The Ultimate PC Security Toolbox (Part 2)

12/12/2012 9:07:00 AM

Social Network Safety

Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social networking sites have given cybercriminals additional avenues to try grabbing your personal data. For example, scammers might create a malicious Facebook app that attempts to harvest your information for their financial gain, spreads tainted links, or hijacks other people's profiles. Below are a few measures that you can implement to protect yourself on social networks.

Social Network Safety

Tighten your security and privacy settings: Although security and privacy features vary across social networks, they can help to protect you and your account data. You must set them up, however, for them to work effectively. For instance, both Facebook and Twitter allow you to encrypt your connections so that other people can't hijack your account when you're connecting from public Wi-Fi hotspots. And Facebook offers a feature to monitor and track the computers and devices that log in to your account, to help identify unauthorized logins.

Be careful who you “friend” or “follow”: Before you add someone as a Facebook friend, or follow them on Twitter or Google+, ask yourself whether you really know the person. Cybercriminals often set up fake profiles just to spread spam and malicious links.

Watch for phishing attempts, scams, and hoaxes: If something sounds fishy or too good to be true, it probably is. Two widespread Facebook scams, for instance, promote links or apps that claim to tell you who has viewed your profile, or that promise to change your Facebook profile layout or theme even though neither capability exists. Think before you click on these types of links or apps, as they could steal your information, hijack your account, send spam to your friends, or cause other damage. To learn more about social network security and to discover scams as they develop, follow sites such as Facecrooks (www. or our own security topic page.

Check app permissions: If you're thinking of giving a Facebook app permission to access your profile information, first checkout the types of information it wants. If you think a particular app should not be able to access certain details, don't allow it. Also, periodically check the apps you’ve authorized to see if any of them look suspicious. You can find your installed apps at

Twitter lets apps access account information, too. Go to and review which apps and sen/ices can access your profile. If you no longer want to use a particular app or service, you can disable it from this page.

Twitter lets apps access account information

Twitter lets apps access account information

Use apps to help detect malicious activity: A number of apps can tell you if your social network accounts are vulnerable to attack, or if you're sharing too much personal data. For starters, they can filter and moderate your feeds and comments for malicious or inappropriate content, and detect fake profiles set up to flood your feeds with spam.

Two good antiscam apps are Bitdefender Safego for Facebook or Twitter ( and MyPageKeeper for Facebook (apps.facebook. com/mypaqekeeper). both of which monitor your profile's feeds and comments and alert you and other users to any malicious links they encounter. For more details on how each utility works. And if you operate your own Facebook Fan Page or blog, consider using a service such as Websense Defensio, which filters comments for spam messages, malicious content, and profanity.

Inappropriate Content

If children use your computer, you should look at ways to block inappropriate content and online predators. Even if children aren't searching for unsuitable content, they could still stumble across it in searches, find it via links or advertisements, or even access it directly by mistyping a site address.

Enable Parental Controls in Windows: With the parental controls in Windows Vista and later versions (accessible through the Control Panel), you can determine when your kids can use the computer, which games and applications they can run, and the types of websites they can visit. The feature also provides activity reporting, so you can keep an eye on their computer usage.

Vista Parental Controls

Vista Parental Controls

Activate OpenDNS for Web filtering: As I mentioned earlier, OpenDNS is an online service that offers content filtering. But in addition to stopping malware and phishing sites, OpenDNS can block adult-oriented sites and other online material that may be inappropriate for children.

Even if you use the built-in Windows Parental Controls, OpenDNS is worth trying since it provides a second layer of protection. OpenDNS can also safeguard all computers and devices on your network when you configure the service on your router. You can use the free OpenDNS FamilyShield service without even creating an account. And if you wish to selectively block certain content categories, you can create a free or paid account with the OpenDNS Home or Premium DNS service.

Enable search engine filtering: Since children can encounter all sorts of inappropriate content in searches, consider enabling filtering for the popular websites. For Google, go to to turn on search filtering. For Yahoo, go to search. And for YouTube, click the Safety Mode link at the bottom of any page.

Use SocialShield for social network monitoring: Avira’s free SocialShield service (www.socialshield. com) helps you keep an eye on your children’s Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and MySpace accounts. It analyzes their public and private posts, photos, friends, and so on to alert you to anything that might compromise your children’s online safety.

Device and Data Theft

Not all security risks come by way of the Internet: You never know when a thief might try to steal your equipment. Although this is obviously more of a concern for laptops and mobile devices, theft is one of the simplest, yet most damaging, threats.

Even if you have set a Windows password, thieves might still be able to access your personal files and passwords, as well as other bits of sensitive data. They could remove your Windows password (which isn't difficult) and log in to your Windows account, boot your computer into Linux (which bypasses Windows completely), or remove the hard drive and connect it to another computer.

Encrypting your drive will prevent those types of attacks. A thief could still delete your data from an encrypted drive, but the crook wouldn’t be able to access it. If you’re using an Ultimate or Enterprise edition of Windows Vista or later, you can use Windows BitLocker to encrypt your drive; to learn more. If you’re using another version or edition of Windows, check out the open-source DiskCryptor utility.

Windows 7 Ultimate or Enterprise, use its built-in BitLocker

Windows 7 Ultimate or Enterprise, use its built-in BitLocker

An alternative to encrypting your entire hard drive is to encrypt only your most sensitive files, such as financial reports and confidential work documents. You won’t be able to protect some data (such as saved browser passwords) under this scheme, but taking this approach is better than doing nothing. If you're running a Professional, Business,

Ultimate, or Enterprise edition of Windows, you can use the built-in Encrypting File System feature, which you can turn on through the properties of a file or folder. If you're on a Home edition of Windows, or if your computers do not all run the premium editions, you might turn to TrueCrypt to encrypt the files or folders you want to protect (to learn how to use the utility.

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