CBC In Depth
Computer security
IN DEPTH: COMPUTER SECURITY
Beginner's guide: How safe is your computer?
Producer/writer: Ruby Buiza | Writer/researcher: Laura Carlin, John Bowman | Feb. 18, 2005

computer security
How long does it take before an unprotected PC becomes infected? Consultant Ryan Purita wanted to find out. (Ruby Buiza/CBC)
RealVideo | QuickTime
Runs 2:00
Twenty minutes. That's how quickly an unprotected computer can become infected on the internet, according to research institute Sans.org.

Ryan Purita, a consultant with Totally Connected Security Ltd., wanted to see this for himself. He hooked up a PC with default Windows settings to the internet: It had no anti-virus software, no firewall, and no operating system patches. In about one minute, says Purita, it was hacked, infected, and it had started propagating viruses to other computers. Purita recorded what happened in a video [RealVideo runs 2:00].

"Home users still lack the most fundamental education regarding security. When people enter in their PIN number at an ATM and people are around, they are aware and take steps to prevent disclosure of sensitive information. However, some of the same people will willingly fill-out their real name, address, phone number and even credit card information from an unsolicited email, or banner pop up," says Purita.

LOGGING OFF?
Tired and frustrated of their virus- and spyware-plagued PC, Rosslyn Berot-Burns and her husband Paul are seriously contemplating logging off permanently.

Their three kids protest, but each week brings more infections, and more time and money thrown at their problem machine. The past year has seen their system go through multiple crashes, a multitude of pop-ups, and their browser doing unexpected things. Even with an anti-virus program and a firewall, the computer's still getting infected, says Rosslyn.

Calling herself an average home user, Rosslyn says she doesn't understand how a lot of the programs work. What it comes down to, says Rosslyn, is that the home users have to make it their responsibility to find out how to protect their machines.

"If you really want to have the computer, first of all find out what you need in order to protect yourself. Or don't use it. That's where I'm at right now."

Some home users are so frustrated and confused by the pitfalls of the internet, they have decided to do the one thing they know will protect them: log off permanently. The process of security is just too time-consuming and intimidating for them.

If you feel a few steps behind, overwhelmed and confused by all the techno speak, then we hope this guide is for you.

We'll give you top tips and safe practices to make your information secure. From spyware to cookies to online scams, we'll take you on a tour of internet speak and what it all means.

You can test your safety IQ by taking our quiz, learn how to block unwanted e-mail, teach your kids online safety, shop securely in cyberspace or ask our experts a question.

If you understand the risks, you'll understand how to combat them. No security system is 100 per cent impenetrable, but prevention and a layered protection system are key.

NEXT: TOP TIPS AND SAFE PRACTICES




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MAIN PAGE TOP TIPS SAFE PRACTICES
PROTECT PERSONAL INFO: AVOID THE PHISHERS SHOPPING ONLINE SPYWARE WHAT'S IN A COOKIE? GOING WIRELESS
PROTECT YOUR INBOX: STOP SPAM
KIDS ONLINE: SAFETY TIPS
SECURITY ISSUES: BIOMETRICS GOVERNMENT'S ROLE
GLOSSARY: INTERNET SPEAK
INTERACTIVES: TAKE OUR SECURITY QUIZ ASK THE EXPERTS
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