Ok, so we’ve moved from FAT32 to NTFS, we’ve learned how to get rid of cookies and temporary internet files. Now lets look at another area of life on your computer, keeping your Operating System up to date. What’s an Operating System you ask? It is the layer of software that sits between the programs you like to use such as Microsoft Word, Google Chrome, or Adobe Photoshop, and the hardware or physical parts of your computer. The Operating System( or OS as we’ll call it) allows your programs to communicate with your printer, your headphones, your camera, your CD-ROM drive, etc. Most computer users have some version of Microsoft’s OS known as Windows on their PC. Others might have Linux or Max OS, and in the future, may have Google Chrome’s OS.
It is important to keep your OS current. Microsoft releases patches and updates once a month on a Tuesday. If your PC is set to download and install them automatically, then you’re covered. However if your PC is not set to download them automatically, you’ll want to check for updates manually. Some people don’t like their system updating for them and insist on doing it manually regardless.
To check for updates for the Windows-based OS, visit Windows Updates in your program list. You will have two choices, express and custom. Custom lets you see all the updates before they are downloaded, and lets you pick and choose. Custom also lets you see optional updates that you may want, such as driver updates for various hardware inside your computer’s case.
Staying up to date with patches and security updates from Microsoft will help safeguard you against threats that make use of unpatched weak spots or vulnerabilities in the operating system. Not patching your system can lead to your computer being broken into and hijacked by identity thieves, botnets that send out spam, or worse.
However other programs on your system can still be doorways to threats entering your computer from the Internet. Most programs installed on your PC now get their updates directly from their author’s website. In addition to updates, programs can open documents or pictures from your email or from links on websites you visit. It is incredibly important to keep these programs updated to avoid being hit by criminals making use of unpatched vulnerabilities.
Examples of such programs are Microsoft Office(Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, etc), MSN(Windows Live), Yahoo Instant Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, Acrobat Reader, even your Internet browser(Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Safari).
You will want to go to each program’s preferences and ensure they are set to get updates automatically. If a given program doesn’t have that option, then manually check for updates yourself either by clicking on the help/Update Now button, or by visiting the program’s website to check for the latest version. Programs such Adobe Acrobat Reader are becoming known for vulnerabilities that weren’t discovered in the past.
This step alone will drastically reduce the majority of currently circulating threats from entering or doing damage to your system!
Next time we will cover two types of programs that can help protect your system even further. That article will be a segway from protecting your PC when you aren’t surfing the Internet, to staying safe while you browse your favourite sites. . . anti-malware software, and firewalls.