Boot Camp 037
Safe & Secure
How safe is your PC? No, we're not talking about it
blowing up or anything like that, but rather what steps have you taken
to restrict unauthorised access?
retrieve valuable data and private or sensitive information without
your permission? How easy would it be for someone to trash your system,
delete files either by accident, or deliberately?
if your PC is at home and used exclusively by you for writing letters,
playing games or surfing the Internet, it can still be abused,
vandalised or stolen.
Like most PC users you probably give computer
security little thought but consider this, according to The Association
of British Insurers the theft of computer hardware amounts to more than
£200 million each year. That figure doesn't even begin to include the
cost of replacing data, lost productivity and the thousand and one
other inconveniences that will result.
with the basics. What can you do to stop someone switching on your
machine and interfering with it? If you simply want prevent the kids
fiddling around when you're out, or deter casual tinkerers, then
disconnect and hide the keyboard and mouse or power cable.
few machines have keyboard locks; they're the mysterious little key
switches on the front panel, which disable the keyboard, though check
that you still have the keys and it has been connected. These days
quite a few manufacturers do not bother to fit or enable the facility.
your PC likely to fall prey to a more determined assault then you
should protect the operating system. On some PCs and laptops it is
possible to stop the PC from booting up, without entering a PIN number.
This facility is called the Boot Password, it
lives in the BIOS program, that loads immediately after the machine is
switched on. You will find instructions on how to engage the password
in the motherboard manual.
Once a PC has loaded
Windows it becomes very vulnerable indeed and Windows itself is poorly
protected. You can safeguard your personal desktop preferences by
enabling the Passwords option in Control Panel, but it is easily
overridden, and quite frankly doesn't inspire a great deal of
confidence. Invoking password protection on a screensaver works quite
well once Windows is running.
It's the technique
favoured by a lot of computer dealers, who want discourage customers
from playing with their demo machines and is quite useful if you want
to quickly disable your PC whilst you're out to lunch, say. All you
have to do is check the password box on the Screensaver tab on the
Display settings option in Control Panel.
Windows programs have their own built-in password protection schemes
but these can be a bit variable. Some of them will only prevent the
program from opening, but unless the actual data files are encrypted it
may still be possible for them to be opened or copied by other means.
There's also the danger that you will loose or forget the passwords,
particularly if you're using lots of different ones.
levels of protection are available from inside Windows, using what are
known as Policies but these require the user to enter and edit Registry
files, which is inadvisable for novices.
If you want to know more there's plenty of information on the Internet, a good place to start is:
even better alternative is to use third-party security software that
does all the hard work for you and even stops Windows from opening
without a password. Again there are many useful sources of information
on the web. One site well worth visiting is:
you will find dozens of shareware and trial programs to download. Have
a look at SecureWin, it offers a very high level of protection for
Windows and important files moreover it is easy to set up and use.
you are concerned about people monitoring your Internet activities then
you should be aware that your PC keeps a detailed record of every site
you've visited, including copies of images and text. The information is
stored in a file called a cache, which in the case of Netscape is
contained within the program folder.
Explorer stores information in a file called Temporary Internet Cache
in the Windows folder. You can manually delete the contents of both
files using Windows Explorer or use the cache size limit options in the
programs themselves. There are also utilities that will do it for you
The best known is Tweak UI, which
part of the Microsoft PowerToys suite of system tools. It is freeware,
available from the Microsoft Web site and it is included on a lot of
computer magazine cover mounted CD-ROMs. Tweak UI is installed in
Control Panel, on the 'Paranoia' tab you will find options to delete
the Internet Explorer cache at switch-on.
also clear a selection of other telltale files including Run History
and Document History, both of which contain details of previous
activities. Be aware that even when the caches and History files are
deleted it is still possible to recover deleted information but it
requires a fair amount of inside knowledge. You will find Tweak UI at:
amount of password protection can stop your PC revealing its secrets if
it is stolen. A small industry has grown up around this particular
problem, most of them involving devices that physically restrain the
machine, internal and external alarms, case locks and indelible markers
for hardware and key components, so they can be identified if they're
There are literally
dozens of different products on the market so it is well worth talking
to a security specialist who will be able to advise you on the most
appropriate methods for your system. However, before you think about
protecting an individual PC you should take appropriate steps to secure
your property or premises against intruders and once again, wherever
possible seek expert advice.
Input Output System, a set of instructions that tells your PC what it
is connected to, and how to communicate with devices like hard disc
drive and memory chips
process that turns files into gobbledegook, so they cannot be read,
other than by programs containing the appropriate password-protected
large, complicated and constantly changing file in Windows 95
containing details of how your PC is set up, and all the programs
stored on the hard disc. Touch it at your peril!
Start menu is a fast and easy way to launch frequently used programs,
but you can make it work even quicker, and you don't even have to take
your hands from the keyboard. Right-click on the Start button and
A window appears, containing all of
the Start menu icons. Insert a number (1, 2, 3 etc.) in front of the
name of the applications you use most often. Click once on the icon and
the name field turns blue. Wait a moment click and click on the text
and a cursor appears, then click again in front of the first letter of
the name and type in the number.
When you have
finished close the window. Now you can launch the Start menu and a
program by pressing the Windows 95 button on the keyboard, followed by
the number. If you're using an older keyboard the shortcut is Ctrl +
Esc, then the number.