Speaking Notes from a Tech Talks Presentation by Krysta Kaye, May 25, 2005

Basic Home Computer Security


It is important to update your computer's operating system regularly.

  • Updates modify the functionality.
  • Security updates close off vulnerabilities.
  • Run updates weekly.
  • Use automatic update tools when available (Windows, Apple, and some versions of Linux).

Update your antivirus software daily.

  • Virus signature files are being released daily now.
  • Use automatic update tool to keep up-to-date.

Older machines and operating systems may not be readily "updateable" due to vendor no longer supporting them.


Broadband Internet connections (like DSL, cable modems, etc.) are always-on connections; you need to put up some walls between your computer and the Internet.

Firewalls protect your computer from certain kinds of attacks.

  • Allow you to decide what kinds of network traffic gets to your computer and what is dropped (for example, Web traffic travels on port 80; most firewalls will allow Web traffic or port 80 traffic by default)
  • Some firewalls allow you to decide which IP Addresses get to access your computer.

Routers protect your computer from other kinds of attacks.

  • Routers are designed to pass traffic from one location to another on the Internet or a LAN.
  • Home routers have built-in NATting or Network Address Translation that keeps your home network's IP addresses hidden from those on the other side of the router.



  • Software that is designed to self-replicate and spread to other computers once installed on a host computer
  • The Worm variation spreads without the users input.
  • Both viruses and worms are malicious in nature and destroy files or modify files on computers.
  • Can cause major slowdowns on your computer
  • Run antivirus scans monthly.


  • Nosy software that sends information about your computing to a third-party
  • Can be malicious in nature when it comes in the form of a Trojan Horse (for example keystroke loggers)
  • Can cause major slowdowns on your computer
  • Run antispyware software scans weekly.

Email, Chat/IM, SPAM/SPIM Issues


  • Open attachments only when you are expecting them.
  • Don't click on link in emails before checking out where they are going.
  • Beware of emails asking for personal information (a.k.a. social engineering).


  • Treat messages in chatrooms and on IM as you treat email messages - beware of links and attachments.


  • SPAM - unrequested email messages, oftentimes trying to sell you something
  • SPIM - unrequested Chat/IM messages, again oftentimes trying to sell you something
  • Phishing - unrequested messages, commonly in email, less commonly in Chat/IM, looking for personal information about you or asking that you "update your account," attempting to either steal your identity or get money or valuables out of you
  • Just delete these kinds of messages.  Don't open any attachments from them, and don't follow any of the links in them.
  • Don't email back to try to get off the list - that just lets the bad guys know they have a working email account to harrass.
  • Treat like junk mail that your receive from the U.S. Post Office - throw it away!

Online Tips

Know what sites you are visiting.

  • Not everyone on the Internet is nice and friendly; there are some Website owners who are looking at how to hack into your computer and use it for their own purposes.
  • Know where to get good information.

Look for HTTPS sites when sending personal information over the Internet.

  • HTTPS is the designation for a secured Website.
  • The lock icon on your browser should clue you in as to whether you are on a secured site or not.

Remember to select good passwords.

  • Keep in mind what casual acquaintances know about you when you create a password--don't use anything personal that can be guessed about you.
  • Always use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Use a different password for personal business and work business--so if one is compromised not all are compromised.
  • Protect them like the keys to your home or car.

Where to Go for Help

If you think you are a victim of identity theft, see the Federal Trade Commission site at http://www.consumer.org/idtheft for information on what to do.

Also, the Better Business Bureau has more information on identity theft at http://www.bbbonline.org/idtheft/stolenID.asp.

Please use the forum for questions that weren't covered during the TechTalk hour:

  • Login to the Forum.

  • Scroll down to the Technology Corner section.

  • Click on Security.

  • Post your question.

About the Author:  At the time of this Tech Talk, Krysta Kaye served as the security administrator for the UNT Libraries' LAN/PC Management Department.