If you are running Windows XP and you are worried about the security of your computer (and you should be), here are 3 advanced tips to further secure your machine.
A word of caution before we begin – if you are at all uncertain of how to implement these tips, please do not try them or consult a computer expert first.
1. Disable DCOM support. DCOM (Distributed Component Object Model) is a component of Windows that allows for applications and Windows subsystems to interoperate and communicate, and over the network as well. As so much of what we do now over the network occurs over port 80 (http), there is little need for DCOM to be running, and the best thing to do is shut it down.
Gibson Research Corporation (GRC) has written a piece of freeware software called the DCOMbobulator which very simply and quickly disables DCOM on your machine. You can get obtain this application by visiting grc.com and scrolling down to the DCOMbobulator link and clicking it to go to the specific DCOMbobulator page.
2. Remove Saved Web Passwords from Windows. If you’ve ever used the IE (Internet Explorer) web browser and used it to save any web passwords, those passwords were actually saved by Windows, not specifically by IE. This is due to the high level of integration of IE into the Windows operating system (OS).
Due to the risk of a virus or piece of malware infecting your computer and having access to any Windows data, it’s advisable to use a 3rd-party application to store passwords. (I recommend 1Password, and I encourage you to read my article entitled The 6 Best Online Web Services for Productivity, Efficiency and Security That You’ve Never Heard Of.)
In order to remove any web passwords saved in Windows, do the following, run the following command by going to a command prompt and typing it and hitting Enter (or by clicking on Start, selecting Run, then typing it in):
A window with the list of stored passwords will appear. Highlight the passwords and click Remove, then when all are removed, click Close.
3. Run as a Non-Administrator User. If you are logged in as Administrator or as a user with administrative privileges (i.e. a member of the Administrators group) while running Windows and you are infected by a virus, malware or spyware, then that malicious program will run with the same privileges as you do, and will in effect have complete access to your entire computer and be able to wreak the maximum amount of damage.
Since it’s not necessary to run as an administrator to run most programs or to open, modify and save files as a regular user, it’s best to create a new user and at most make it a member of the Power Users group, but not an administrator.
If you need to do something that requires administrative privileges (like install a program), then you may simply log in as administrator to do so.