Now or never

The WINDOWS team reveals ten security moves you should make right now and six you should never take...

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By  Cleona Godinho Published  December 14, 2007

Never hide file extensions

Cleverly crafted viruses often cloak their real file extensions with fake ones. For instance, ‘HSGHvirus.bmp.exe' will appear as ‘HSGKJSHvirus.bmp' in most e-mail applications. Therefore, you should always set file extensions to display on your PC. To do this in Windows, navigate to Control Panel/Folder Options. Next, click on the View tab, uncheck the ‘Hide extensions for known file types' option and click OK.

Never leave YOUR thumb drives lying around

Although portable storage media greatly reduces the chance of you permanently losing your data, it increases the risk of unauthorised access too.
To prevent this, we recommend using your device's onboard encryption software. If your device lacks this, download TrueCrypt from www.truecrypt.org.

This app places your files and folders in a virtual safe. To the outside world, your files will look like pure gibberish, which is good news for you. To open the safe, all you need to do is enter your username and password (which you pick during installation).

If you try to open an encrypted file on your work or home computer from your thumb drive, the information is placed in your machine's RAM, so that no files or folders are unscrambled and copied to your hard drive.

Never fall for ‘hot offers' online

Online offers that look too good to be true usually are. Supposedly ‘free' software such as screen savers or smileys, secret investment tricks sure to make you untold fortunes, and contests that you've surprisingly won without entering are just some of the enticing hooks used to grab your attention.

A security specialist for Symantec explains, "While you might not directly pay for the software or service with money, the free software or service might be bundled with advertising software that tracks your behaviour and displays unwanted advertisements. You might have to divulge personal info or buy something in order to claim your supposed winnings.

In a nutshell folks, if an offer looks so good it's hard to believe, simply ignore it and carry on with your work.

We know it's hard to let go of an irresistible offer, but trust us, it's harder to erase your financial information once it's in the wrong hands.

Never forget your admin account

This is a very important security tip to note as hackers often use Windows' built-in administrator account to enter your machine. This account provides full control over files and system and registry settings. More importantly, this type of account cannot be locked or disabled and is therefore a major target. So what's the solution to this problem? Simply change the standard account name ‘administrator' to something unique.

To alter this, first log onto your machine using an account that has administrative privileges. Next, right-click the 'My Computer' icon on your desktop and click Manage. On the left side of the screen, simply navigate to System Tools/Local Users and Groups/Users. Highlight the administrator account displayed in the right-hand window, right-click and hit the 'Rename' button.

Now choose a hard-to-guess name (preferably with a few numbers) and hit Enter on your keyboard.

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