1 Jun 05
Basic computer security
Now that we have a lot of the unnecessary clutter out of your system, the next step is to secure your computer against malicious programs. Protecting your computer from adware and spyware is much like protecting it from viruses and other security risks.
First and foremost, use a virus scanner. As malicious web pages embed more trojans to get around your firewalls, good antivirus with real-time protection has become even more important. BitDefender and Kasparsky are currently the most effective paid anti-virus programs, and I've found they better than Norton and McAfee at not slowing your computer down. Check out AVG or ClamAV if you need something for free. Whichever you choose, keep it updated.
One of the most overlooked security practices is keeping your computer updated with the latest security patches. Microsoft usually knows about the security holes in their programs long before the people who want to exploit them do. By the time a virus or worm is written, the patch to protect against it has already been posted on the Windows Update web site.
All you have to do to protect your computer is visit the update site and get all the critical updates for both Windows and Internet Explorer. The update service does all the work of downloading and installing the patches for you. Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 users can even turn on Automatic Updates to have it all done for them.
You also need to be careful what web pages you visit and what links you click on. Web sites offering warez or giving away prizes are far more likely to contain adware or spyware than other sites. Finally, be wary of any site offering to speed up your computer or improve your internet connection, especially for free. There is little, outside of normal PC maintenance, that any software program can do to "fix" your computer or speed up your internet. Don't open email from people you don't know, and never open an attachment you don't trust 100%. Scan attachments if possible.
If visiting web sites with games or other risky sites is part of your surfing habits, you should increase your Internet Security settings to help fend off adware. Tom's Hardware recommends Spyware Blaster, a program that will automatically make some prudent adjustments for you.
The first line of defense is your router. While not officially firewalls, routers provide a significant amount of protection. By keeping internet traffic from directly accessing your computer, routers limit your vulnerability to many different types of attacks. They also add a whole new dimension to your home networking, allowing you to share your broadband internet access with several computers at once. Some even allow you to access your network wirelessly from anywhere in your house.
The next step up from routers is software firewalls. Firewalls block any traffic your computer doesn't request. Firewalls block crackers (the bad "hackers"), worms, and some trojans. Windows XP provides a firewall built right into the computer. All you have to do is turn it on. If you upgrade to Service Pack 2, the upgrade process will turn it on for you and warn you if it gets turned off.
If you don't have Windows XP, there are some alternatives. The most popular free firewall on the internet is ZoneAlarm. ZoneAlarm is self-configuring. After you install it, it will monitor your network connection for any program trying to access the internet. Each time it detects a program assessing the internet, it will pop up a window asking you weather to allow it. This way, you can let the programs onto the internet that you want and block anything you don't think should be there.
26 Sept 07