A periodically executed Internet safety test can help ensure your computer isn’t infected with a virus that will cause major problems down the road. The test will also tell you if your firewall isn’t running.
Making sure your connection is secure can keep you out of jail. Just ask the man from Sarasota, Florida, who was arrested for distributing child pornography after a virus infected his computer and turned it into a virtual child pornography warehouse for an anonymous online hacker. The man was later acquitted of the crime, but he will forever remember the day he was dragged out of his house in handcuffs in front of his wife and children.
Every day hackers release new viruses that can’t be detected by old anti-virus software. For that reason you should always make sure that your security software signature files are up to date at all times.
Most anti-virus software will update itself automatically whenever there’s a way to detect new viruses, but you should manually check that these updates are being installed in case your anti-virus subscription has run out or there’s a software mis-configuration preventing you from getting the latest updates. Simply open your anti-virus software and click the button labeled “check for updates” (usually in the File menu).
To make sure that your anti-virus software is not only up to date but also not deactivated by an already existing virus on your computer simply download the EICAR Standard Anti-Virus Test File from time to time.
This non computer harming test virus has been provided for anti-virus software testing purposes by the European Expert Group for IT-Security (also known as European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research or EICAR) ,a non profit organization which cooperates with all major anti-virus software vendors. (Please note that depending on your used anti-virus software product you might have to trigger the virus scan on the downloaded file manually).
If your anti-virus software cannot detect this test virus you have to consider that your computer is already infected with a computer virus or other kind of malware and that your current local antivirus software has been deactivated!
If that happens try to remove the virus from your PC before you continue with your regular home computer activities. Be aware that not every online virus scanner might find your specific virus (or even multiple viruses). Therefore take your time and use each available online virus scanners to remove the unwanted scum from your home computer.
The first line of defense to keep hackers off of your computer is a firewall as it controls the communication between your local network and the internet. Therefore it is essential to make sure that your firewall (which maybe installed locally on your computer or resides on your network router) is active at all times and works as expected.
Sometimes firewalls get disabled by a computer virus or other type of malware. Another reason for a disabled firewall could be that you turned it off by yourself because you read somewhere that this action improves the speed of your Bit Torrent downloads and forgot to reactivate your firewall after your download activities.
Unfortunately, it can take hackers less than a minute to find and attack a computer on the Internet unprotected by a firewall. To test whether your firewall is truly active, you need to run what’s called a “port scan.” But you can’t run an effective port scan from your own computer—you need someone else to run it for you.
The internet is full of websites which offer that free of charge but most free services only focuses on the most common ports out of 131070 ports ( 65535 TCP and 65535 UDP ports in total).
If you are looking for a good free port scan service I can recommend the tests of ShieldsUP and the basic security test of SecuritySpace.com to check your firewall for vulnerabilities as their tests are very comprehensive.
However I strongly advise that you invest some money from time to time in a more detailed port scan analysis for a more thorough internet safety test. My preferred non free port scan solution which I recommend to all my customers is the Desktop Security Audit tests from Securityspace.com.
Remember, someone else
needs to run this scan for you from their computer—so there’s nothing
for you to download. Any port scanning site that requires you to
download something is illegitimate—don’t trust them to run an honest
Internet safety test.