Your wifi is encrypted and a trial version of McAfee came with that new HP the kid at Best Buy sold you, so no need to worry about computer security, right? Unfortunately, security is a whole lot more complex than your average computer user might imagine. There are literally hundreds of ways that malware and hackers can compromise your system security, most of which you've never heard of. Thankfully, however, there are a number of online tools available which will help you identify (and sometimes fix) the vulnerabilities in your system. In this article we've selected 12 basic tests you can run on your machine to identify its weaknesses.
- Audit My PC: Audit My PC is a terrific site for finding all kinds of security tests to run on your computer. The Firewall test makes sure your present firewall is configured correctly; the Anonymous surfing and privacy check finds out how much of your personal information is available to online hackers; and the free Web site monitoring system will “find out if your ISP is having problems” or if “unauthorized ports have been opened on your firewall.” Each tool is completely free.
- Qualys FreeScan: Large networks should be given this free test, which “allows you to quickly and accurately scan your server for thousands of vulnerabilities that could be exploited by an attacker.” After the scan, the security system will even send you information on how to bolster up your computer's protection by patching up weak spots.
- Here are the privacy settings you should check in Windows 10: This article goes over your computer's privacy settings in Windows 10. Passwords and firewalls can be hacked more easily than you might think, but this article points out which settings you should check, and which options will keep you the safest.
- Test My Firewall: This site gives basic advice about maximizing Web security, as well as specific tips on how to test your Firewall, bandwidth, and broadband connection.
- Hijack This: Downloading the Hijack This program will help you get into the mind of a hijacker. Automatic updates constantly search your system for potential hackers, but let you decide whether or not you want to delete anything.
- Free Email Security Check: If you think you're safe from e-mail viruses just because you have a Spam filter, think again. Many sophisticated worms and viruses are designed to circumvent spam filters for maximum destruction. The above link will connect you to a site that allows you to register for thorough e-mail security checks, like the attachment with no file name vulnerability test and the fragmented message vulnerability test.
- WindowSecurity.com: This site sponsors another valuable security test for evaluating e-mail vulnerability. Detailed descriptions let you know exactly how each test works and why you need to run it. The site also comes with a guarantee that the “tests are very safe and do not do anything dangerous” to your computer.
- The PCman Website Virus Test: This free virus scanner test plants a “harmless” fake virus — the Eicar Virus test string — to gauge your computer's ability to notice real viruses. In other words, “if your virus scanner is set up and working properly it should intercept the downloading of these [fake] files.” It's an easy, risk-free way of testing your computer's security.
- Sophos Threat Detection Test: Downloading this program will test your current anti-virus software to make sure it's effectively protecting your computer. The free scan runs along with your current anti-virus software and is automatically updated; however, you get to choose when you want Sophos to run the test. Sophos is compatible with Windows 2000, XP, 2003, and Vista, and “checks performance of Symantec, McAfee, Trend, CA, Kaspersky and F-Secure.”
- Symantec Security Check: Symantec has long been regarded as a professional, trustworthy resource in anti-virus protection. Run the security scan and virus detection test to find out if your computer is vulnerable to any threats. Both are free.
- Nmap: Nmap, or Network Mapper, has the capability to audit the security systems on huge networks. It's free to download, and “most operating systems are supported, including Linux, Microsoft Windows, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, IRIX, Mac OS X, HP-UX, NetBSD, Sun OS, Amiga, and more.”
- AVG AntiVirus Free: This comprehensive security test scans Windows operating systems for viruses, spyware, and hacking threats. The best part? The download is completely free.
The 12 resources in this article are designed to make you aware of the many potential weak spots in your system's security. Information is power, so now that you know where you need to upgrade, we encourage you to go out and repair some of the chinks you've discovered in your computer's armor.