Although Windows Vista is considered Microsoft's most secure operating system ever, it's far from being completely secure. In its default configuration, Vista still leaves a room for leak of personal data, or bot attacks.
Few changes to the configuration could be crucial in securing your Vista system.
Windows Security Centre
As in previous versions of Windows, you'll find the status of your system firewall, auto update, malware protection, and other security settings in the Windows Security Centre. So, this should be your starting point.
Click Start > Control Panel > Security Centre, or you can simply click the shield icon in the task tray. If it’s colored red or yellow, you are not fully protected. For example, if one of the security components such as antivirus software isn’t installed, or if it’s outdated, the Malware section of the Security Centre should be yellow.
Windows Defender as a Diagnostic
Most of the installed antivirus software also offers anti-spyware protection, so basically you won’t need Windows Defender (except if you like to have few layers of protection enabled).
However, if nothing else, it’s good to have Windows Defender enabled because of diagnostics. You can get info about certain programs running on your PC, as well as disable them or remove them from the system.
Click Tools > choose Software Explorer. From here you can display lists of applications from several categories such as Currently Running Programs, Network Connected Programs, Winsock Service Providers, etc.
Startup Programs is perhaps the most useful category on this list. Click on any name in the left window, and full details will appear in the right pane. By highlighting, you can remove, disable, or enable any of the programs listed.
Disable the Start Up Menu
Vista keeps track of all the documents and programs you launch in the Start Up menu. This can be useful, but it can also compromise your privacy if you share a computer with other users. To disable it, you should do following:
Right click on the taskbar > select Properties > Click on the Start Menu tab > Uncheck Store and display a list of recently opened files > Uncheck Store and display a list of recently opened programs > Click OK.
Every user should have firewall protection. The Windows firewall within Vista blocks all incoming traffic that might be malicious or suspicious. But unfortunately, outbound protection is not enabled by default. This might be dangerous if some malicious software finds its way onto your PC, to use it for sending itself further on the web.
To enable two-way protection in Windows Vista:
Click on the Start button > in the Search type wf.msc and press Enter > Click on the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security icon. Here you’ll see the inbound and outbound rules displayed.
Click on Windows Firewalls Properties. You’ll see a dialog box with several tabs. For each profile (Domain, Private, and Public) change the setting to Block, and then click OK.
Also, good solution for your protection would be adding another firewall, such as ZoneAlarm to your system.
Lock Your Administrator Password
If you share your PC with others, Vista allows you to keep unwanted guests from guessing your system administrator password. When you set up users and declare one administrator with full privileges, Windows Vista allows other users to have unlimited guesses at the password you chose. To limit these guesses you should do following:
Click Start > type Local Security Policy > Click Account Lockout Policy. > Choose Account Lockout Threshold > Enter the number of invalid log-in attempts before the lock (for example 3) > Click OK.
You can additionally audit failed log-on events, doing the following:
Click the Start button > type secpol.msc > click the secpol icon > Click on Local Policies and then Audit Policy > Right-click on Audit account logon events policy and select Properties > Check the Failure box and click OK.
Secure Internet Explorer
The Windows Security Centre will also report whether your Internet Explorer (7 or 8) security settings are at their recommended levels. If the screen shows this section as red, you might want to adjust the security settings
To do this within the browser, click Tools in the menu bar > From the drop-down menu, click Internet Options > Choose the Security tab > Within the Security tab, click Custom Level.
Here you'll see a window with all the security options for the browser. If any of these options are below the recommended level they will be highlighted in red. To change an individual setting, click the appropriate button for each option. To reset them all, use the button near the bottom of the tab. You can also change the overall security settings for Internet Explorer from the default to the recommended High or Medium.
Disabling User Account Control?
Perhaps the most controversial security feature within Windows Vista is User Account Control (UAC). Designed to keep rogue remote software from automatic installations, UAC has a tendency to keep away legitimate software installations too, by interrupting the process with useless messages. Whil Windows 7 will offer the option of setting UAC to the level you want, in Vista that’s not possible.
Disabling UAC is bad idea, because of its useful role. You may use TweakUAC instead. TweakUAC is free utility that offers the ability to turn UAC on or off, or to use "quiet" mode that keeps UAC on but keeps annoying prompts away. Quiet mode works only for those who have administrator accounts, while users with standard accounts will still be prompted during the installations.
With these steps, securing your Windows Vista system will be much easier.