ATI Cards and Macrovision
Securing the Internet and your Computer
How to make a DVD back-up
Monsoon's 2.1 PC Speakers Review
Acer 2200/2203LCi Laptop Review
Zalman Theatre 5.1 Headphone Review
Creative Zen Micro MP3 player Review
PalmOne's Zire 72 PDA Review
Palm's Tungsten T5 PDA Review
Samsung's CLP300 Colour Laser printer Review
Canon 8400F Photo Scanner Review
Canon Selphy CP510 Photo Printer Review
Windows Vista x86 and x64 versions should we upgrade?
SilverStone GD01MX HTPC Case Review
Corsair Survivor GT 8GB USB Flash Drive Review
Mio P550 Digiwalker
GPS PDA Review
Recode DVD's to H.264 with AAC 5.1
Guide to Install OS X 'Leopard' on a PC
Guide to install OS X 'Snow Leopard' PC
Kobo eReader Review
AVerTV Hybrid Volar MAX Review
Review of the Mediasonic Pro Box 4 Bay Enclosure
netTALK Duo Review
Tablets: Android or Windows 8 and what screen size?
|Internet Security Basics
Last update: Feb 25th 2007
Are you vulnerable?
This is a topic that anyone with a high-speed Internet connection should read and consider very carefully. If you don't have any of the protection or taken any of the steps outlined below you basically are in this situation: You left your Home with the front and back door open, with a sign that says welcome no one is home!
I hope that analogy puts things into perspective, I can't stress enough how much damage can be done (or already may have been done). Virus problems, Trojan horses that use your computer to attack other computers, spyware, adware, snooping software, you name it, it is all possible and probably on your computer as we speak. In fact in many cases someone may have more control over your computer then you have!
I hope your getting a little nervous?
No not convinced? I have visited homes with no protection and when I scan their computer I find an average of 100 to 150 of these things sitting on the computer. In fact I recently talked with a friend who had his internet shut-off because his computer was responsible for sending bulk 'SPAM' e-mail. He had no signs this was happening (and he has a very good knowledge of computer security).
With the release of Service Pack 2 for Windows XP great strides have been made to protect your computer but I still recommend the programs listed in this article over the Microsoft ones only because they offer more control and of course won't be the target of the next hacks that will eventually be found and exploited. I'm very glad to see that by default active-x controls in Internet Explorer are turned off but if you use any of the alternative browsers you wouldn't have the problem to start with! Its so bad that just viewing a .jpg picture in Outlook Express or Internet Explorer can now trigger a virus/trojan!! Of course an up to date and patched system is safe but at the rate these things crop up I still say ditch these programs and use Opera.
Never follow links in your e-mail!
The newest set of tricks involves an e-mail saying you have a postcard and you simply need to click the included link to view the postcard, the site that they mention the postcard is from exists so it all looks legitimate but if you actually check where the link is going to send you it's not anywhere near the correct location to obtain a postcard! If you need to visit a site type in the 'URL' for the site by hand this will ensure you are connecting to the legitimate web site and not some clone that looks like the real-deal.
I've also received countless e-mails supposedly from e-bay, Bank of America etc. all suggesting my account needs to be updated or that they suspect a problem and I must logon to verify my account details. No online service will EVER, I repeat EVER ask for details about your account through e-mail! This new swarm of data collecting e-mails is called 'Phishing' and if you fall for it they will have enough personal information about you to apply for credit cards in your name perhaps directly empty your account.
The last Important thing to consider is the use of 'IM' Instant Messenger services, a new trend is to use IM clients to spread viruses as most users are more likely to accept files from someone they know, but many users accounts have been hi-jacked and are used to spread the virus files to unsuspecting users, the larger issue is if you use these clients at work you may be bypassing the extensive measures put into place to catch these before they hit the mainstream systems
The biggest threat to you as an Internet user is your 'Personal Information' as 'Identity theft' is the new cyber crime. Many people are fooled into filling out forms that are never used for anything other than data collection about you! Just think about all those Mortgage lenders willing to offer you fantastic rates if you simply fill out an online application, what do think they're doing with all your personal information that you've handed them?
OK how do I fix the Problem?
||Install an Antivirus program and make sure that it is updating properly most of the time you only get updates for 1 year after that it still works but is not updated unless you pay for another year of support (nice racket). I highly recommend" Avast!" antivirus for three good reasons. First it's free for personal use, second it continues to achieve 100% detection of in the wild viruses, Third you can perform a scan before windows loads if you choose (in addition to all that it talks!) to obtain it click the logo. Note it is a very good idea to use a password for ant-virus functions as some new software will actually turn it off on you, by using a password your Antivirus sofware it will not be turned off unless you choose to do so!
|| Install a "Firewall" what this program does is refuse to respond to pings (which is how most computers are attacked) as well as only allowing access to the internet by programs that you have allowed to have access. Did you know that Windows Media Player reports back to Microsoft every time you finish playing a movie or sound clip? I know because my firewall kept asking if it was OK for that program to use the internet after I finished playing a file! A Firewall will also block all ports to incoming and outgoing traffic which secures you system from rogue applications that would try to establish a connection with the "Hacker". For a good "Firewall" I recommend "Zone Alarm" (because it works well and its free). to obtain a copy click the logo located below. You will have to read the page carefully to find the free version but after that its simply a matter of reading the alerts carefully before allowing any application access to the Internet. The new Firewall feature in Service Pack 2 is actually pretty good but is lacking the advanced controls that Zone Alarm sports.
|| Scan your system for any "Spyware" or "Adware" that might be lurking about. Please remember that programs such as "Kazza" and those nice helper "Tool bars" for Internet Explorer Install all kinds of these programs (I will suggest some spyware free alternatives later) and when you try to remove the spyware it will actually cause the parent programs to stop working. Here you can't go wrong with "Ad-Aware" again it is a full featured program that's free, to obtain your copy click the logo.I have found another spyware program thatI like and recommend it be installed and run in tandem with Ad-aware as the amount of these damn things is unbelievable. its called "Spybot " Search & Destroy to obtain a copy click the logo. I suggest running both programs at least twice and again after a reboot to catch everything, and of course at regular intervals afterwards (once a week).
|| As an added layer of protection you may wish to purchase a "Broadband Router" this little inexpensive device allows you to share you Internet connection between multiple Computers, it has an Integrated 'Firewall' and offers a large choice of filtering options for any user. almost any model will work fine, I use the Dlink D-604. If you decide to purchase one remember to change the default password that ships with your unit the as soon as possible after you turn it on.
|| Stop using 'Outlook' and 'Outlook express' for your e-mail! 95% of all viruses are written to take advantage of security issues in these programs (that's because 95% of you use them) the same goes for "Internet Explorer" there are so many security vulnerabilities that you need to check for updates on these programs everyday! (since 95% of you use it, it's the biggest target). I recommend using 'Opera' along with being a faster browser with integrated e-mail and features such as "Tabbed" browsing and "Skins" it's also free, to obtain a copy click the logo.When downloading Opera choose the version with Java as you'll need it for many sites that use java. Opera can also import your 'Favorites and your e-mail from either of the outlook programs. Oh and the first thing you'll want to do is press the 'F12' key while in Opera and set your quick preferences to 'open requested pop-up windows only' and say good-bye to unwanted pop-up windows forever! Muh ha ha..... You also have another choice (this one does not have any adverts in it) the excellent 'Firefox' browser which is 'open source' although the e-mail client is not integrated within the browser they offer an alternative to Outlook express called 'Thunderbird'
||Time to turn-off some scary services that windows has enabled by default, I located all these little gems at grc.com but you can also just click on them here to save you the trouble of finding them, you'll want DCOMbobulator then Shoot the Messenger and finally UnPlug n' Pray. After downloading simply run the program and follow the simple instructions. Another thing that should be done is take control of 'Scripts' that may try to run by downloading Script Defender I found this tool at analogX.com the author has many more good utility programs and all of them are free.
|| Test your system by visiting Shields UP here you will have an opportunity to see if your system has been "Hardened" properly to possible intruder attacks, by using the tools on this site you will probe your ports and see if attempts to access your computer are foiled, a report will be provided explaining everything that was found.
||Keep your computer safe by following the steps above and please consider the additional steps to avoid problems in the future. If you must use a 'Instant Messaging Program' try to use 'ICQ' as 'MSN' and 'Yahoo' have many security issues. Now I'm positive you have some need to use a 'File Sharing Program' so again avoid 'Kazza', 'Morpheous' etc... use eMule instead. eMule is completely spyware, adware free and is simple to use, in addition they reward users who share files with faster downloads and almost any file available on the other programs will be available through emule. you can download by clicking the logo below. Another good option to help in avoiding virus laden e-mails is to use a Web-based e-mail service such as hotmail.com or canada.com as they automatically scan all attachments and you can only download the attachments by specifically clicking on them to download. Another alternative is a program called BitTornado how it works is you locate 'torrents' by using a tracking service, download the file that contains the torrent information then have BitTornado load the .torrent file, it will ask where to put the files and it should begin your download.
|| If you have multiple computers and are sharing drives over the network be aware that this is a large risk and should be minimized by only sharing the folder required, don't leave valuable information sitting in the folder. You can also share files using other means such as a 'FTP' server which is very secure due to its use of Passwords you can obtain several free 'FTP' server server programs two that stood out were GuildFTPd and Serv-U download one and install it to start FTPing your files from anywhere. Another new contender is FilleZilla Server which is Free under the GNU General Public License (GPL) click Here to visit the download page
||Of course you'll need a FTP program to connect and transfer files I found a few of these also but I really like Smart FTP and a close second was FileZilla which is Free under the GNU General Public License (GPL) click Here to visit the download page
Update Nov 17th 2005
I was just hit by a trojan that disabled my system and I was forced to re-install Windows. I had all the right programs and I even scanned the file for a Virus/Trojan before I decided to open the file so how did I get caught? Simple the Trojan was very new and Avast and Norton did not have any information on this new version. The Trojan was very clever it installed itself as a process and disables Firewalls and Anti-virus programs by disabling the driver process that runs the underlying program leaving the icons and base program to appear to be functioning. It then installs itself into your system restore back-ups to ensure if you mange a restore it will get re-installed. I only reboot perhaps twice a month so the Trojan sat and waited for a reboot to activate itself and caused me much grief as I performed full disk scans with Avast and Norton anti-virus programs looking for the pest. I luckily had created a Bart PE disk and was able to rescue my most recent files that I had not backed up yet!
I also recently read about Sony's troubles with a DRM system that was installing itself on users systems and causing major problems including providing an avenue for a Trojan/Virus software to use the DRM software to install on your PC. The installed software is a 'Rootkit' by definition 'Rootkits are cloaking technologies that hide files, Registry keys, and other system objects from diagnostic and security software, and they are usually employed by malware attempting to keep their implementation hidden'
So now SONY and DRM software is installing itself on my PC 'What will they think of Next' This is very disturbing trend and I vowed to find the solution which I did and its called 'Process Guard'
||What is Process Guard?
ProcessGuard is a powerful new cutting-edge program that greatly increases the security of your computer by preventing processes from being able to attack each other. It is considered by experts to be a must-have program for all users of Windows, and is the only program available that can prevent the infection of all known rootkit trojans. The first and best anti rootkit software
Rootkit protection and prevention. Now THAT'S a powerful defense in itself!
ProcessGuard blocks rootkits, prevents spyware, and guards your computer from DLL trojans and like all the software mentioned above it's FREE
Here are a few things that are possible with Bart PE and are not possible with any type of dos-based boot disk.
1) Accessing very large (2TB) NTFS volumes or accessing volumes that are not seen by the BIOS, like some fibre channel disks.
2) Very reliable scanning for viruses on NTFS volumes using a "clean boot".
3) Active Directory support.
4) Remote control over other machines, using Vnc or Remote Desktop.
5) When building the BART PE Disk you can include many helpful programs which will give you complete control over the PC without ever touching the files that are installed on the PC it is running on.
Update Sept 25th 2006
I was recently faced with the daunting task of providing Internet access for my nieces and of course I was concerned about the material they would most likely encounter while surfing so I preceded to look for a internet utility that would help block undesirable content I found many tools but most either needed to be installed and configured or a monthly fee was involved. Those with monthly fees keep a database of sites considered inappropriate and block the access accordingly. This method means a lot of work is done to censor the Internet hence the cost. In my situation the children are between the ages of 8 to 12 most of the time is spent exploring sites with puzzles games and pictures about the latest show they are watching on the Family/Cartoon channel. So I spent some time looking around for a simple effective solution and found the perfect tool called Kid Rocket browser.
||KidRocket Web Browser for Kids
The KidRocket KidSafe Web Browser, is a simple & effective way for kids to safely surf the internet. It will only go to the hand picked web sites programmed into the Web Browser. The rest of the internet & WWW, along with its many safety concerns and hazards... are completely LOCKED OUT!
Its one of the simplest & most effective parental controls, internet filters available. Give it a try today...its free!
I hope this article has served its purpose and you have locked down your system