12 Easy Steps...
...To Protecting Your Computer
|Update Windows XP. Go to the Start menu, pick Help and
Support, click Windows Update (in the Tasks list), then
pick Scan For Updates. This will go out to the official
Microsoft site, and find any updates that your machine needs.
Install them all. Do this once a week. If there are updates,
do it on all the machines on your network.
An alternative is to locate the Windows Update control panel, and
set it to automatically download all new updates. I would not have
them automatically installed, rather, it is a good idea to watch
the updates install and reboot your machine.
|Update MS Explorer. Under the Help menu on Explorer, pick
About MS Explorer. A window will come up. Make sure that the
version is at least 6.0.something, and the Strength is 128bit.
If not, go to www.microsoft.com and get a newer version.
Due to the plethora of MS Explorer hi-jack programs, it is important to
set the security level of MS Explorer to a higher level. You do this under
Tools, Internet Options, Security. Set up a custom level, and turn off
the downloading of unsafe or unsigned Active-X controls.
As an alternative, download and install an alternative web browser
such as Firefox. Firefox is very reliable, very fast, and it does
not have all of the spyware and hijack issues found in Explorer.
|Button down the firewall. If you have a firewall or
connection sharing box (like a Linksys), make sure it has ports in the
130 to 139 range shut off for incoming traffic. This is were a lot of
bad stuff sneaks into a network. If you use personal firewall software
on a machine, again check to see that these ports are blocked for
the Internet (but not for you local LAN or you will disable stuff
like file sharing and network printing).
|Run a good Anti-Virus software. Norton gets the highest
ratings from Consumer Reports, with McAfee right behind them. PC hobbyists
don’t seem to like Norton much. There is a freeware anti-virus
software called AVG that is highly rated by the hobbyists.
Update- after further review, I now recommend AVG anti-virus. It is free
for personal use, including the virus signature file updates.
|Update your Anti-Virus signature file. Norton, McAfee, and
AVG have updates available as soon as new viruses are found, and
those updates can be pulled down from the web via a menu option
on each of these packages. Since each package is different,
you will need to check the user manuals. Do this weekly, or set
the software to do it automatically.
|Eliminate Spy-Ware. Many web sites and freeware software tools
spy on users and report your activities to 3rd parties. You need
to eliminate this software. Start by going to www.safer-networking.org,
and download Spybot Search & Destroy. Use the tool to scan your
system and remove any spyware that it finds.
Note- Spybot Search & Destroy needs to be updated frequently. In addition,
the core software expires from time to time. This means you need to download
the Spybot software again every few months. Adaware software works equally
well. In fact, Spybot Search & Destroy and Adaware work in a slightly
different manner, so running both tools is an even better idea. While you
should only set up one to automatically scan in the background, you can
run the other tool manually.
|Controlling Messenger Pop-Ups. Turn off and disable the
MS Messenger service. Do this by going to Start, then pick
Control Panels, then pick Administrative Tools. Open up Services,
and look for the Messenger service. Double click on Messenger
to open it up. Pick the option for “Disable” for startup (it
is likely set to automatic from the factory), and then push the
“Stop” button if it is enabled. This will shutdown Messenger.
|Controlling Web Pop-Ups. Download and install the Google
tool bar. Do this by going to the www.google.com home page,
then clicking on the Services and Tools link, then scroll down
to find the tool bar link. Google is the only pop-up blocker
that I know of that does not include spyware or a robot.
|Avoid freeware tools, especially pop-up blockers. Most of
these tools have spyware in them. They advertise that they do
one thing that you need, but behind the scenes, they have stuff
in them that can harm you. Make sure that the user community
approves of tools before you consider downloading them. You can
learn about tools by reading newsgroups or doing Google searches.
|Avoid E-mail Viruses. Do this by not opening any E-mail
attachments that you are not expecting, or that you do not
know what they are. Especially avoid EXE, PIF, and SCR files,
and even TXT or HTM/HTML files can cause problems.
|Make sure your ISP or E-mail service is running some type
of SPAM and Anti-Virus scanner. You can find this out by going
to your ISP or E-mail service web page, or calling their tech
support line. In some cases, they need to enable the SPAM filter
for you, or configure it to start catching viruses. In other
cases, you need to go to a web page to configure the software.
You want a system that deletes virus attachments, scans all
incoming E-mail, and flags messages that appear to be spam.
|Set up E-mail filters. Some spam filters mark E-mail that
appears to be SPAM with a “*** SPAM ***” in the subject line.
Others put an X-SPAM or similar header in the mail format area.
You can set up filters in most E-mail programs that automatically
finds these messages and moves them to a separate in-box for you
to delete en masse. This keeps you from having to wade through
500 spams to find one or two good messages.