Special Report: Your online behavior can harm your system
The Internet is full of hostile programs that are actively looking for holes on your computer. Once they invade they will spy on you, change settings on your web browser, send spam email from your computer, and cause things to stop working or crash.
It used to be that you were safe if you didn't do anything 'stupid'. This isn't true any more – if you get a new PC and connect it to the Internet without the proper precautions, it will get infected and taken over. This document gives you a set of guidelines for protecting yourself from these malicious programs (trojans, spybots, viruses, malware, etc) and how to remove them if you get them. Of course, if you need some assistance, MCM Computer Repair division is available to help you with any of these – just contact us for a consultation or to arrange a service call.
This document is split into the following sections:
- How to Set Things Up
- Regular Maintenance
- Online Behavior
- Further Recommendations
How to Set Things Up in Windows
- Never use the Administrator level user as your daily Desktop profile. This is the first profile created by Windows upon setup installation.
- As a Rule: Administrator level should be used to add/remove programs, hardware & Update Windows & Anti-Virus software.
- After you have configured the first profile desktop to where you are satisfied with it. Create another Desktop profile (example: AdminUser and create a password for it) with Administrator level privileges in Control Panel > User Accounts. Log out of your primary desktop profile then log into the AdminUser account, Control Panel > User Accounts, select the primary account, click 'Change account type', select Limited User.
- Now when starting the computer it will go straight to the primary Desktop profile (if it has no password).
- Since this account doesn't have the correct permissions to modify the OS, most virus, adwares and malwares can't do any harm!
- This doesn't preclude the necessity of performing Windows Updates or Anti-Virus Updates. But will make your computing experience a lot less stressful and more productive!
Install AdAware and SpyBot. AdAware and Spybot are currently the two best tools to remove malicious programs from your PC. Even better, they're both free for a limited trial time. Contact us to get the fully licensed software at up to 50% off.
You should run Spybot or AdAware after you install them, and then every few weeks. Remove everything they find. Each time you use them, make sure you choose the "Update" option so that they can download the latest detection information and catch all the newest malicious software.
Install Anti-Virus Software
We recommend the free AVG or Microsoft Security Essentials anti-virus software. Each time you use them, make sure you choose the "Update" option so that it can download the latest detection information and catch all the newest viruses.
Use a Router Instead of Connecting Directly to the Internet
If you're connected to the Internet by cable or ADSL, you should have a router between your computer and the Internet. This will hide your PC from most direct attacks. A hardware router costs about $40 - $100 and you'll probably need some help installing it. Contact us if you want some suggestions. If you're still using dialup, things aren't so easy. Depending on which version of Windows you have:
- If you have Windows XP, enable the Internet Connection Firewall. This is enabled by ticking a single check box in the properties for the Internet connection under Network Settings in the Control Panel.
- If you have Windows 98 or Windows 2000, download and install the free version of Zone Alarm from http://www.zonelabs.com
Run Windows Update Run Windows Update and install all of the Critical Updates and Service Packs. The link for Windows Update should be on your Start menu, or just use your web browser to go here: http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com Scan for updates and then install all of the Critical Updates and Service Packs. If this is the first time you've done it, the download process may take quite a while. Leave it going overnight if necessary.
Do the following to keep up to date:
- Run Windows Update each week (as explained above).
- Run AdAware or Spybot each week (as explained above).
- Make sure you've updated your anti-virus software.
Online Behavior - Installing Software from Websites
One of the greater threats to your PC is installing software from non-trusted sites. While some malicious software directly attacks your PC, others try to trick you into installing them. For example, did you know that the popular file-trading program Kazaa comes with a whole host of other software that spies on you? Do not download and install free applications unless you are sure they don't include malicious software. This may include music applications, games, gambling websites and software disguised as anti-virus.
If you don't know what this means and how to check, just don't do it unless you trust the site. (i.e. yes for Adobe Acrobat, Macromedia Flash and products from other trusted companies. Note that Real and Kazaa are not trusted companies.)
Browsing the Internet
When browsing the Internet, some sites will ask you to install ActiveX controls or other pieces of software. Say no, unless you trust the site. (Yes for the Microsoft site and your bank, no for sites which offer news articles, cute pictures, greeting cards, jokes, porn, etc.)
Email viruses are getting smarter, these days they might even look like email from someone you know. People have even been sending emails that look like they come from your bank - all to trick you out or your Internet banking username and password. Don't open files attached to an email unless you know who it's from and you're expecting them to send it to you.
Some Other Recommendations
Replace Internet Explorer With Firefox or Opera. Firefox has a lot less security holes than Internet Explorer. It also has other neat new features liked tabbed browsing (which is great when you want more than one web page open at once) and popup ad blocking.
Dump Windows XP and Vista. Microsoft will stop support for them, it's time to upgrade to Windows 7. Windows 7 is a lot more stable (crashes less) and is a much better product. If you'd like a system diagnostic and evaluation of your system contact one of our support team professionals. They've been doing this for a very long time and can direct you with the best alternatives.