Anti-Virus BasicsAnti-Virus BasicsThe simplest and most appropriate way to stop security threats, for most people, is to prevent them. The method which should be (but, sadly, isn't at times) idiot-proof is to just use a program.The most important program you'll need, arguably, is an anti-virus program. This isn't as difficult as some people think, and it isn't as easy as others think. Many people choose not to use anti-virus software because they make the false assumption that it will be expensive or complicated. On the other hand, other people will pick some of the worst anti-virus programs out there for various reasons, such as seeing it on a TV commercial.For those who are worried about something being too expensive or too complicated, get AVG Free Edition. It's one of the best antivirus programs out there and is friendly to both the computer novice and security expert.Use a router for improved security - How much? For those with anti-virus protection already, you might need to make some changes. For starters, if you have two or more anti-virus programs installed on one computer, remove one or both of them. Having multiple anti-virus program can create a number of conflicts and ultimately is more likely to create more problems than solve. Aside from that, some anti-virus programs hog your system resources and slow your computer down immensely. The first that comes to mind is McAfee and the second is the "personal" or "home" editions of Norton Antivirus and Norton Internet Security. The latter in particular is known to cause more problems than it solves. Literally hundreds of users over the last two years have come into the TweakTown Forums complaining of problems eventually proven to be caused by Norton Internet Security. In any case, many commercial anti-virus suites, including the ones I mentioned, use large amounts of RAM and processing power and ought to be replaced.
Network Security BasicsNetwork Security BasicsAside from the various types of viruses and spyware, there are lots of problems that can occur as a direct result of someone else's actions - rather than you visiting a web page with spyware or downloading a program with a virus. There are a number of things that you can and should do to prevent worms, bandwidth theft, network intrusions, and related problems. The simplest and more effective is to get a firewall.Use a router for improved security - How much? You can get a hardware firewall, which can be a router, a PC setup as a router, an onboard hardware firewall (such as that on the nVidia nForce3 and 4 chipsets), or a device which serves no purpose other than being a firewall. If you share your Internet connection among multiple computers, than you almost certainly have a router, which will act as your hardware firewall. However, if you have two PCs using Internet Connection Sharing or an Ad-hoc wireless network, then you are most likely lacking in a hardware firewall.A hardware firewall is suitable for most people's needs and won't cause many problems for most people. With routers and other hardware firewalls, port forwarding can be necessary to run certain programs, especially peer-to-peer file-sharing programs. If you are an inexperienced user but need Bittorrent or something similar, a hardware firewall may cause you problems.
Network Security Basics (cont.)Network Security Basics (cont.)On top of hardware firewalls, there are software firewalls. A software firewall is quite different from a hardware firewall, but it can provide all the same functionality and more. On top of preventing incoming connections which you haven't prepared for (which is the important part of a firewall), it can also prevent outgoing connections. This is very significant as it can help prevent spyware and viruses from functioning properly, especially trojans. However, the downside is that even the best software firewalls are resource hogs - that is, it'll slow your system down. The only ones that don't use too many system resources are usually lacking in some aspect.Whether or not you should use a software firewall depends on several things. If you are fairly inexperienced, it will probably create as many problems as it prevents. If you are fairly experienced, you probably don't need it. If you have an older system that has little RAM or a slow processor, a software firewall can be a major performance killer. If you already have a hardware firewall and any of this applies to you, it's probably best you don't use a software firewall. However, if you don't have a hardware firewall and you don't wish to spend the money to get one, then you absolutely must use a software firewall. There are several great options.
Spyware BasicsSpyware BasicsOne of the more recent additions to the plethora of Web-caused problems is spyware. Spyware is a very general term that can refer to a lot of things, many of which could be considered viruses or trojans by some definition. The worst type of spyware is that which actually records your personal information - such as your credit card information, email password, address, etc. Thankfully, this is actually the least common of spyware. A more common type of spyware you'll find simply tracks your browsing habits and uses that information for either statistical purposes or to provide you with ads, which leads me to the most common type of spyware, adware. Whenever you see a pop-up (or if your browser or blocker stops it), it's probably spyware.Use a router for improved security - How much? Spyware can infect your computer in a number of ways: It can be a program that you knowingly installed; it can be a cookie in your web browsers; it can be a browser plug-in or ActiveX control you installed, knowingly or not; it can be a program that appeared fine, but installed spyware of some sort without telling you (these programs are known as trojans, by the way). In any case, spyware, like viruses, are often best dealt by simply entrusting a program.
General Prevention - Be SmartGeneral Prevention - Be SmartAnti-virus programs, spyware removal programs, and firewalls are the simplest and often most effective ways to prevent security problems from occurring. However, mass adoption of these three has not halted the steady stream of viruses, spyware, and attackers that exists today. Only one person is at fault for this: You.The vast majority of all security problems don't result from having the wrong anti-virus or not having a firewall. They result from the average user's lack of knowledge and many need to learn what should be common sense.- Windows UpdateWindows Update is easily the most useful built-in security feature of Windows. It is a necessity to have the latest updates if you want a secure system. Go to Windowsupdate.com or enable automatic updates now if it isn't already. You can also manually download patches from www.microsoft.com if Windows Update doesn't work for some reason.Windows XP users should have at least Service Pack 1, and many users, especially inexperienced ones, will find Service Pack 2 useful. Getting the latest security patches from Microsoft will help make Internet Explorer and other Microsoft programs more secure, as well as removing the threat of new worms and vulnerabilities which are discovered all the time.- PasswordsIf you have a password to something important, such as a bank account or Paypal account, it's best to change it often. If your computer is compromised and someone gains access to your account, the consequences would be, needless to say, pretty bad. Don't save your important passwords in your browser, and change them on a regular basis.- Web BrowsingPeople need to take much more care when browsing the web. Clicking on the wrong thing or going to the wrong web site is the primary cause of spyware and a common cause of viruses. Here are some basic rules for preventing problems:There ain't no such thing as a free lunch! If you simply have to fill out a survey, get the answer right, shoot the Storm Trooper, or whatever the pop-up says to win a free iPod, then it's a scam. You will not win or in anyway get anything except a nice tracking cookie or some spam after you enter your email address to get the free item. Basically, never go somewhere because there's a claim that you can get something. That should be a reason not to go there, in fact it sound alarm bells in your head.Use a router for improved security - How much? Nudity is often a very bad thing, and I don't just mean if it's someone you don't want to see naked. The vast majority of pornographic web sites will provide you with some sort of spyware. Usually, it will just provide annoying popup ads to other porn sites, but it can also install tracking spyware that can hijack your web browser and even your entire PC. The former is much more likely, but neither are worth risking.Software piracy in and of itself caries more repercussions than the law will ever provide. The vast majority of CD keys/serial numbers and cracked programs are provided by sites that have some spyware. As with pornography, this spyware mostly only provides unwanted pop-up commercials, but it can get worse. Make a particular effort to avoid German sites where available. Germans are known for several things online: Cracking, pornography, piracy, and spyware.Forget that popular commercial jingle; DON'T plug it in. Unless it's a very popular/well-known program or web site, don't install ActiveX controls or plugins. Never install them if they are in any way related to pornography or software piracy. Plugins are the easiest way to hijack a browser and one of the worst types of spyware out there. Feel free to install just about anything from Macromedia, Adobe, Sun Microsystems or Microsoft Corporation - be wary of others, though.Mozilla Firefox.
File SharingFile SharingPeople who use peer-to-peer networks for purposes of downloading files (music, video, and software being the most common) should be very careful in their actions. Here are some basic rules:- Watch your extensions: When downloading something, pay attention to the file extension. A movie with an .exe extension might not be a movie. It might be a zipped movie, but it might also be a virus. Make sure you use the proper filters when searching for things.- Know your networks: There are many file sharing programs, networks, and standards so avoid the bad ones and use the good ones. Bittorrent is by far the best overall, but it will require a bit more effort and you might not find what you want. Shareaza uses three different networks and doesn't have as many security issues as other networks. In my opinion, it is by far the best P2P network around, short of Bittorrent.
Advanced Virus and Spyware RemovalAdvanced Virus and Spyware RemovalNow we come to the trickiest part: Fixing security threats after it's too late to prevent them. This can be ridiculously easy, or painstakingly hard. After you've read this, it shouldn't be too hard ever again.The first thing to worry about is the symptoms. What's wrong with the computer? Is it slow? Has it been getting lots of popups? Is it doing strange things? Are programs not running properly? Depending on what's wrong, the problem can be completely unrelated to viruses, spyware, and attackers.If a system without antivirus protection or spyware protection is in use, then first install and run an anti-virus program and a spyware removal program. A simple Ad-Aware or AVG scan, I've found, will take care of most or all problems on systems that have neither. If the system has decent AV and Spyware protection, proceed. Also note that much of this assumes a Windows 2000/XP-based machine is in use.- Embedded Viruses and Spyware ProgramsThe first thing you should do when you suspect something is wrong is to open up Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Del. The first thing I look at is the number of processes - fewer than twenty is a well-run system. Over twenty can mean there are just lots of programs running, or it can mean there are lots of bad, useless, unnecessary, or harmful programs running. Over 30 usually means the computer is bogged down with viruses, spyware, unnecessary programs, or any combination of the three.Use a router for improved security - How much? When I see over 20, the first thing I do is open up the Microsoft System Configuration Utility (Start > Run > msconfig). Windows 2000 systems don't have it installed by default, but you can either copy it over from XP or Windows 9x, or you can download HijackThis, which will double over as msconfig. You're likely to use HijackThis anyway, so you might as well get it.
Advanced Virus and Spyware Removal (cont.)Advanced Virus and Spyware Removal (cont.)The first thing you should do is open up Services.msc (Start > Run > Services.msc). Look around in here and I'd suggest you look at http://www.blackviper.com to see if any services aren't part of Windows.
Advanced Virus and Spyware Removal (cont.)Advanced Virus and Spyware Removal (cont.)Now that you know how to deal with viruses and spyware embedded as startup entries and Windows services, it's time to focus on fixing some of the more traditional spyware (since technically the majority of the threats found in msconfig and services.msc will be viruses, not spyware).- Browser Hijacking and Pop-up AdsIf a computer has a lot of pop-ups or is displaying a lot of strange search results - especially if the search results indicate that they know something about you - your browser is likely "hijacked." This can be much more serious than a bad virus because something other than your computer might be at stake.To start with, run a traditional spyware removal program such as Ad-Aware SE or Spybot Search and Destroy, as we mentioned before. If things are bad enough, problems will likely persist after the scans are done. The next program to use is CWShredder. This will remove a number of browser hijacks known as Cool Web Search.Use a router for improved security - How much? After CWShredder, HijackThis should be run. HijackThis is more difficult to explain, and you will have to figure out some of it on your own. Read the descriptions of the items it collects and figure out whether or not they are potential threats. If you have something like an Adobe Acrobat plug-in showing up, it's fine. If you have some sort of registry entry that redirects searches to a certain site, that's something that ought to be removed. Unfortunately, this is a skill you must pick up, and no guide can help you. If you find yourself in a situation with HijackThis, feel free to save a log and post on our forums.- Other SpywareSome spyware is less evasive, but more trojan-like. You might install a program, and it may even have a function. However, it might also give you ads, track your web browsing, or even use your personal information. Many popular programs are low-risk spyware - a few examples include the old Kazaa, Weatherbug, and WildTangent.Guess how you remove these? Go to Start > Settings > Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs. Find the program and uninstall it. Another place user-installed spyware is often located is %systemroot%\Downloaded program files (which will likely be C:\Windows\Downloaded program files or C:\WINNT\Downloaded program files). If you find something suspicious looking in there, feel free to uninstall it.- Drastic MeasuresIf a computer doesn't have anything worth saving and you think fixing it will be too time consuming, it can be better to simply reformat it and reinstall Windows. I did this once when one of my friends had over 130 processes running in task manager. Also, if the computer contains extremely important information, it might be best to just back it up and reformat. Removing viruses is never a sure thing unless the hard drive is completely reformatted, so it may not be worth the risk in mission-critical situations. If you simply can't fix a computer, reformat it.
Wireless Network SecurityWireless Network SecurityWireless networking has been growing more and more popular lately because it can greatly ease the job of networking and makes laptops more portable. However, wireless networking presents a major security risk that people should be aware of and try to fix.Use a router for improved security - How much? In this section, I'll explain some thing you can do to help make your wireless network more secure.- Wired Equivalent PrivacyWired Equivalent Privacy, or WEP, is probably the most commonly used form of security for wireless networks. It provides encryption that prevents people from logging onto your wireless network without the proper authority. However, a WEP key can be cracked. This doesn't mean they're useless, however. If your wireless hardware doesn't support WPA, WEP is better than nothing. To use a WEP key, simply go into your router's/access point's setup page (which varies based on your router/AP; see your router's manual) and set one up. Then, go to each wireless device and set them to automatically log on using the WEP key.I'm making this sound simpler than it is because I can't give in-depth directions without knowing everyone's specific hardware.
Conclusion and LinksConclusion and LinksAfter reading through this rather extensive guide, you should now have a good idea of how to properly secure a computer and even fix a compromised one.Just in case you forgot or can't find them, here is a list of links to good security programs and resources and ones we mentioned throughout this guide:IANAG File Help - http://www.iamnotageek.com/a/file_info.phpAVG Free Edition - http://free.grisoft.com/doc/2/lng/us/tpl/v5Zone Alarm - http://www.zonelabs.com/store/content/company/products/znalm/freeDownload.jspSygate Personal Firewall - http://smb.sygate.com/products/spf_standard.htmAd-Aware SE - http://www.lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware/Spybot Search and Destroy - http://www.safer-networking.org/en/download/Windows Update - http://www.windowsupdate.comHijackThis - http://www.spywareinfo.com/~merijn/downloads.html CWShredder - http://www.intermute.com/spysubtract/cwshredder_download.htmlSpyware and Adware Removal Guide @ TweakTown - https://www.tweaktown.com/document.php?dType=guide&dId=713
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