Virus Protection

Virus protection is a big issue in Windows. There are currently approximately 60,000 viruses in circulation and you need two things to protect yourself:

 

  1. Antivirus Software – A good antivirus program will protect you against any known viruses if installed correctly and updated on a regular basis. Ideally it is constantly running in the background, scanning any files you try to open, as well as automatically monitoring incoming and outgoing e-mail for malicious attachments. An excellent freeware (for personal use) solution that does a great job, is user friendly, and includes automatic updating is Grisoft’s AVG. You can download this software from Grisoft’s web site at http://www.grisoft.com/. You can read a more detailed review of AVG in our review section at reviews/sw/avg6.html 
  2. Common Sense – To protect yourself against new viruses that are still unknown to your antivirus software only common sense can protect you. This means that you practice safe e-mail with every e-mail attachment that you receive.
    DON’T OPEN ATTACHMENTS FROM UNKNOWN SOURCES! We can’t emphasize this enough.
    If you get an e-mail with an attachment from a person you don’t know – DO NOT OPEN IT – DELETE IT!
    If you get an e-mail with an attachment from a person you know but you didn’t ask for it and didn’t expect it – DO NOT OPEN IT – DELETE IT!
    If it really was legit, the person will follow up with you or send it again and no harm is done. If it was malicious and you deleted it – you’re safe. viruses can only spread if they are activated. As long as the e-mail is not opened and the attachment is not activated, you’re safe. For more information about virus protection please take a few minutes to read our article about virus protection at howto/antivirus.html

You are strongly encouraged to install the antivirus software and practice the rules explained in the article. It can save you from a world of trouble!

Firewall Protection

Anytime you’re connected to the Internet your PC is exposed to the whole world. If it is not protected properly, crackers can detect the PC, probe it for vulnerabilities, exploit them to gain access to your machine and either openly wreak havoc by stealing and/or deleting data, or secretly plant malicious code that turns your PC into a zombie to be part of an attack on somebody’s server or network. This issue is especially important for PCs with a highspeed connection to the Internet via DSL or cable modems because they are prime targets for crackers.

To find out how vulnerable your machine is, visit this excellent web site that offers some online tools to test your machine’s security. Open your browser, go to http://grc.com/default.htm and click on Shield’s UP!. Read the information on this page, then click Test My Shields! and Probe My Ports!. These tests check for obvious vulnerabilities of your PC and you might be surprised at the results. Chances are you have a number of open and/or visible ports that can make your machine a target for crackers.

You can protect your machine by closing these security holes with the help of a program called a firewall. Firewall software monitors your Internet connection and filters all traffic to keep undesired traffic out and only allow legitimate traffic through. There are a number of software firewalls available on the Internet and in stores. The one we recommend is ZoneLab’s Zone Alarm, we’ll get a little more into detail why this is our favorite in a moment. You can download a free version (for personal use) from ZoneLab’s web site at http://www.zonelabs.com.

After installing Zone Alarm, go back and perform another Shields UP! test and Port Probe. You should see a big difference and find that all tested ports are now closed and in stealth mode.

Since Steve Gibson did an excellent job at explaining firewalls, the tests, and the dangers, and the topic is beyond the scope of this article, we’ll refrain from going more into detail at this point, but you are encouraged to read more about this fascinating topic at http://grc.com/su-explain.htm.

Spyware Protection

Another form of attack you have to defend yourself against these days is invasion of your privacy which can come in form of software installed on your machine with or without your knowledge that tracks and collects data about you and your computer and sends it back to a central database for processing and analyzing, usually by marketing companies for the purpose of more intrusive and annoying advertising. Such software is called spyware. Thankfully there are tools available to help protect yourself from such criminal software. One of the better ones is Lavasoft’s Ad-aware. It is also freeware and can be downloaded from Lavasoft’s web site at http://www.lavasoftusa.com/.

After installing this software you can scan your entire system including hard drives and registry for any traces of spyware.

If any spyware components are found you will see a list and get the chance to safely remove them from your system. It is recommended to run this utility on a regular basis to keep your system clean and your privacy protected.

Zone Alarm, the software firewall recommended earlier, actually plays an active role in protecting your privacy. Most firewalls are a one-way street, they check only incoming traffic but let anything go out to the Internet. Zone Alarm, however, also controls outgoing traffic and alerts you to any suspicious activity that could indicate that a program on your computer is seeking unauthorized access to the Internet, which can be spyware trying to send data home.

 

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