If you connect to the Internet, allow other people to use your computer, or share files with others, you should take steps to protect your computer from harm. Why? Because there are computer criminals (sometimes called hackers) who attack other people’s computers. These people can attack directly, by breaking into your computer through the Internet and stealing your personal information, or indirectly, by creating malicious software to harm your computer.
Fortunately, you can help protect yourself by taking a few simple precautions. This article describes the threats and what you can do to defend against them.
Protect your computer
These are ways to help protect your computer against potential security threats:
- Firewall. A firewall can help protect your computer by preventing hackers or malicious software from gaining access to it.
- Virus protection. Antivirus software can help protect your computer against viruses, worms, and other security threats.
- Spyware and other malware protection. Antispyware software can help protect your computer from spyware and other potentially unwanted software.
Use a firewall
A firewall is software or hardware that checks information coming from the Internet or a network and then either turns it away or allows it to pass through to your computer, depending on your firewall settings. In this way, a firewall can help prevent hackers and malicious software from gaining access to your computer.
Windows Firewall is built into Windows and is turned on automatically.
If you run a program such as an instant messaging program or a multiplayer network game that needs to receive information from the Internet or a network, the firewall asks if you want to block or unblock (allow) the connection. If you choose to unblock the connection, Windows Firewall creates an exception so that the firewall won’t bother you when that program needs to receive information in the future.
Use virus protection
Viruses, worms, and Trojan horses are programs created by hackers that use the Internet to infect vulnerable computers. Viruses and worms can replicate themselves from computer to computer, while Trojan horses enter a computer by hiding inside an apparently legitimate program, such as a screen saver. Destructive viruses, worms, and Trojan horses can erase information from your hard disk or completely disable your computer. Others don’t cause direct damage, but worsen your computer’s performance and stability.
Antivirus programs scan e‑mail and other files on your computer for viruses, worms, and Trojan horses. If one is found, the antivirus program either quarantines (isolates) it or deletes it entirely before it damages your computer and files.
Windows does not have a built-in antivirus program, but your computer manufacturer might have installed one. If not, there are many antivirus programs available. Microsoft offers Microsoft Security Essentials, a free antivirus program you can download from the Microsoft Security Essentials website. You can also go to the Windows 7 security software providers’ website to find a third-party antivirus program.
Because new viruses are identified every day, it’s important to use an antivirus program with an automatic update capability. When the program is updated, it adds new viruses to its list of viruses to check for, helping to protect your computer from new attacks. If the list of viruses is out of date, your computer is vulnerable to new threats. Updates usually require an annual subscription fee. Keep the subscription current to receive regular updates.
Use spyware protection
Spyware is software that can display advertisements, collect information about you, or change settings on your computer, generally without appropriately obtaining your consent. For example, spyware can install unwanted toolbars, links, or favorites in your web browser, change your default home page, or display pop-up ads frequently. Some spyware displays no symptoms that you can detect, but it secretly collects sensitive information, such as the websites you visit or the text you type. Most spyware is installed through free software that you download, but in some cases simply visiting a website results in a spyware infection.
To help protect your computer from spyware, use an antispyware program. This version of Windows has a built-in antispyware program called Windows Defender, which is turned on by default. Windows Defender alerts you when spyware tries to install itself on your computer. It also can scan your computer for existing spyware and then remove it.
Because new spyware appears every day, Windows Defender must be regularly updated to detect and guard against the latest spyware threats. Windows Defender is updated as needed whenever you update Windows. For the highest level of protection, set Windows to install updates automatically .