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Computer Knowledge Virus Tutorial

Unpatched PCs compromised in 20 minutes

How Internet Explorer could drain your bank account

Protect Your Windows® PC (all recent versions)

Windows®  Security Advisor

Simply connecting to the internet is now a risk.
New worms can infect a computer even if you do not visit any web sites or open email.  Be sure to have a firewall enabled before connecting the first time.

An overview of the security risks and countermeasures associated with Internet connectivity

Home User's Security Checklist for Windows

Watch out for phishing:
Spam that can’t be ignored.  More...

Protect your computer with WinPatrol

How I do a cleanup

New computer tips

Remote Insecurity:
How business travelers risk exposing their companies when remotely accessing company networks

Wireless Worries

More computer security advice

Don't fall for tricks on hostile websites!
Just say "No,
No, No, No, and No..."

(Click image to enlarge)

1.) If you see these messages popping up on your screen while browsing the Internet, they are requests to install programs onto your computer.  Be very careful that they originate from a site you know and trust before agreeing to download.  Think.

Read the details, and if in doubt, click, "No".  Read on...

The above message can be benign -- you'll see it at PC Pitstop, Panda, RAV, and other legitimate sites that need your approvals to temporarily install their scanners or other applications to do the job you are requesting -- or they can be a sign of an attempt to trick you into installing malware -- trojans, spyware, hijackers, or worse -- onto your computer on the part of a malicious -- but sometimes innocent-looking -- site you are visiting either intentionally, or by accident.

If you are thinking of saying, "Yes", be very sure you know what you are downloading and that you have read the EULA -- End User License Agreement -- so you know what you are agreeing to.

If your computer security settings are not set up properly, you may never see these warnings, and your computer may allow the malware to install silently.  After clicking a link and while loading a web page, the download could begin automatically and your computer would be hijacked.

Be sure your browser security settings are set for your protection, not for convenience.

2.) After you click, "No", you may still be pestered by a number of boxes like the box below and/or more of the boxes in 1.) above.

Be careful. Click the 'X' button in the upper right corner to kill the box.  Do not click "OK".

      (Click image to enlarge)    X button

This second message is tricky.  What happens if you click 'OK'?  You don't want to find out.  Click the red 'X' on the upper right, instead.

Make sure your kids, if they use your computer also know what to not do. 

Before you begin any confidential work, run adware, pest and virus scans if you wonder if the kids understand and heed your advice. 

I would think twice about doing serious banking or stock trading on a computer you share with kids due to possible spyware having slipped in, unless you don't have any money in the bank. (That's also quite possible if you have kids)

Article: Prevention Is the Best Way to Fight Adware

More...

Note: This page is getting quite out of date.  Many new risks are showing up out there daily.

Most of the info here is still relevant, but I have not been updating this page lately in it is incomplete.  Please also check other sources for newer info!

allen's personal collection
of ideas, articles and links
to computer security resources .

Spyware in 2005 - Things have changed. Scot’s Newsletter shortlists the anti-spyware software and resources and attempts to rate them.  Microsoft's spyware tool and other important topics are in this same newsletter.
Microsoft has recently introduced a free Antispyware scanner.  It is currently in beta, but seems to work okay.  Already there is an exploit against it.  See Microsoft Corp. investigating attack on anti-spyware system

Also Microsoft now includes a new Malicious Software Removal Tool in Windows® update

Hate the balloons and the "Checked by AVG Anti-Virus..." message tags in AVG?  Turn them off.  It's easy!

Even if you buy a brand new computer (tips), you are probably not well protected from security threats on the Internet until you set it up properly, and even then there are risks unless you know enough to take certain precautions.

Moreover, although protective software will attempt to prevent malicious email and websites from acting against your computer, the first line of defense is you.  Set your software up correctly and be careful what email you open or what software installations you permit.  Scan your system for pests often, and keep the scanning software up to date.

Hopefully this page will help get you up to speed so that you can protect yourself from the worst of the threats.  These suggestions are, by no means, exhaustive, however they work for me, and could save you a lot of trouble and a lot of money spent on questionable security.  There are also links to more complete information...

The basics: For reasonable safety, you need a working firewall, an up-to-date virus checker, email screening (usually combined with the firewall and/or virus checker), correct browser security settings, and special software to prevent unauthorized installation of software or registry changes when you accidentally visit hostile web sites.  (A disaster can otherwise can take place instantly when you simply follow a link from a search engine like Google). You also need to update Windows® frequently.

Although all this may sound complex, and is, most of what you need to know, and pointers to resources should be somewhere on this page, along with some warnings about how to avoid big trouble.

Using some of these easy, free scans, and ideas, in an hour or less for each machine, I took hundred pests, several viruses, rogue dialers, multiple trojans and dangerous 'favorites' off computers belonging to family members and friends -- including one belonging to a computer professional!  Some of these machines had been acting up and running slow.  After a cleaning, they returned to normal performance. In another case, the computer seemed perfectly normal, and I just ran the scans to be sure I was secure using the machine.  Using these same tools, I've cleaned up friends' computers that were locking up, running very slowly and halting frequently -- as well as flashing SPAM and returning to 'home pages' the users did not choose and could not change.

There are many firms cashing in on viruses, trojans and SPAM, selling expensive and often overly complex solutions, some of which may muck up your computer, but these and other firms often also offer free versions to the public and/or offer free web-based scanning from a web page.

Anyone can follow the steps outlined here without spending a penny.  Afterwards, the computer should run better and you should be 99% safe.

Here's a page detailing how I do a cleanup on an infected machine

Use this information at your own risk, however.
Of course, I can't give you any guarantees.

They say that free advice is worth exactly what you pay for it. I hope this page is an exception, but even the pros don't have 100% success and new threats come out of the blue with great regularity.  A few years ago, all this nonsense and nastiness we combat daily was not even imagined.

18 Things you can do Keep Out of Trouble ...or Repair Damage if it Happens

There are no guarantees, but these ideas should neutralize well over 90% of the most common risks.

  1. Make sure you have a working firewall, an up-to-date virus checker, email screening (often combined with the firewall and/or virus checker), and correct browser security settings,

  2. Don't share your computer with anyone if you can help it.  Kids, especially like to load a computer up with sharing software like Kazaa that can carry spyware and bring in viruses.  Kids may also click on pop-ups asking to install software without knowing what they are getting you into.

    If you must share, do not allow others administrative privileges for their normal daily use.  It is a good plan not to have anyone using an administrator account, except for system administration jobs.

  3. Backup essential data regularly.  As a minimum precaution, you only need to make copies of important letters, pictures, etc. on a CD, tape, or disk, then be sure to store it somewhere safe.  Of course, you can make more complete backups, but this is the most basic protection against computer failure, theft, fire, vandalism... Read more...

  4. Don't click and agree to install some feature that a website says you need to view that page, unless you are sure you know exactly what you are doing.  Some of the 'features' offered may be spyware -- or worse.

  5. Be very careful about doing sensitive business on public computers.  If I must, I visit this page, download Ad-Aware® SE Personal Edition and/or Spybot, then run it to sweep the computer I'm using.  PestPatrol has a web-based scan to check for Trojans, and a web based virus scan couldn't hurt, assuming you have time.

  6. Consider carrying something like a keychain-sized Kingston 256 MB CompactFlash Card with you, carrying URLS of scanning sites or even copies of scanning software to check public (or family) PCs before doing banking or other sensitive business from there.  (Even then you may not be entirely safe, tho').  Many digital cameras can be used to carry data around, just like the CompactFlash card, too, saving on extra things to carry.

  7. Don't use warez, or visit porn and warez sites or newsgroups.  Warez and porn sites areas of the Internet are known to be places to pick up lots of nasty hijackers, spyware, Trojans, and viruses.  If you find yourself at such a site (especially if you did not intend to go there) assume you have been hijacked and immediately do scans.

    Copies of proprietary software found at warez sites and may claim to run without your paying for them.  The software may be safe, but also it may also have been altered to carry backdoors or keyloggers.  Remember, these people are crooked, and you, not the owner of the software being distributed illicitly, may be the target.  Such sites may have tricky features that alter your machine without asking you.

  8. Never open SPAM email when  you are connected to the Internet, unless you have a reader that reads in 'plain text'  Some SPAM immediately reports back to the source, that your email address is good and that the owner reads SPAM, or a script in it may even shuttle you off to a booby-trapped website.  You may also see pictures that embarrass you, or someone sitting beside you.

  9. If you must examine a message of unknown source, shut off your internet connection first, at the firewall, or hang up your modem -- or use a 'text only' view.  Software like Mailwasher allows you to sort and sample emails quickly in text mode before downloading, and to erase junk on the server without wasting time downloading it to your computer.  If you are on dialup, that feature alone can save a lot of time on the phone line. Lately I've been using ePrompter and like it even better.

  10. Scan your computer often using Ad-Aware 6, Spybot, and/or PestPatrol.  It is not unusual to find up to 100 spyware items that need removing if you have not been protecting yourself.  Most of these are cookies and registry entries, and are just trackers from advertising firms, but some like Gator and Xupiter can slow your computer, and some can hijack your home page -- or worse.

  11. Make sure you have a good virus checker and update daily.  Here are several links to free virus checkers. Personally, I use AVG's free version .  It is very good and has regular updates available automatically from the Internet. 

    (If you decide to use AVG, be sure to turn off the tag line in outgoing mail.  The setting is under 'E-mail scanner'.  Uncheck the 'certify outgoing messages' box.)

    I also run Panda's online checker from time to time just to be sure.  New viruses come out all the time and no one checker gets them all, every time.

  12. If you have been away for a while and start using your machine after it has been idle for a week , or days, update everything FIRST.

  13. What is in your Favorites?  Some malware adds a malicious site to your favorites, and some lowlifes manage to get control of formerly decent addresses and post malware and porn there.  Check your favorites with free scans at this site.  You may be shocked!

  14. Is your email secure from viruses and worms? Find out here.

  15. If you wonder how vulnerable your system is to attack by hackers, just click here  or here  or here (it is friendly and harmless, but a real eye-opener). 

  16. Then, install Zone Labs' free, easy to use firewall and take the test again.  You'll be pleased. 

  17. If you use Windows™, visit Windows Update (alternate URL) at least once a week, and 

  18. If you use MS Office, visit Office Update weekly, as well -- or, preferably more often.  Make sure your patches are up-to-date.  Here is a Tutorial about Security from Microsoft

Be Warned When New Software Tries to Install Itself or an Attempt is Made to Hijack Your Home Page without Your Knowledge or Permission

WinPatrol is a cool program that keeps and eye on what is happening in your Windows® computer.  The free version works just fine, but there are paid upgrades, too.

"WinPatrol with Scotty the Windows Watch Dog will sniff out Worms, Adware, Spyware, Cookies, Trojan horses and other virus type, malicious, nasty programs that may attack your computer. WinPatrol puts you back in control of your computer with no need for constant updates.

"WinPatrol's goal is to help you better understand what programs are running on your computer, and alert you to any new programs added without your permission. Scotty lets you confirm any new programs set up to run on your computer

 

Try these free online scans to Check for Nasties

They cost nothing and can be run from the Internet in your browser.  No one checker catches all viruses.  I recommend you run these checks weekly, even if you have a local virus checker.   Of course your local virus checker should be updated at least once a day.  If it isn't, chances are that you are infected.  Once your computer is infected, viruses may disable your firewall and virus software.  Of course you may not be aware of that.  An online scan will quickly find such problems.

Just surf to any of these pages and scan your computer from the Internet.  There's nothing to buy, although these firms will try to sell you their paid full-up versions while you are there.  

These scans won't protect you from infection, though.  You need to have an anti-virus program running on your machine full-time, and a firewall, too.  These scans just check to make sure your defenses did not let something through.  They do good job.

Free Online Anti-virus Scans

RAV AntiVirus | Panda AV Scan

 Trend Micro AV Scan | Pest Patrol | PC PitStop AV 

When using these scans, it is safe to say OK to
installing their temporary programs when asked.

New! Try Webroot's  free Privacy Analyzer and Spy Audit online scans. 

These appear to be very good, and are very revealing.  Using one of them, I found that I still have not completely eliminated eAcceleration (a nuisance posing as an online virus scan), in spite of several attempts.  I suspect that there is some vague reference to it somewhere on my machine, but am certain it is dead).  Although these scans are good, I doubt that the accelerator they advertise will do anyone much good, though.  Unless your connection is really screwed up, none of these acceleration products do much.

Also, be aware that not all things reported as malware are necessarily so.  If in doubt, do a Google search to learn more about questionable entries in the reports.

Complete computer Scans

 PCPitstop | Spyware Information Center | Langa.com

Langa security scan  | HACKERWHACKERPest Patrol

New! Zone Labs web scan

Check your system security here and here

Free Software

WinPatrol | AVG's free version | MailwasherePrompter

 Ad-Aware® SE Personal Edition (free)

Spybot | PestPatrol | Kerio Free Firewall | HijackThis

Learn more about hackers and threats

File Sharing | Windows NT Security FAQ | Browser Hijacking | Security Checklist | PDA Worries | What can criminal hackers really do to your PC? | How I do a cleanup

Miscellaneous

Security Forum | Pop up Spam info | Anti-Spy Tools 

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allen's Computer Security Page
A collection of helpful ideas and links
Free Online Virus Scans
 Panda | Trend Micro
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   "If I make a living off it, that's great -- but I come from a culture where you're valued
not so much by what you acquire but by what you give away,"
-- Larry Wall (the inventor of Perl)
Please report any problems or errors to Allen Dick
© allen dick 1999-2014. Permission granted to copy in context for non-commercial purposes, and with full attribution.

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