Windows Vista Security Guide - Security for a computer
Why Secure Vista?
The internet has become a dangerous place. New viruses, trojans and spyware threats have hit an un-imaginable figure costing organisations billions of pounds for the mess they leave behind. From stealing confidential information to causing complete system failures, protection from malware threats and hacking has never been more critical. Over 90% of users are using broadband or DSL at home, and have moved on from dial up connection, which means their systems are vulnerable to attack constantly due to an always on broadband connection.
Due to the nature of Microsoft operating systems being feature rich, there’s also the downside of security threats and vulnerabilities within the windows operating system. However we can minimise the exposure to hackers and the millions of malicious threats out there.
In this guide I will show you the key steps in ensuring your system is safe and secure. I will be concentrating on the Windows Vista operating system in particular. For securing Windows XP please CLICK HERE
Windows Vista has been developed with a focus on security due to being criticised often in respect to the older operating systems when security is being discussed. However its defences are not complete, and you will need to take extra steps to make it secure.
In this guide I will show you how to make full use of the Windows Vista security features, and I will be giving you my opinion on some security aspects within Vista.
New Security features with Vista
Windows Defender – Vista can now scan for spyware and other malware using the Windows Defender utility.
Improved Firewall – Vista now supports the use of controlling outbound connections. This would prevent malware connecting to the Internet from your computer, although this feature is not complete as discussed further into this guide
Safer Surfing – Browsing the web has been made safer. Internet explorer includes anti-phishing and anti-spoofing tools.
Parental Control – This feature ensures other users are limited on to which websites they can use, what programs they can use, when they can use the computer.
Restrictive Installation (Trust Manager) – Every time a software installation is being attempted, you will be prompted to confirm the installation. If you are a limited user, you may be asked to specify an administrator password. This will prevent malicious code being installed without user’s awareness. Tasks that require administrative privileges have a shield icon, indicating this.
User Access Control - Standard users can now view system clock, calendar and change time zone. They can also change the display setting, installing fonts, changing power management settings, adding external devices such as printers, downloading and installing updates, configuring and creating VPN’s and installing WEP. Also some maintenance features run under a standard user such as automatic defrags and automatic backup.
Room for Improvement
Although Vista introduces some new security features, and improves on the existing ones, Vista still does not provide complete protection and the new features do not perform as well at all compared to dedicated third party products.
Vista does not provide true anti-virus protection, and without this will be vulnerable to viruses, trojans and worms. Windows Vista firewall has been improved, although it does not block outbound connections by default. Instead it leaves it to the home users to decide what to protect. The problem here is home users do not know what to protect on the outbound connection, and so although they have this feature, its as good as not having this if your unsure regarding what to protect on the outbound connection. Manually having to adjust the outbound protection for all programs certainly is a major issue. Especially when you can get a third party firewall which will do the thinking for you. A third party program will block outbound programs, and ask you upon request if a program is allowed outbound connection and remember the answer for future.
Vista’s new Windows Defender does a job in protecting you against spyware, although reviews from testing indicate more spyware does slip through compared to third party products.
Before we start
If it’s a new computer, do not even bother connecting to the Internet yet. You will be amazed how quick a system can be compromised when it is not fully secure and up to date.
If you already have done so, not to worry, with a good virus and spy-ware checker we can scan and fix your system, if you have caught anything.
Of course if your system is new, then you may not have anything to back up, but if it is not you may want to back up all your documents, and anything else that’s important. You can back it up on a USB memory stick, a USB hard drive, CD or DVD. You should be doing this anyway. I have known people to have caught a virus which completely damaged their file System, and lost all their work, which they did not have a backup for!
Below are two sections, mandatory and optional. mandatory are the ones you must do in order to have a secure system, and optional is of course optional, if you want to go that little bit further in securing your system.
Before we get into securing the Windows Vista operating System I just want to briefly cover hardware firewalls, as I can not stress how important they are, and without one a user would be leaving them selves open to all sorts of attacks. A firewall is the heart and 1st layer of defence to your home network. A firewall is the key to keeping all the bad guys out of your network, and so it’s for sure worth getting one that does a good job! After reading this article, have a look at my Firewall guide, to get a better understanding, and a guide on which one to get.
A hardware firewall is a dedicated piece of hardware, shaped like a fancy box with ports and lights, that will plug one end into your modem and the other end into your computer/s. From the modem a hardware firewall will monitor internet traffic and take action letting traffic or dropping traffic according to the rules configured. You may already have a hardware firewall in the form of a router with built in firewall capabilities.
In a nutshell A hardware firewall is something everyone should have. Read my Firewall Guide to see some good recommendations.