The following is a tutorial of sorts. If you're not comfortable with toying with software and downloads, perhaps best not to indulge this...or better yet, let someone who is reasonably computer literate to take you through this.
I put this together for a couple of relatives, but thought maybe I'd post here for my buds because I don’t want to see anyone get ambushed...like I have a couple of times. So here’s some tips on safe computer use. Not meant to scare anyone, but definitely meant to impress that this stuff should not be taken lightly.
After my computer recently got invaded by spyware, I went to work and dug into available means to prevent…as much as possible…any more of this crap from happening to me. It was very productive and informative.
Bottom line: Particularly if you use your computer for personal stuff like on-line banking or purchases with Visa, etc., it’s imperative
that you protect yourself. Spyware and Trojans can be planted in your system without you realizing it just from visiting websites. Some of these little programs can, because they know exactly where to look for it stored on your harddrive, hunt down vital and personal information and relay it back to presumably not so well intentioned people…all the way over in places like Russia and China. No kidding! And then one day, f'rinstance and God forbid, some charges show up on your Visa that you can’t explain.
Or your computer can be “Highjacked”, literally taken over by a covert user anywhere on the planet.
Or most commonly, your computer all of a sudden starts getting re-directed to websites you otherwise wouldn’t be interested in…especially porn related ones (Porn sites are notorious for dumping vicious stuff onto your computer!!! Not that I suspect anyone here indulges such...but make sure you know where others...particularly teenagers, eh...might be venturing with YOUR computer! SERIOUSLY!
I’ve beefed my system up with a few free software programs that go a very long way to preventing what can turn into considerable grief. Once some of these bugs get into your computer, they can be a real bitch to get rid of…believe me!!!!
The links take you to where you can download these programs directly. They’re very easy to use, take up little space, and most of all, they work!!!
Also, a couple of maintenance tips too often overlooked or not generally even known by way too many users.
1) Norton and most other Antivirus and/or Firewall software does NOT
protect against spyware
. Nevertheless, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having both an Antivirus as well as a Firewall on your computer. My Norton firewall blocks on average 10 to 30 intrusion attempts per day! Worse, without a firewall, I wouldn’t even know that it was happening, and my computer would be full of Trojans and malicious programs being monitored by only God knows who. McAfee is also a good product. Once installed, make certain to keep them updated!
2) Make absolutely certain that your keeping your Windows software up to date through “Windows Update”, particularly with regard to “Critical Updates”. All kinds of vulnerabilities are being found in Windows software…including XP…by hackers lately. MicroSoft regularly brings out patches to plug these holes, and usually you will be notified automatically. Nevertheless, check in regularly to make sure. (Click your “Start” button, bottom LHS corner, and on the popup menu you will find a direct link to Windows Update.)
3) Here’s a setting change that will block a lot of junk from being put on your computer automatically, whether or not you want or need it…which you inevitably don’t!
There are two types of “cookies” at play. Cookies are placed by the websites you visit to enable you to use their websites. (F'rinstance, FreeDominion identifies you via a cookie) It’s an identification method. Fair enough. These are called “First Party Cookies”, or “Sessional Cookies”. However, there is another type called “Third Party Cookies”. These generally are placed by advertisers at these sites on your computer as well. (I don't believe FreeDominion permits this.) As a rule, you do NOT
want these, primarily because a great many of them are “tracking cookies”…small software programs that keep track of the sites you visit, products you look at or inquire about, and then relay this information back to their source...potentially anywhere in the world. Frankly, you’re being tracked…for one reason or another, not necessarily harmlessly.
So, to prevent this outright, you can do this…assuming you are using MicroSoft Windows, and their Internet Explorer program...
Click on that “Start” button, bottom LHS of your screen...
Click on “Settings” in the popup menu…
Click on “Control Panel”…
Click on “Internet Options”…
Click on the “Privacy” tab at the top of the panel…
Click on “Advanced”…
Click on “Override automatic cookie handling” so that there’s a check mark in the box beside it…
Under “First Party Cookies”, “Accept" should already be checked off.
Under “Third Party Cookies”, check off “Block”.
And check off “Always allow sessional cookies”. (Sessional cookies may be used in interactive sites like forums, etc. and are generally considered to be safe…generally
Then click “Okay” to set the changes. This overrides the "Default" settings, which you won't go back to.
This will block Third Party Cookies from being planted on your computer for the benefit of advertisers, not yours.
I’ve noticed that the MSN Explorer browser, upon opening, (I use Yahoo) detects this, and prompts you to reset this to allow Third Party Cookies. Always answer “NO”…and if it provides the option of “don’t ask this question again”, check this off so it will not bug you any more about this. IMHO, they’re pandering to commercial users of Windows who infest your computer with their advertising crap.
4) This is a link to what is considered the premier spyware detection software, called "Ad-Aware" from Lavasoft over in Scandanavia. It's FREE. Alert here, for those who already run this, there is a new and updated version now out, called Ad-Aware SE, verion 1.03, which this link goes to. I believe it will overwrite your older version, or you may want to uninstall the older version first, so as not to leave useless old stuff on computer.
http://www.download.com/3000-2144-10045 ... tag=button
It's very straight forward to use, there is a "Help" menu to guide you. Its default settings should suffice.
It will feret out spyware and trojans, and prompt you to quarantine or delete them...which you obviously should.
I had stupidly downloaded an email program called "Hotbar" last year, dresses up your emails real pretty. It ALSO
loads your computer with spyware that eventually bogs it down, and can even render it useless, because there gets to be so many running processes going on in the background that you don't know about. Ad-Aware will hunt this crap program down and essentially eliminate it.
My sister's computer, because of "Hotbar", was really starting to bog down. Ad-Aware, on her first scan, removed...no kidding...374 separate items infecting her computer!!!
Lesson: Avoid these sorts of "offers" that show up in your emails or similar spams. They're often traps.
5) This is a link to a program called “Spybot Search and Destroy”, which is similar to Ad-Aware in purpose. It’s a sort of back up, and often may find stuff that Ad-Aware doesn’t. Easy to use, just do the obvious. Make sure to check for updates regularly. Stick to the "Default" settings it sets up with.
http://www.download.com/Spybot-Search-D ... l?tag=list
Use its default settings. Fix whatever it finds. Note: If it finds something called “DSO Exploit”, usually five of them, ignore this one. If
you’ve kept up your Windows Updates, the vulnerability this refers to has been patched.
This is the second most highly rated spyware program out there, and it’s free!!!
There’s a tutorial included, best to go through it. In case…but not at all likely…something goes wrong, it creates backups of the stuff it deletes to undo anything.
5) These next two programs block crap from even getting into your computer, and are very highly rated…and also FREE!!!!
The first one is “Spyware Blaster”.
http://www.download.com/SpywareBlaster/ ... ag=lst-0-3
Once downloaded, again check for updates regularly. Be sure to click, on the Status panel, under Quick Tasks, “Enable all protection”. This program doesn’t scan your computer like Ad-Aware, it just blocks stuff.
The second program, from the same company, is called “Spyware Guard”, and compliments the blaster program.
Click on “Download Spyware Guard 2.2 full setup (not the Major Geeks one, which will work fine, but an extra step to go through).
Again, once installed, check for updates. Under “Options”, make sure all three are check off.
This one doesn’t scan your computer, either, but acts like a firewall. If it detects incoming spyware from a website, a popup screen will appear asking if you want to accept it…which you don’t.
6) Lastly, be sure to clean your “Temporary Internet Files” out regularly, as well as the “Cookies” file. These can pile up literally tens of thousands of files, and take up lots of space on computer, as well as greatly slow down your antivirus and spyware scans, which will check through each and every one of them if they’re there. If you’re not sure how…
Right click on your Internet Explorer launch icon on your desktop.
Click “Delete files”…
Click “Delete all offline content”…
After this is done…
Click “Delete cookies”.
And you’re done.
7) Be sure to “Defrag” your computer at least once a month. Clean up everything else first, no point re-organizing thousands of temporary internet files. This will greatly enhance computer performance. I always, in this order, unplug my modem first and then disable my firewall, before doing this as the firewall…a constantly running application…may possibly interfere with defragging. When done, be sure to re-enable your firewall!!! I forgot to do this only once, and 45 minutes later, I already had a Trojan placed into my computer!!! I am not kidding!!!
And there you have it.
Since I’ve done this, my Ad-Aware and Spybot searches…about 30 of them so far…have turned up one single item of minor threat…instead of the usual 6 to 10 in each scan.
What’s interesting is that I’ve found that very few computer users are aware of any of this stuff…which is what prompted me to put this together for you.
Hope it’s helpful, and saves you some grief.
And last word of advice, when you’re tempted to download something such as a game, other than a trusted site like Yahoo or MSN, if in doubt, don’t!!!! A lot of that stuff is like that Hotbar program for emails, full of spyware and, too often, just about impossible to get rid of without the help of some expert advice. What happens is that you think you’ve gotten rid of them, but when you restart your computer they re-install themselves and you’re back to square one. Now getting rid of them involves cleaning out registries and hunting down program files…which is very tricky stuff, believe me.
If, by chance, your computer does get bushwhacked...such as getting re-directed to sites you don't want to visit, or program icons showing up on your desktop that you didn't install, or it's so bogged down and clunky for some reason...you, or someone computer capable you know, can go this website, a forum of the same format as FD...
And these very good souls of considerable expertise...and totally voluntarily...will help you get through the process of cleaning up your mess. It can get a bit technical at this point, so it's best that someone who understands computers a tad handles it...particularly when dealing with a program for clearing out such crap, called "HiJack This". Not for rookies!
Hope this all is of use and help...and maybe prevents a few unfortunate experiences.
PS: The one that recently got me was called "Lycos SideSearch". An icon showed up on my desktop, framed picture of a dogs head. Also, a second clock showed up the bottom bar, with an icon of a magnifying glass beside it. I have no idea where it came from, but it's definitely SPYWARE. If you look in your Control Panel Settings, Add/Remove Programs, you would find a program called "Qutrit Toolbar" installed. It won't uninstall, just so know. It will keep coming back. Between Ad-Aware and SpyBot S&D, should get rid of it all by now...it was a tad trickier for me a month ago.
The greatest motivation for radical change is a pervasive sense of ceaseless and grinding futility.