Computer Security Thoughts Part One

I mentioned in the first podcast that I don’t understand how people are willing to spend upwards of $2,000 on a computer, but are so unwilling to spend the time to learn how to operate it, and take care of their investment. One of our forum members over at SimplyTech posed a great question to me. Kevin, a long-time forum member asked the following:

BTW–I have a Windows machine that’s just over four years old. I keep up the Windows and Office updates and the Symantec (I know) religiously. What else, if anything, should I do to keep the bad stuff at bay? I avoid the off-the-road sites that usually have the viruses and trojans attached. Thanks!

SimplyTech Forums

To me, Kevin is on the road to doing a good job of protecting his computer. Half the battle can be making people realize that having an update-to-date version of Windows and the lastest anti-virus definitions is more than worth the time it takes to update the products. Another forum member, Xtowers mentioned an anti-sypware program, Spybot Search and Destroy. That is a great anti-spyware app; I use it myself. I also use Lavasoft’s Ad-aware and Spyware Blaster from Javacool Software. Xtowers also suggested running a firewall. This is a good idea, especially if you have an always-on internet connection like DSL or Cable. For most home users, the Windows firewall that is included in XP Service Pack 2 is enough protection. If you are more paranoid, look into other options. Zonealarm is a good firewall, and I would also recommend Sygate.

I also would recommend ditching Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and going with the latest version of Firefox. I would also suggest installing the SiteAdvisor extension for Firefox. Details on that extension can be found in my most previous post. Kevin, if you view my blog, hopefully this post has tied up some of the loose ends about your question. Questions like yours can be a touchy subject for me, as I cannot understand how people can be so careless when playing around with a $2,000 “toy.” 

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4 Responses to Computer Security Thoughts Part One

  1. I completely agree that people who dont take good care of their boxes are just wasting a perfectly good investment. On top of keeping your system up to date, something that alot of people fail to do is regularily reinstall windows. Personally I reinstall windows about every 6 months, but for the average user i would suggest about ever 12-15 months. The reason is b/c windows has the uncanny ability to really start to “gunk up” no matter how well you care for it.

  2. Tom says:

    generally speaking, i feel common sense is the best anti-virus/spyware protection there is. It’s is obvious that you shouldn’t go to websites that are prone to give you problems (porn is one of the biggest examples of this, though i wouldn’t know exactly…). email attachments are another biggie. and there are tons of other things but those are some of the biggest problems that people end up having.

    Actually, to further the “gunk up” that kaleb is talking about, whenever you get a new computer, i would recommend reinstalling windows (a full hard drive wipe and reinstall is best) as the manufacturer tends to put all sorts of things on a computer that aren’t TRULY necessary, there’s alot of worthless programs that don’t do anything, processes that just eat at your computers ability to multitask and all of those AOL icons on the desktop. The best and easiest way for the average joe to get rid of all that is wipe the hard drive and reinstall windows, but make sure you have the windows cd’s that are required before you start this process. Alot of manufacturer’s don’t include the windows xp disc with shipment unless you want to spend a little more for it.

    Beyond that, i was also wondering, Jon, if you’ve heard of BHOdemon? I think its a nice little program that spots BHO’s as they are installed on your computer (BHO’s are a big part of spyware and malware) and the makers of BHOdemon keep a list of all known BHO’s (it stands for Browser Helper Object for those wondering…) and rates them as being good, bad, or neutral/unknown and can disable them in the BHOdemon program. I have been using it for a couple of years now with Spybot S&D i haven’t had any problems on my computer since.
    A little more information on BHO’s, they are actually dll files, which can be big problems for computers. Not that dll’s in and of themselves are bad (most programs will use dll files of some sort), but dll’s are the tools of hackers and virus makers, they can do just about anything and thus, through them they can essentially gain control of a computer (for the general person, this means spyware, malware, and pop ups). BHOdemon monitors the dll’s that are associate with IE (or probably any other browser, for that matter, as the spyware has to be installed in a specific place before it can filter throughout the computer…). Currently i have 3 BHO’s on my computer, one for adobe acrobat, one for spybot search and destroy, and one for my java runtime environment (for running java applets and programs).

    hopefully thats… uh… long enough for everyone…

  3. Tom says:

    alright… well… after further review… it appears that BHOdemon… while still available for download… isn’t really being kept alive anymore… so disregard that plug for BHOdemon and go with whatever jon says… i did…

  4. Jon says:

    In response to both comments-

    Regularly reinstalling Windows is something that I do, usually by choice, about every 6 months to a year, depending how busy I get. “Gunk up” is probably the best way to describe what happens. When installing and uninstalling programs, the uninstaller can leave behind parts of the application, which may slow down your computer. So reinstalling Windows could help speed a slower moving machine, that is, if you haven’t reinstalled in quite some time.

    I would have to agree with your comment that common sense is the best defense against viruses, spyware, and the like. However, in the computing world, common sense doesnt seem to be widespread. Also, no matter how careful you might be, it is possible to acquire spyware or a virus when a previously trused website becomes compromised by malicious hackers, such as the AMD forums that were compromised recently.

    Tom, you also have a very good point about reinstalling Windows on a new PC. However, sometimes the Windows install CD’s you get from the manufacturer can be shipped with the stupid programs you want to get rid of right on the CD. I may be wrong about this fact, since I don’t have a copy of Windows from a computer manufacturer like Dell or Gateway.

    Also, we have already conversed about BHOdemon. While it seems to be a great tool, according to the website, it hasnt been updated in over a year. If a BHO cleaner is something you are interested in, I would BHO cleaner, as I suspect there are similar apps out there.

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