F Securing Your Computer Four Essential Steps

1. Keep your firewall turned on. You can use Windows Firewall, which is included with Windows 7, or a firewall that you obtain elsewhere. For details, see "Blocking Intruders with Windows Firewall" on page 505.

2. Keep Windows up to date. Windows Update can do this for you automatically. For details, see "Keeping Your System Secure with Windows Update" on page 742.

3. Use an antivirus program. You'll need to obtain one, as none is included with Windows 7 . For more information, see "Blocking Viruses and Worms with an Antivirus Program" on page 517 .

4. Use an antispyware program. Windows Defender, which is included with Windows 7, serves this function well. For details, see "Stopping Spyware with Windows Defender" on page 522.

Action Center monitors each of these four areas to be sure you're protected, and it displays an alert if something needs attention . For details, see "Monitoring Your Computer's Security" on page 502.

Beyond those essential steps, it's important that you learn to avoid installing potentially risky software. With improved security layers, the biggest risk nowadays is a form of social engineering: Trojan horse programs that masquerade as beneficial (or, at worst, benign) programs and rely on gullible users to install them. User Account Control (UAC) helps in this regard by limiting the administrative tasks (installing any type of program is an administrative taskā€”even though it is not always performed by an "administrator") that less knowledgeable users can perform. (For details, see "Preventing Unsafe Actions with User Account Control" on page 531 .) In addition, Internet Explorer makes getting into trouble more difficult than in previous versions. (For more information, see "Security and Privacy Options" on page 220.) Action Center also monitors your UAC and internet security settings. Ultimately, however, there's nothing to prevent a user from installing malware except self-restraint.

Finally, if you have children who use your computer, you'll want to help them to stay safe while on the computer, and you might want to restrict their computer activities in other ways. Parental Controls in Windows can help with those tasks; for details, see "Controlling Your Children's Computer Access" on page 577.

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