How can I keep my computer virus-free when my kids play games online?

Internet games can be a safe and enjoyable online activity, but to keep all the PCs on your home network safe, here are some tips.  A multiplayer Internet game sometimes requires an exception to the firewall rule to allow information from the game to get through to your computer.  However, anytime you accept more permissive security settings on your firewall, you increase the chance of getting a virus or malicious program.  So make sure you are comfortable with the company behind the game before you agree to make an exception.  A more cautious option:  Your firewall may allow you to designate specific IP addresses of gaming friends as “trusted” to reduce the possibility of a malicious program infecting your computer.

Other key practices of good personal computer security include:

  • – Use antivirus and antispyware software
  • – Configure your Web browsers securely. In Internet Explorer, select Tools then Internet Options. Select the Security tab. A section at the top lists the various security zones that Internet Explorer uses. For each of these zones, you can select a Custom Level of protection depending on how much you trust a website. The Internet zone is where all sites initially start out. By selecting the High security setting, several features including ActiveX, Active scripting, and Java will be disabled. With these features disabled, the browser will be more secure. For specific instructions on settings, go here.
  • – Create and use strong passwords (link to JAG tip)
  • – Keep your Web browser and Windows software up to date. For example, in your control panel there is an option under “Security” to “check for updates.” You can also visit the windows Web site, or the sites for other applications, and check for updates, too.
  • – Back up your personal or financial data
  • – Use a site-checker with your Internet browser. For example, McAfee Site Advisor software provides Web site safety ratings and a secure search box. Instead of using your Google, Bing, or Yahoo! search bars, you enter your search in the McAfee search box.