Computer Security for Flooring Pros
by Nick Arrera

There’s More To Flooring Than Just Floors

Part of being a floorcovering professional is the office work. Every one of you reading this obviously has a computer and odds are 99% of you use it for work: invoicing and bookkeeping, compiling price lists, writing business correspondence and research on the Internet. Some of you feel you are adequately protected from the dangers of hackers and viruses. A few of you do not concern yourselves with such matters. Only when there’s trouble do you wonder what happened. Here is a short course on computer security that can help protect you, your computer and your business data from theft or damage.

Common Terms

Virus: Any program that replicates itself.

Trojan: A program or script that comes in a form that hides its true identity and purpose, or slips in by a hidden method.

Worm: A virus that attempts to replicate itself though networked computers using shared files/drives, or vulnerabilities in the operating system.

Hijacker: A program or script that changes system settings, can change internet settings, and reroute web pages.

Spyware: Small programs which attempt to monitor your habits on the internet using tracking cookies or other means. These may also result in pop-up or pop-under advertising and may cause system degradation in performance and other problems.

Keyloggers: Programs that log keypresses, used to steal passwords.

Downloaders: Programs that use security flaws to download unwanted programs in the background. Virus’s can use downloaders to update themselves.

Phishers: Email that comes with the purpose of stealing information. The email is normally disguised as coming from a respectable business, and may contain a link for you to “update your account”. Don’t do it, it’s a trick. If you have a question whether or not the email is real, then call the business and ask.

Malware: Software designed specifically to damage or disrupt a system. Can also be software that features deceptive licenses and tricks the user into installing unwanted programs alongside purposely installed software.

Misconceptions About Security

A common misconception about security is that a firewall is all the protection you need. This is not true. A firewall will only protect against worms, and hackers attempting to access your machine through openings in your Operating System and Network Settings. It does not protect against spyware, trojans, hijackers or viruses that you download and install. While it is useful and necessary, its usefulness is highly exaggerated, it will not completely protect you. Nevertheless, make sure you use one!

Another common misconception is that antivirus programs will remove or delete a virus. This isn’t what antivirus programs are built for. Antivirus programs are built to detect the presence of a virus, and aid in preventing a virus from infecting your machine, they are not built to remove every virus once a virus is installed. While some antivirus programs will remove a virus, they will not remove every infection. If your PC has contracted a virus, and your antivirus program reports it, you need to annotate any information your antivirus program gives you and search for more information on it’s removal until you know the virus is removed.

Another misconception is that you are fully protected! No matter how well you secure yourself, there is nothing that will completely protect you, short of isolating the machine away from network connections and people.

How To Secure Your Computer

Finally the good stuff:

  1. Run a firewall to protect against worms and hackers. I put this first as it’s the simplest step, but as I said before, in terms of security it’s not going to keep you safe by itself. What firewall you use is up to you. My personal recommendation is ZoneAlarm Pro (a freeware version is also available).
  2. Run a antivirus program. Although it probably won’t remove all viruses, it should let you know where the virus is at and when to get help. What antivirus program you decide to use is up to you. My personal recommendation is PC-cillin, available at Trend Micro. AVG antivirus is also highly rated for personal and business use.
  3. Secure your browser. This is where it gets a bit complicated. There are many ways to do this, and many programs that will aid in doing it. One of the best approaches is to run an alternative browser, such as Mozilla’s Firefox, which may not be as targeted by hackers as often as Internet Explorer for exploits. I will direct this mainly to Internet Explorer users, as it is the most common browser used. I highly recommend you enter your Internet Security Settings by clicking in the menu of your browser, Tools | Internet Options… | Security tab, and setting your security to at least the medium level. Whenever you send credit card information, look for a picture of a lock on the bottom status bar of the browser. Don’t send the information if the lock is not there or shows the lock open. My personal recommendation is to use the portable Firefox browser on a USB drive.
  4. Secure your Operating System. It’s important to run a update for your OS as new vulnerabilities and exploits are discovered. The same is true for all your programs. Schedule time to keep your software up to date or turn on Automatic Updates.
  5. I also suggest you use a startup manager. A startup manager will aid you in getting to know what is starting up when you boot your machine. A good startup manager will also aid you in removing unwanted startup programs, and can make your machine more responsive while booting.
  6. Watch your e-mail. If your email application allows it, then disable images in your email. Never open an attachment without virus-scanning it first. Never respond to request for personal information through a embedded link. Use spam filters.. I recommend using SpamPal for POP3 email clients. When sending e-mail, put the persons name in the BCC line (Blind Carbon Copy); it keeps the Internet a lot safer.
  7. Secure your network. Don’t needlessly share folders and files within your network. Use logins and passwords. Networking may be a topic of its own. Why not take the opportunity to search for or start a new topic about this on the forums.

Now I must remind you that you are NOT fully protected! No matter how well you secure yourself, there is nothing that will protect you from the hazards of computing in the modern world except isolating the machine away from network connections, software from unreliable sources and people. This article is meant as a guide to help you and your computer become more secure and to help you prevent your personal information, and that of your customers and associates, from falling victim to the very real hazards of unprotected computing.

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