You ask yourself “what can I do to Protect myself from the nasties on the Internet?” Here are some general instructions that will secure any computer with access to the Internet, making it less likely that your computer will become infected. However, please remember the people responsible for creating the nasties – viruses, trojans, spyware, adware, malware, phishing schemes, and most importantly ID theft, are always trying to create something new to infect an innocent user’s PC. All that a computer user can do is try to protect themselves with the available tools to lock-down their PC. Keeping one step ahead of those creating the nasties, is a continuous job.
All recommendations in this article, are for free programs, that are available to anyone with a computer.
Part I – The Most Important Protection
First and Most Important: You need to keep your Windows OS and Internet Explorer up-to-date even if you are using another browser for surfing the Internet. Internet Explorer is fully integrated into Windows and therefore if it is not kept up-to-date, holes are left in your Security scheme. This leaves you at a much greater risk of infection from Spyware, Malware, Viruses, and Trojans etc., even if you do not use Internet Explorer regularly. To get all the Latest Security Patches to protect your computer please check: http://update.microsoft.com/ regularly for any new critical updates for Microsoft Windows and/or Internet Explorer. If you are using Windows XP Sp2 then you should set the Automatic Updates in the Security Centre to at least Notify you when updates are available. (I have mine set to download the updates but to let me choose when to install them.). To get to the Security Centre click the Start button, choose All Programs, then Accessories, then System Tools and finally choose Security Centre from the menu. A link to Automatic Updates is at the bottom of the window.
If you are running Microsoft Office, or any portion thereof, go to http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/officeupdate/ the Microsoft’s Office Update site. Ensure you have all the cirtical updates installed (Free). The newest version of Windows Update is designed to give you all updates for all Microsoft software that you own, but checking the Office update site will make sure that you have all critical updates.
Microsoft responds with patches when they become aware of an insecurity in any software they market, so please check the Microsoft Update Site http://update.microsoft.com/ for patches that have been posted for any Microsoft Software you have on your PC. These patches can make the difference between your computer becoming infected, and staying clean.
Second are the Vital Programs that you need to stay clean:Do You Have An AntiVirus Program? Is it up-to-date with this week’s Virus Definitions? If not, then it is essentially useless. There are several excellent AntiVirus Programs available free that give good basic Anti Virus protection. To name three:
- “AVG Free” available at: http://free.grisoft.com/ is a free AntiVirus program with email protection. AVG also has a paid version that has more features. For Windows 98, Me, NT, 2000, XP, XP Pro x64, Vista, Vista x64 edition.
- “Avast Home” available at http://www.avast.com/eng/avast_4_home.html is a free AntiVirus program with email protection, that is free as long as it is used in a home or non-commercial environment. They also have a professional Anti Virus available. For Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me,Windows NT 4, (No Server), Windows 2000 (No Server),Windows XP (No Server),Windows Vista
- “AntiVir Personal Edition Classic” available at www.free-av.com/ is another free AV product that is excellent. They also have a paid premium edition. For Windows 2000/XP/Vista 32Bit, and for Linux/FreeBSD/Solaris
In this day and age having a Firewall is an absolute necessity. A Firewall blocks unwanted entry into your computer and can hide your computer from the Internet. Blocking nasties and hiding your computer, still allows your Programs and Browser access to the Internet to download, surf with your browser, or collect email. There are three free Firewalls available at the present time:
- “Zone Alarm Free Firewall” by ZoneLabs – is available from : http://www.zonelabs.com/store/content/company/products/znalm/freeDownload.jsp?dc=12bms&ctry=CA&lang=en . Zone Alarm also has several other paid programs and firewalls with many features. It is also very easy to setup. For Windows 2000/XP/Vista
- “Outpost Firewall” by Agnitum – is available from: http://www.agnitum.com/products/outpostfree/index.php . Like ZoneAlarm, Outpost firewall helps maintain your privacy on the Internet while protecting your computer. For Windows 2000/XP
- “Commodo Free Firewall” by Commodo is available at: http://www.personalfirewall.comodo.com/. There is also a ‘Pro’ version available. This firewall was voted best by PC Magazine in 2007. For Windows 2000, 2003, and XP only at this time. Not compatible with Windows 9x
The above items are the minimum you should have/do for security. The following are optional but very handy to increase your security with essentially no impact on the function of your computer.
Part II Tools For Your Security Arsenal
The Following Tools and Programs do different things to help block the nasties from getting on your computer. Most work by entering information in your Registry in the area used by Windows while you are connected to the internet. Some tools make identical entries, which do not conflict with each other, but they also make unique entries, which is why all are recommended. They are valuable additions to the Security that you are implementing.
- Google Toolbar – available at http://toolbar.google.com/?promo=mor-tb-en It blocks many unwanted pop-ups in both Internet Explorer and Firefox. (choose the version according to the browser you use). It also includes many handy features, but please be aware that if you install it in “sponsored mode”, it will track all the URL’s you visit anonymously, for statistical purposes. As you are installing it, you are given a choice between “sponsored mode” and “non-sponsored” mode, please choose the mode then, as you cannot choose after it is installed.
- IE-SPYAD by Eric Howes – available at: https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/ehowes/www/resource.htm Adds over 5,000 bad URLs to your restricted sites zone in Internet Explorer. This protects you if you visit one of the websites listed there, by not allowing any information to flow to or from your computer, to or from that website. This also prevents any downloads from that site which would likely contain nasties of one kind or another. This version only installs in the area of the Registry to protect the current user of the computer. However if you want to install it for all users of the computer then use IE-Spyad2.
- IE-SPYAD2 by Eric Howes – available at https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/ehowes/www/resource.htm does the same as above. However, it installs in the area of the Registry for all users of the computer. It also fixes a problem that exists for some users, the site list does not appear in the Restricted Zone site list in Internet Explorer.
- Spyware Blaster by Javacool – is available at http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/spywareblaster.html. Blocks Spyware, adware, browser hijackers, and dialers that use bad ActiveX Controls to install onto your computer. It also blocks tracking cookies as well. Spyware Blaster runs silently in the background and does not need to be open to protect both Internet Explorer and Firefox. from downloading the junk. It is free for use by individuals, schools, and charities. It is not free for commercial use.
- SpywareGuard by Javacool – is available at: http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/spywareguard.html It is similar to Spyware Blaster but it provides Real Time protection by scanning anything that tries to enter your computer including downloads and Browser Hijacking Protection.
- WinPatrol by BillP Studios – is available at: http://www.winpatrol.com/ provides multiple Spyware detection and deletion of the offending nasty.
Part III – What To Do Every Time You Have Used The Internet
Use Diskmgr, Disk Cleanup or Cleanmgr to delete ‘Temp Files’, ‘Temporary Internet Files’, ‘Active X Controls’ also known as ‘Downloaded Program Files’ and Empty your Recycle Bin. Go To Start –> All Programs –> Accessories –> System Tools –> Disk CleanUp. Double Click on DiskCleanup and the wizard will check your hard drive for files to delete in the areas listed above. When it locates all the files, it will ask you what you want to delete. Put a check mark beside: Temp Files, Temporary Internet Files, empty the Recycle Bin and click ok. Those folders will be safely emptied. The Active X Controls you may want to keep, so that you won’t have to download them eg.: Macromedia Flash, again, the next time you are online. Cleaning out what has been saved on your computer after each Internet Session can remove some unwanted items.
Part IV – A Useful Setting
If you are using WinME, or Win XP make certain that you have System Restore enabled. System Restore backs up your files, on a regular basis. It is useful for several reasons, for example: if you install a program that causes computer problems, to set your computer back to the way it was before you installed the program. The files in System Restore are protected to prevent any changes to those files. To use System Restore to create a restore point or set your computer back to an earlier time, go to Start –>All Programs–>Accessories –> System Tools –> System Restore. Follow the instructions in the System Restore window.
If you want to empty what System Restore has saved you can do the following:
1. Right-click My Computer, and then click Properties.
2. On the System Restore tab, put a check mark in the ‘Turn Off System Restore’ check box.
3. Click OK, and then click Yes.
4. Restart your computer.
5. Right-click My Computer, and then click Properties.
6. On the System Restore tab, remove the check mark from ‘Turn Off System Restore’ check box.
7. Open System Restore following the instructions above and “Create a Restore Point”. Your computer is now ready to be returned to the condition it was in when you created the restore point.
Your computer will now be much more secure than it was. The suggestions here will not guarantee that you won’t become infected in the future, but it does reduce your exposure significantly.