Botnets and Zombie PCs – Protect Yourself!
[Note: Originally posted to LinkedIn, this article originally targeted Windows 8.x. However, its principles apply equally to all Windows 7 – 10 and Mac users.]
When you get a new Windows PC and boot it up for the first time, Microsoft has you create an admin account known to the company. Ostensibly this is so you can take advantage of all things Microsoft—from Hotmail to OneDrive, its cloud storage solution.
(Cynical types would believe that the company wants to, in effect, collect data about you…)
Obligingly, you’re likely to follow along, afterward blithely running your PC and always being logged on using your Administrator account.
This is not a good idea, as it leaves your system vulnerable to all sorts of security breaches. Many DDoS and Botnet attacks are successful because, unbeknownst to you, miscreants have installed agent software on your system, turning it into a zombie.
The vast majority of software—wanted and unwanted—requires full system access to install itself. This means a system is on and a user is logged in using administrator credentials. Why leave your system wide open like this?
Surreptitious software installation isn’t news to Microsoft. Dating back to the days of Windows NT in the ’90s, for your protection it has offered a method for every Windows PC owner to create one or more everyday-type accounts having limited access capabilities. In Windows parlance it’s known as a Standard account and it’s the type you should be regularly using—even if you’re the sole user of your PC.
There’s a rub, however. When logged on with a Standard user account, oftentimes some process or another requires administrator credentials. If all you have are a Standard account and your Microsoft Administrator account, you cannot fulfill such a credential request on the fly. Instead, you’re required to switch users to your Microsoft Administrator account, deal with whatever it is that needs authorization, exit that account and sign back in as your Standard account user. Time consuming? Aggravating? You bet.
The solution is to create a local Administrator account at the same time that you create your Standard user account.
View my LinkedIn article for the steps.