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Before diving into the tasks you need to secure your home computer, let’s first think about the problem by relating it to something you already know how to do. In this way, you can apply your experience to this new area.

So, think of your computer as you would your house, your apartment, or your condo. What do you know about how that living space works, what do you routinely do to keep it secure, and what have you installed to improve its security? (We’ll use this “computer-is-like-a-house-and-the-things-in-it” analogy throughout, departing only a few times to make a point.)

For example, you know that if you have a loud conversation, folks outside your space can probably hear you. You also routinely lock the doors and close the windows when you leave, and you don’t give the keys to just anyone. Some of you may install a security system to complement your practices. All of these are part of living in your home.

Let’s now apply similar thinking to your home computer. Email, instant messaging, and most web traffic go across the Internet in the clear; that is, anyone who can capture that information can read it. These are things you ought to know. You should always select and use strong passwords and exercise due care when reading all email, especially the unsolicited variety. These are things you ought to do. Finally, you can add a firewall, an anti-virus program, patches, and file encryption to improve the level of security on your home computer, and we’ll call these things you ought to install.


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