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Safeguard Your New Computer
December 2003

Russell James is Operations Manager at BJ Associates of San Antonio. They are an authorized service center for Toshiba and Sony systems. They are the laptop specialist and also handle system builds and parts for desktops. They can take care of any IBM compatible hardware or software problem that you have.

The holiday season brings a lot of new computer systems into the world. A lot of them will be a long overdue replacement for the family computer. Many will be a familyís first venture into cyberworld. There are a lot of problems that can occur with a computer but most of them can be avoided with some simple planning and forethought.

The first item on the protection list is protection from electrical spikes and surges. Even with the new technology that is around us, the electric company still gives us the occasional spikes and surges throughout our electrical system. Whether it is the heavy load of summertime or the electrical storms of the wintertime, our systems are in danger from the time that we plug them in.

You can buy a battery backup, or UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply), for your computer that will protect you from spikes, surges and brownouts that can occur. The Minuteman 500 is available for about $120. This includes 4 surge/backup outlets, 4 surge only outlets, and outlets for your modem and network cable. For those of you with high speed Internet, you cannot forget about the network cable. You can lose a network card or even a system board if the power problem comes down the network cable. The product also includes software that will automatically shutdown your system in the event of a power problem as well as $30,000 worth of insurance in case their product does not do what it is supposed to do and you lose your system. I donít think there are too many of us with a $30,000 computer system.

The next step is to decide what type of connection you will have to the Internet. If you are going to use a dialup service, you can move on to the next step. If you have chosen to get high speed Internet access, you need to get some sort of firewall to protect you from the hackers on the outside where you will be. I would suggest that everyone that uses DSL or cable modem install an Internet router. This will also be of use if you have more than one system that you want to share the connection with. If not a hardware firewall, then at least install some sort of software firewall like ZoneAlarm or BlackICE that will help to protect you. If you choose not to have some sort of firewall it will not be a question of if you will be hacked, but only when.

After you get the computer up and running, you will want to check what antivirus software is installed and whether it is up to date. Software packages can be 6 months old by the time the consumer gets the product. This can mean that you would be vulnerable to all of the viruses that have come out in the last 6 months. If you do not update your antivirus software and have a plan for automatic or scheduled updates, you run the risk of becoming infected by the next big virus that comes out.

Now that we have surge protection, firewall and antivirus in place, letís look at the operating system and the programs that are installed. Microsoft is trying to help us keep the hackers out of our systems. The Website will allow you to check your system for all of the latest security fixes that have been released. Did you know that one of the ways that the Klez virus attacks is with the mime exploit from within Internet Explorer? This is important because Outlook and Outlook Express call Internet Explorer to show you the html e-mails. If your browser is not up to date, you can be infected with a variant of the Klez virus by previewing an infected e-mail. You donít even have to open it up. The update site is free to anyone with a valid Windows operating system so it doesnít make any sense not to take advantage of the service. Windows XP will even download the critical updates ahead of time and notify you when they are ready to be installed. It canít get much easier than that unless you have someone doing it for you.

After the Windows updates are finished move on to the office update site. Here you will be able to download and install fixes as well as security updates for Microsoft Office 2000 or XP products. Office XP, which hasnít been out that long, is already on its second service pack. They donít write these fixes because they have a lot of free time. They write them because problems have been found that need to be fixed. Take advantage of the updates for your own good.

If you will take the time to look at these items, I guarantee that your computer experience will be better with the protection than without it. If you decide to not have the protection, please stay away from my area of cyberworld. Good luck to those of you that are about to take your first trip on the information superhighway.

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