I have written several times about computer security issues, such as viruses, Trojan horse programs, scammers, spammers, hackers, and other nasties that affect computer users. As a result, I often receive questions from newsletter readers asking about problems they have recently experienced. One common question asked is, "Was this the result of someone hacking into my computer?" The next question almost always is, "What can I do to prevent this in the future?"
Most of the time, I cannot tell if someone hacked into your computer or not. Such intrusions normally leave few "footprints" for later detective work. However, the question of "What can I do to prevent this in the future?" is much easier to answer.
Your prevention begins with a little education, and the most accessible source is the World Wide Web. Like many other topics, computer security information can readily be found on the Web. I suspect there are hundreds of Web pages, if not thousands, that can help you secure your Windows computer. (I'll write about Macintosh and Linux some other time. Those systems have limited exposure to the same problems. Linux and Macintosh systems are rarely compromised while Windows systems are easily hacked.)
I recently discovered Jon Schweitzer's "Computer Internet Security Class" on the Web. This Web page obviously is part of seminars taught at the Los Angeles Family History Center (LAFHC). However, the information is freely available to everyone on the Web.
I especially like Jon's comments about operating systems and e-mail programs:
If you keep using the Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser and/or Outlook email program, it is highly recommended that you install and segregate a separate operating system, Internet and security programs for ONLY Internet use by…
He then goes on to describe measures to minimize the risks. He correctly points out that "the Windows operating system has the biggest security problems" and then describes methods of reducing the security issues.
While Jon refers to seminars held at the Los Angeles Family History Center, the information on his Web page is not genealogy-specific. Jon Schweitzer's "Computer Internet Security Class" should be required reading for all Windows users.
You can read Jon Schweitzer's "Computer Internet Security Class" at http://members2.1stnetusa.com/~a/comintsec.