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SECURING YOUR WINDOWS NETWORK / HOW-TO GEEK SCHOOL

How-To Geek

Lesson 10: General Security Tips for Windows Users

In Windows 7, though, the wizard is not finished yet. It now asks you to enter the username and password for the VPN server you are using. Enter them, and then select whether you want Windows 7 to remember the password, then press, “Connect.”

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Windows 7 connects to the VPN service you are using. To close the wizard and enjoy your VPN connection, press, “Close.”

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Getting back to Windows 8.x operating systems, you can create a VPN connection from PC Settings too. Open PC Settings and go to “Network.”

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Go to “Connections” and click or tap, “Add a VPN connection.”

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You are next asked to enter the details of your VPN connection:

  • Select a VPN provider.
  • Type the connection name that you want to use.
  • Enter the name or the address of the VPN server that you want to use.
  • Select how you want to sign in (in most cases it should be through a username and password).
  • Type the username and the password.
  • Select whether you want Windows to remember your sign-in info.

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When done setting everything up, press “Save” and the VPN connection is created and available for use.

You can use the VPN connection anytime you need it. You will find it in the Networks list. To access it, click or tap the network icon in the taskbar.

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In the Networks list, select the VPN connection and click or tap, “Connect.” If you have not entered your username and password when creating the VPN connection, you will be asked to enter them prior to connecting.

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This is how the Networks list looks in Windows 7. Since you have stored your username and password when you have created the VPN connection, you won’t be asked to enter them again.

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Avoid or Remove Crapware

Each time you buy a new desktop, laptop, or even a tablet, it comes pre-loaded with software you do not need but which vendors get paid to install. It’s just a quick way to increase the profits made with each device sale.

Also, when you install free software on your computer, that software often bundles all kinds of things you do not want: from dodgy browser toolbars to all kinds of programs that spy on your activities.

If you have bought a new device from a vendor, then you can manually remove all the programs that you won’t use, or you can try a tool named PC Decrapifier. When you run it, it asks whether your device is a brand new computer out of the box. If it is and you select “Yes,” it scans your device against a list of dozens of known crapware software and it automatically removes anything that is on the list.

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Unfortunately, the list of known crapware is not that long and some of it might still remain uninstalled. However, you can run the tool again and answer “No” when asked whether your computer is brand new. When selecting “No,” PC Decrapifier shows all the desktop programs that are installed on your computer. You can select those that you do not wish to use, and PC Decrapifier will assist you in removing them as quickly as possible.

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If you would like to learn more about how to use this tool, we have a detailed tutorial using a slightly older version. You can find it here.

However, the best tool for not having to deal with crapware is prevention. This is achieved only by paying attention each time you install programs from the Internet. Never go for the quick install method, and always choose carefully what gets installed on your computer. This means you must choose an advanced install. Prompts for installing bundled crapware are generally shown when you least expect them and they are made so that you can easily select “Yes.”

Pay attention to each step in the installation and refuse to install the third-party stuff that’s bundled with the program you want to use.

Scan Suspicious Files with VirusTotal for a Second Opinion

If you have downloaded a file that you are not sure about, or your antivirus finds is suspicious or possibly malicious, then you can use the VirusTotal website to confirm whether that file is infected or not. This service uses the 51 antivirus engines to analyze the files you submit and it will tell you whether they are identified as malware or they are safe. If several antivirus engines tell you that there’s something wrong with a file then you should delete it from your computer without ever running it.

To analyze a suspicious file, open your browser and go to https://www.virustotal.com.

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Press “Choose file,” browse your computer, and select the file that you want to analyze and then press, “Open.”

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Now press “Scan it!” and the selected file is uploaded and analyzed. You will see that most files have already been analyzed by other people on Virus Total and the results of their analysis are ready for your viewing.

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Press “View last analysis” and you can view what all the antivirus engines used by Virus Total had to say about it.

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If you don’t want to use your browser and you want to upload suspicious files directly from the right-click menu, you can try VirusTotal Uploader. Install it on your computer and each time you right click a suspicious file, you will have the “Send to VirusTotal” option available.

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This tool quickly uploads the right-clicked file and shares the results of the analysis performed by this service.

Run Suspicious Files in a Virtual Machine or the Sandbox Provided by Your Security Suite

Another way to make sure that you don’t infect your computer when running files from untrusted sources is to use a virtual machine with another copy of Windows. You can run it there, see whether it does anything nasty and if everything is okay, use it on your computer.

Another safe way to inspect suspicious files is to use the sandboxing features of your security suite (if it has this kind of feature). Run the file there while the security suite protects your operating system from having its settings and system files changes and see whether that file is okay or not.

Conclusion

We have reached the end of the How-To Geek School’s Guide to Windows Security. We have covered lots of security tools and features that are built into Windows, and we have also shared some useful third-party tools that you can use to enhance the security of your system.

We hope that you have learned something useful from this class and if you have any unanswered questions, you won’t hesitate to ask them on our discussion forums.

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Ciprian Adrian Rusen is an experienced technology writer and author with several titles published internationally by Microsoft Press. You can connect with him on 7 Tutorials, Twitter, and Google+ or even buy his books on Amazon.

  • Published 06/6/14