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John A. Weeks III
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12 Easy Step Guides

12 Easy Steps...

...To Protecting Your Computer

Step #1

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.

Step #2

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.

Step #3

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).

Step #4

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.

Step #5

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.

Step #6

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.

Step #7

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.

Step #8

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.

Step #9

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.

Step #10

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.

Step #11

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.

Step #12

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.

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