Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How do I protect my computer from the Interne(t)Devils?

People keep wondering how to keep their computers free from viruses and worms and other Internet (d)evils. I have tried to put in some information for those who would be seeking answers to the questions regarding Internet Defence in this document.

The Internet is no more a safe place. You are vulnerable the moment you are connected to the Internet. As a regular Internet user, you would be advised to follow some basic rules to distance yourselves from the threats that are impossible to avoid completely.

I assume that you are using a Windows machine (such as XP or Windows 2000).

If you are not very familiar in using the computer, ask your computer technician to
1. Install a personal firewall and configure it
2. Install an antivirus utility
3. Install Firefox browser
4. Install Ad-aware
5. Install Spybot S&D
6. Download Process Explorer and Hijackthis

After installation, your computer has to be checked once for viruses and spyware, immediately.

Alternately, you could prefer to do it yourself. Follow the instructions below.

1. Install a personal firewall

There are free software firewalls (hardware firewalls are expensive and are not oriented towards individual machines) available such as Comodo (http://www.personalfirewall.comodo.com) which are quite good. Others like Zone Alarm, Kerio are also offer adequate protection. Some of them might expect you to make a payment before you could use them.

2. Install antivirus

You need an anti-virus tool that would keep you informed in case your computer is infected by a virus, trojan or similar malicious application. AVG is one that is available free of cost for personal use. You can download it from http://free.grisoft.com. AVG has a small footprint (which means it doesn't consume too much memory and is not a load on your computer) and protects you from most viruses.

3. Install Firefox browser

There is a general perception that the Internet Explorer is less safer on the Internet. If you are using the Internet Explorer, I recommend that you download and install the latest version of Firefox browser ( available from http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/ )

According to wikipedia, Spyware is computer software that is installed surreptitiously on a personal computer to intercept or take partial control over the user's interaction with the computer, without the user's informed consent. More information on spyware may be found in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spyware

There are certain things that you should avoid when you are online. Those are visiting crack sites, sites that contain pornographic content, sites that offer you free software, hacking sites etc., It doesn't mean that all such sites are malicious, but for the unaware and uninitiated, it means treading dangerous waters.

To protect you from Spyware, you should install tools that check your computer frequently for other malicious content (such as spyware) that could reside in your computer. These get installed/saved on your computer as a result of using the browser and visiting sites.

4. Install Ad-aware

Download and install, Ad-aware from the following link ( http://www.lavasoftusa.com/products/ad_aware_free.php )

5. Install Spybot S&D

Download and install "Spybot - Search & Destroy" from the following link

When all the above have been done, you can breathe a little easily now that you have done the first part of the job.

The other and most important part, is to be reviewing your security frequently, say every two days. Run your virus scanner, Ad-aware and Spybot S&D, every alternate day or once in three days, or atleast once in a week.

Note down any incidents. There may be a situation where your virus scanner may not be able to clear the virus.

In that case, you may search the WWW for methods to clean it.

The mantra is to update your virus scanner and other tools with the latest updates and frequently check your machine for any suspicious activity.

Run the tools Ad-aware and Spybot S&D frequently, or immediately after you close your browser.

6. Download Process Explorer and Hijackthis

Process explorer tells you the processes that are currently executing on your windows operating system presently. This is preferred over your windows task manager, since malicious software may be hidden from the windows task manager's view.

Download procexp.exe from sysinternals.com (incidentally, the company now has been bought over by Microsoft) http://download.sysinternals.com/Files/ProcessExplorer.zip

Hijackthis is an application that shows the windows registry keys that contain actions that will be executed during the time the operating system is booting (the steps involved before you get your windows desktop). You can go through them and look for suspicious looking files [some of them may contain the extension .exe]

Download hijackthis.exe from or http://www.spywareinfo.com/~merijn/programs.php#hijackthis

Now that you are more knowledgeable, I hope that you would try these tools that would arm you to protect your computer from hostile invasions.

PS: One other thing that you could do, is to ask the Internet fellow to install a router (assuming yours is a DSL like connection) and configure the IP to the router and not to the machine, which means your computer is not directly connected to Net and is protected from Direct Attack.
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