g. the users of a certain online resource, payment system, etc.) can be detected by “spyware removal” tools. Such spyware will simply not be listed in the tool database.
To summarize all the above, we would recommend installing on your computer the following tools: personal firewall, antiviral software, spyware detection utility, and hard drive encryption utility. Having all this tools will improve your computer security and make it almost impossible to break in.