Working towards wellness


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 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 AVG:

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 required.

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 ( 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

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

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.
Psychiatry, Northampton

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