Monday, November 17, 2008

Computer Security and Privacy

The Microsoft® Windows® operating system has security features such as administrator passwords and user passwords that let you control access to your computer and the information stored on your computer.

Administrator Rights

An administrator can make system-wide changes to the computer, change security settings, install software, and access all files on the computer. A person with a computer administrator account has full access to other user accounts on the computer.

User Groups

As an administrator, you can restrict a user’s access to your computer by changing that user’s group to a restricted user group.

A user who is part of the restricted user group can operate the computer and save documents, but cannot install programs or change system settings.


Anyone can log on to your computer and access your files unless it is protected by a password. If you are logged on to your computer as an administrator, you can create a password for any user account.

Passwords can be used to protect your computer in a variety of ways and levels of protection. You can apply passwords to files, as well as to your computer. Passwords with at least a 10-character combination that includes alphabetic, numeric, and special characters adds a level of security to your computer.

Using Secure Passwords

A secure password is an important way to protect your computer from unauthorized users who may install malicious software or access confidential files from your computer. The stronger your password, the more likely it will prevent your computer from attacks.

A strong password:

  • Contains both uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Contains a combination of numbers, words, and/or symbols
  • Is changed on a regular basis

Using a Firewall to Secure Your Computer

Use a firewall to secure your computer from non-authorized users (hackers) or from malicious programs, such as viruses or worms. Firewalls also help to prevent your computer from spreading malicious programs to other computers.

Turning On Windows Firewall

For Windows Vista®

1) Click Start - Control Panel - Security - Windows Firewall.

For Windows® XP

Click Start - Control Panel - Security Center - Windows Firewall.

1) Turn the Windows Firewall on or off. If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

2) Click On (recommended), and then click OK.

PCs with biometrics or other security features

Smart Cards

NOTE: The smart card feature may not be available on your computer. Smart cards are laptop credit-card shaped devices with internal integrated circuits. Using smart cards can improve system security by combining something a user has (the smart card) with something only the user should know (a PIN) to provide more secure user-authentication than passwords alone. There are two main types of Smart Cards:

  • Contact Smart Cards — These cards have a contact area with many gold plated connection pads. When inserted into a card reader, the information from the chip can be read and written.
  • Contactless Smart Cards — These cards do not require any physical contact with the reader. The chip communicates with the card reader through RFID induction technology. These cards require only close proximity to an antenna of a card reader to complete transaction.

Fingerprint Readers

NOTE: The fingerprint reader may not be available on your computer.

A fingerprint reader is a peripheral device for your computer with a strip sensor. When you slide your finger over the reader, the reader uses your unique fingerprint to authenticate your user identity and helps keep your Dell computer secure.

Facial Recognition Software

NOTE: The facial recognition software may not be available on your computer.

Using a digital image from the camera in your computer, the facial recognition software can identify or verify your face. This is done by comparing select facial features from the image and a facial database. On verification of your identity, the software allows you to access your computer without entering the password.

Note: Biometrics - study of methods for uniquely recognizing humans based upon one or more intrinsic physical or behavioral traits.

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