Internet Security - Reminders
Recently a few minor events have called to my attention that not everyone who communicates
with me by email has adequate internet security protection in place.
Fortunately, these events have not compromised my practice systems in the least. I have premium
internet security software for my office, and my electronic medical record system is completely separate from my
office computers and routine email communications.
Nevertheless, it is in everyone's best interest with regard to both privacy and stress reduction
to optimize one's computer security practices and software. I provide a few simple suggestions below on how to
get started with this, especially if you are low on funds.
1) Update your operating system regularly (or set it to update automatically). Many people
are still using Windows, and it is now part of the Windows 7 (and higher) update system to include a "malware
removal" update regularly.
You can update your computer (for FREE) in a couple of ways. For those using Internet Explorer
in XP, you can click on the "Safety" tab on the toolbar and then click on "Windows Update" and then
follow the directions. You can also go to http://update.microsoft.com and follow the directions. For Windows 7 and higher the
update option is accessed via Start then Control Panel.
2) Make sure you have a firewall turned on. Unless you are already using a paid, commercial
system like Norton Internet Security that has its own firewall, you should at the very least have your Windows
firewall turned on (it is included in Windows). You can check your Windows firewall status by clicking on
"Control Panel" in the start menu, and then on "Security Center." You will see there an icon or link to the Windows
Firewall - click on it to check your status.
(Reminder - again, if you have an internet security software system with its own firewall, then it
may have the Windows firewall turned off so the two firewalls don't conflict with each other.)
3) Make sure you have an antivirus system operating and up-to-date, and use it to do a
complete system virus scan if you have not done one in a while. There is now an excellent, FREE
option available for you from Microsoft if you have no funds to pay for this. It is called
Microsoft Security Essentials, and it is available here:
It is very user-friendly, and updates automatically.
Another option: a popular and free antivirus program with good reviews recently is from
4) Be security-savvy with email. There are many good articles online that warn you about
phishing schemes and about how to be very careful about clicking on links in emails. Please familiarize
yourself with how online scammers operate - online criminals can be very crafty and seductive - vigilance is
A good way to enhance security with regard to email is to acquire a few different email accounts.
For example, you can open a free Gmail account and use it for non-personal uses, such as signing up for
online newsletters, forums, membership sites, etc. Google actively tries to screen out spam and viruses from
Gmail. In addition, a Gmail account remains completely online and separate from your "home" or "personal" email
that you may be routing through Microsoft Outlook.
These 4 suggestions above are among the most important things to do to enhance your online
security, but I'll list a few other options below.
5) Test your firewall and improve it if needed. You can test your firewall for free by
visiting Gibson Research Corporation (GRC.com) at their "ShieldsUp" page:
and reading about how to do this. If you have a leaky firewall, but have no funds to buy a
commercial product, you can consider obtaining the FREE version of ZoneAlarm from ZoneAlarm.com:
6) Run an updated Anti-Spyware program, if spyware protection is not included in any
internet security software package you have. I personally like the free "SpyBot - Search and Destroy" program.
It has a user-friendly interface and some useful advanced tools in the package. It is available here:
You do not have to use the "Immunize" or "TeaTimer" features of this software to run anti-spyware
scans or to use its advanced tools. When first trying it out, I would suggest not activating these features until
you understand exactly what they do.
7) Update your Java software occasionally. Many computer owners have Java running on their
computer but don't ever think about it much. If you are running it, it's worth going through a simple software
update once in a while at http://www.java.com.
8) Clean out old, unused programs and internet junk files from your computer. You can have
Windows uninstall unused programs by going to "Control Panel" and then clicking on "Add or Remove Programs."
Windows will take a minute to take inventory of all your programs, and then present you with a list of programs
installed on your computer. You can select to remove any old or unused ones.
It is also useful to clean out old "temporary internet files" and other non-necessary files once in
a while, if for no other reason than they can slow up your computer after too many of them accumulate. The easiest
and fastest way I've found to do this is to use a popular little program called CCleaner, available FREE here:
It is a powerful program, so use it carefully.
Note that if you clean the internet cookies out of your computer, you may have to go back through
some security login features with your online banking account, since your bank will no longer be able to use the
previous cookie to identify your computer (this is only a mild nuisance).
There are other more advanced internet security options available, but the above will go a long way
towards keeping your computer safe from online threats - Dr Zebrun.