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    8. Securing your Network - Keep your network safe

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    • Essential Security for Your Network 

      If you don't have the time right now to go through all the information presented below, here's a quick checklist to make sure your major bases are covered:
      • Read your router's user manual and enable all recommended security.
      • Select and set up firewall software so that you have a second line of defense against security threats.
      • In Windows 7® , turn on Windows Defender, which you can find in the Action Center.
      • Install virus protection software and make sure that you keep it updated to catch the most current threats.
      • Set up Windows 7®  Parental Controls.
      We strongly encourage you to take a few minutes to read through all the information here. We're going to separate the information into Best Practices, which reference specific physical steps you can take to secure your network, and Best Policies, which will help you understand less tangible concepts. Once you learn the basics of network security, you'll be prepared for just about anything!

      Best Practices

      Let's walk through a few concrete things you can do to secure your home network:
      1. Control access to your network
      2. Set up a firewall
      3. Equip virus and spyware protection software
      4. Set up parental controls
      5. Keep patches current
      6. Back up your data

      Overall, the most important concept to grasp here is one of layered defense — you want to block as many threats as possible.

      Control Access to Your Network 
      Your first line of defense for network security is your router. The router can prevent unwanted and unsolicited Internet traffic from intruding into your network. It also secures your wireless network and helps prevent access by unauthorized devices such as your neighbors’ computers. Make sure your router’s security settings are enabled. For example, most routers allow you to block certain ports (or gateways to enter your network) from some the most common threats. Consult your router’s user manual for information specific to your product.

      Set Up a Firewall 
      A firewall is a software package that runs on your computers to help keep intruders out. Firewalls provide additional protection, but because no one thing can detect or stop all attacks, it’s important to use firewalls in conjunction with other security methods. Windows 7 offers a feature called Action Center, a central place to view alerts and take actions on security and maintenance settings that need attention. Action Center includes Windows Defender, an anti-spyware software that, when turned on, can help keep spyware from infecting your computer through alerts and scanning options.

      Equip Virus and Spyware Protection Software 
      Even with your best efforts, you never know what’s going to get through your firewall, so be sure to keep your spyware detection, antivirus and security software current on all computers on your network. Many software packages support automatic updates, so be sure to approve these updates when prompted. 

      Even your PC's operating system can help by being your first line of defense. Like we discussed above, Windows 7 offers a feature called Action Center, a central place to view alerts and take actions on security and maintenance settings that need attention. Action Center includes Windows Defender, an anti-spyware software that, when turned on, can help keep spyware from infecting your computer through alerts and scanning options.

      If you need any help installing security software or removing a virus from your PC, Dell's trained technicians can help.

      Set up Parental Controls 
      Parental control software is a useful tool if you're concerned about your kids' web-surfing habits. There are many parental control software products on the market offering a wide array of functionality:
      • Limiting controversial search terms
      • Specifying which games a child can play
      • Controlling the amount of time your child can stay online
      • Restricting access to websites with specific words in the URL or site text
      • Denying the use of specific programs or applications (like chat or online social networking)
      Many parental control software products allow you to pick and choose from pre-configured setups, and they can also allow you to specify different user profiles for kids of different ages. Most of these programs also provide activity reports for parents as well as remote monitoring with notification if your child tries to access something he or she is not allowed to see.

      If you have Windows®  7, you already have some useful parental controls at your fingertips. Let's look at how to configure these controls. 

      Click Tip
      Configuring Windows 7 Parental Controls 
      Windows 7 makes it easy to configure Parental Controls. Just follow these simple steps:
      1. Click Start > Control Panel > User Accounts and Family Safety .
      2. Click Set up parental controls for any user .
      3. Enter your administrator password if necessary.
      4. Under Parental Controls, select On, enforce current settings .
      Now that you've turned on Parental Controls, you can specify the amount of time your kids can stay on the computer and what games and programs they can run. You can even specify limits for each child, since what's right for an eight year old might not be fair for an older teenager. You can find a great video tutorial here if you want more information. 

      For more information on how to protect your family online, visit Dell’s Family Safety Learning Center

      Keep Patches Current 
      Patches are updates created by manufacturers to fix vulnerabilities, or holes, in their software. Many applications will automatically check for available updates, and many vendors offer automatic update notification through their mailing lists. When a patch is necessary, you can usually download it from the manufacturer’s website.

      Back Up Your Data 
      Keep copies of important files on removable media such as CDs, DVDs, USB or network attached storage (NAS). Use software backup tools if available, and store the backups away from the computer. In fact, it may be preferable to store your backup someplace not in your home. Dell offersDataSafe online backup, which can make this entire process easy and secure. 

      Software such as Iomega®  v.Clone™ technology allow you to clone your entire PC and boot it from any other PC. When combined with an Iomega portable hard drive, this provides a complete, all-in-one backup solution that's easy to use and maintain. 

      If you're a Windows 7 user, take advantage of built-in features found in the Backup and Restore Center that allow you to schedule automatic backups of your files and data. Handy features include the option to choose the specific files you want to back up more frequently.

      Best Policies

      Knowledge is power. Make sure all of the users on your network understand these simple policies for protecting against intrusion and virus infection:
      1. Preventing unauthorized access to your network
      2. Don’t open email from strangers
      3. Don’t run programs of unknown origin
      4. Don’t disclose personal information

      Preventing Unauthorized Access to Your Network 
      Home wireless networks have very specific security concerns, but it's not difficult to turn on the basic protection you need. Why should you worry about securing your network? There are actually people who engage in practices like “wardriving”, where they drive around looking specifically for unsecured wireless networks they can use for nefarious purposes. Or, you could just have your neighbors hogging the bandwidth you’re paying for. Either way, a secure network is in your best interest.

      There are some very basic things you can do right now to secure your wireless network:
      • Log onto your router's administrative console (instructions on how to do this will be in your router documentation) and change the default password to one featuring letters, numbers and special characters.
      • Also in the console, turn on the wireless encryption your router provides and make sure you write down the password you choose (if your router supports WPA) or the key generated (if it supports WEP).
      • Make sure you're keeping your antivirus and anti-malware software updated with the most current definitions, and turn on auto-updating if your software allows for it.
      • Use the features available in your web browser of choice to pump up the safety of your personal information. Internet Explorer 8, for example, has a feature called SmartScreen Filter designed to guard against malware, or fraudulent and phishing websites.
      This list may sound intimidating, but none of these steps is difficult to perform. The most important ones are the ones having to do with your router—changing the router's admin password andenabling encryption are the two smartest things you can do, and the steps involved should be listed in detail in your router's manual. 

      Don't Open Email from Strangers 
      If you wouldn’t eat their candy, you shouldn’t open their email attachments. Before opening any attachments, be sure you know who sent the message. Be careful even if the email originated from a familiar address. For example, the Melissa virus used personal address books to send out malicious executable programs. Email robot viruses can mask the true source of the message.

      If you’re bound and determined to open an attachment of questionable origin, you’re taking your chances. At least take these precautions:
      • Make sure your virus definitions are up-to-date
      • Save the file to your hard disk
      • Scan the file using your antivirus software
      • Disconnect your computer's network connection

      Don’t Run Programs of Unknown Origin 
      It’s not really safe to click on attachments that come in email, unless you know exactly where the message came from and that it is safe. Some malicious viruses, called Trojan horse programs, hide executable files in email. You don’t want to open one. And, you certainly don't want to be responsible for sending them to your friends or co-workers.

      What's more, if you aren't taking precautions, you could end up with hidden executable programs inside other applications that you thought were helpful. This is called spyware, and it's why you should make absolutely sure that every application you install is from a trustworthy source. A quick web search to see whether or not the file is a known virus or spyware before you download could save you a lot of grief!

      Don't Disclose Personal Information 
      It's so tempting to spill all your most intimate details to your best online friends, but doing so can be very dangerous, both for your online and offline safety. Kids in particular can sometimes have trouble understanding how seemingly innocent facts about their lives can prove dangerous. It's your job to make sure they understand that over-sharing is hazardous to their health and well being. Write up a list of what they shouldn’t share online (first or last names, telephone numbers, addresses, city or state, school, family names, etc.) and post it by the computer so they don't forget.

      If your kids have access to a cell phone with a camera, then it's vital they understand that sharing pictures online is very dangerous. Even innocuous details like t-shirts, backdrops and license plates can give away plenty of information you don't want anyone to know.

      The power to control your own network is in your hands. Just follow the steps above, and you can get your network locked down in no time - and have nothing to fear!

      Not sure if your network is as secure as you want? Dell's Solution Station offers support for network configuration and installation of certain security software (purchased separately by the customer) as well as support setting up a personal firewall and help removing any spyware or viruses. 

      Wireless networks, despite their convenience and ease of use, are susceptible to greater security threats than wired networks. On the next page, we’ll examine additional steps you can take to increase the security of your wireless network.

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