Programs to protect internet use – Mathew Bone
Your computer can be a God-send if set up correctly; however, generally most users’ computer systems are in such a state that they become a hazard to have connected to the world of the internet. It really only takes one open network port and your computer becomes a ruthless attacker that goes all out and before you know it, your booted from your ISP because someone has used your computer and done something that causes others to complain.
I am going to guide you through the safe configuration and cleansing of your computer so that your use of the net is safe for you and others.
FIRST: Locate a quality Firewall program and lock outsiders out of your computer.
The job of the firewall is to put the locks on the doors of your internet connection. Hackers look around the internet for target machines that are wide open and either attack your machine – they can get access to your data without you knowing – OR they use your computer as a relay. That is, they use your computer to attempt to hack others or for the purpose of spreading spam, viruses and things that generally pin you as the culprit. Most ISP’s have terms and conditions that allow them to boot you off their system if you are pinned as the originator / distributor of hacks / viruses, spam etc.
Personally, as far as firewalls go, you can’t go past Zonealarm, available in Standard (the free version) and Pro.
Being fully configurable, Zonealarm gives a user the ability to restrict software from getting out and also stops hackers from getting in (it works in such a way that your computer looks as if it doesn’t exist). I recommend installing a firewall such as this before venturing out on the net, mainly because worms such as the blaster worm only require that your computer is on the internet (connected to your ISP) to get in to your system. My record was 15 seconds from connection to the web to getting the “Windows is shutting down” message.
NEXT you must install after the firewall is a good working Virus Scanner / remover.
Again, many viruses only need for your computer to be on the net (in the case of the blaster worm) or to access an infected web site – in my case it was www.wares.com -don’t ask :). Viruses range from annoying – like the ones that make you chase your icons around the screen with your mouse – to destructive – ones that format your hard disk or selectively delete important files.
There are even viruses that flash the BIOS chip in your computer with incorrect data, rendering your motherboard useless. Then there are worms that spread from machine to machine delivering email sending code that send to people in your address book. The list of virus’ grow daily. I recommend installing at least AVG Free Edition. I see it in use everywhere, I install it everywhere I go when I see out of date subscriptions or no virus scanner at all.
It is as important to keep a virus scanner up to date by using your virus scanner’s update system; an out of date virus database is worse than no virus scanner at all – false sense of security.
THIRD, My favourite subject of them all (not): Ads.
Ads come in the form of Spyware, ad-ware, pop-ups and many other forms.
Sick of ruthless and often questionable practices from pop-up advertising within internet websites?
There is generous advertising, the kind that sits there on the side of a web page. Commonly known as banners these are of a general size, unobtrusive and standable.
Then there is the type of advertising that spawns multiple windows that regenerate as you try in vain to close them, or attempt to install applications such as bonzi buddy and world time, etc.
The scope of this article is to help you to stop the annoying advertising that commonly promotes sex sites and things like that.
We’ll start back in the mid – late 90’s when the internet was gaining in popularity and was making money for a lot of web-site hosts. This was the day of the internet boom. Everyone was putting along with 28.8 modems or, if you were real lucky, you had the super dooper 33.6, which could whip pages down in next to no time. Life was simple – you jumped on your local Yahoo search engine using Netscape. You searched for what you wanted, and there it was.
By the end of the 90’s, BUST. The internet was no-longer a gold mine for money, and advertising was introduced in the form of Banner ads. These were successful; however, the advertisers wanted more income, so Pop-up / Pop-under ads were introduced. These were fine until they began to multi-launch ad windows and install programs on machines.
This is where internet advertising became obtrusive, to the point were you could be forgiven for wanting to go out and hunt these ad providers. The programs are of questionable programming quality, spied on the user and tracked what you did / typed.
This is where I get down and dirty with my attempts at preventing these situations on my machine.
First and foremost, I must say that I don’t object to website owners receiving something for their work; after all, if it wasn’t for website owners, you’ll be watching TV. It costs money to operate / host / manage a good website.
Spyware software is usually installed as part of free software like getright, Kazaa and lots of others. When installed, Spyware applications watch what you do, what websites you go to and then deliver to your computer, using ad delivery software supplied by companies such as Savenow, bonzi and others. The problem with these is you never know what information they may capture – user names and password even accidentally by the use of key loggers.
A lot of spyware products have the serious side-effect of changing your web-search settings and homepages, usually recurring over and over again even when you change these back manually.
There are a few things you really need to do to stop these items from infecting your computer. We know that prevention is better than the cure, but in this case you need to cure first, prevent later.
Ok, What you need to do is jump on to Lavasoft and download a copy of ad-aware. This is brilliant software that (for some strange reason) also searches and removes the Blaster worm – how weird is that? Any way, When you install this software, you need to run the update agent for it so that it can also get the latest reference file. Keep this one up to date as often as you keep your virus scanner up to date – this way, you have the protection of both.
Once updated, run this software, click “proceed” and watch the object number count – each item that shows up red are ad sharing components.
Then once you have gone through the cleansing process, Download an updated hosts file that will prevent Ad supplying websites from serving these popups and spy components to your system. You can obtain one from the installation of kazaalite or by doing a search for ad blocking host file in your favorite search engine.
Remember to always keep your system up to date using Windows update. Keep your Virus and Ad Scanner up to date at all times.