Dmccabe's guide to staying safe on the Internet.
With so much hype surrounding security on the internet and all the virus attacks, spyware installs and phishing scams around it is a wonder why people still use or want to use the internet.
However it is not as bad as it seems and if you follow these simple guidelines and use some of the tools mentioned here then you should find the web a much safer place to visit. You will also find that keeping yourself secure on the net is mostly free and there is no need to line the pockets of the large corporations that care more about profit than security.
* Always keep your Windows version up to date!
While Microsoft do have their faults, they are also very good at bringing out regular updates for their software, which fix bugs and security holes. If your not keeping up to date with the latest updates then you are asking for trouble.
Thankfully Windows is quite easy to keep up to date. You can do it manually (at least once a month) by clicking on START then clicking on Windows Update and following the on screen instructions. Alternatively it can be set to automatic by going into your control panel (START > SETTINGS > CONTROL PANEL) and then into the Automatic Updates icon and choosing to automatically download and install updates (recommended).
* Get an Anti-Virus program and keep it up to date!
Viruses are the types of thing that come as an attachment in an email or through a downloaded file or even sometimes just across the internet without you doing anything.
Chances are if you bought your PC from a shop such as Dell or Compaq etc then you got some anti-virus software with it, however did you know 1000's of new viruses are discovered every day and if your Anti-Virus software is out of date by even a week then it is almost useless.
Thankfully there are plenty of anti-virus software’s out there each with Pro's and cons. Grisoft do an excellent free anti-virus called http://free.grisoft.com/
AVG , which is very good at keeping itself up to date, http://www.avast.com/
Avast also have a free anti-virus product which will help keep your free of the nasties roaming the web.
If you prefer a paid for product so that there is someone to shout at should things go wrong, then Techmonkeys highly recommends NOD32.
* Anti-Spyware tools!
Spyware, Adware and Malware are relatively new threats on the internet in comparison to viruses and trojans, however they are rapidly growing both in terms of their numbers and the destructiveness they cause. These are the kind of programs that make your home page change, make popup's display all over your screen or take you to web pages you would rather not be seeing.
It is important to have at least one Anti-Spyware tool that comes with a background guard to help monitor your system settings and warn you should something attempt to make changes you don’t want.http://www.safer-networking.org/
Spybot and http://www.winpatrol.com/
WinPatrol are 2 of my favourite protections against this type of threat and yes again these are free products (WinPatrol has a paid for pro version with extra features).
Don’t forget to keep these programs up to date too, the free ones generally won’t auto-update.
* Change your browser!
Browser is the term used to describe a program made for viewing web pages. Internet Explorer is the most common browser as it comes pre-loaded on every Windows based computer.
Technically there is nothing wrong with sticking to Internet Explorer as your browser as it is just as safe as any other once you disable fatures within it's security settings, however due to the fact that Internet Explorer has an 80% + share of the web browser market it makes it a popular target for would be hackers, phisher's and malware writers.
With this in mind it is better to use a third party browser to increase your safety while surfing the web. There are many different browsers out there, most of which are free, here are a few you can try and see which you like the best: http://www.opera.com/
Opera - http://www.getfirefox.com
FireFox - http://www.avantbrowser.com/
Avant They all have their advantages and disadvantages, so it will come down to which you find the easiest and nicest to use..
**update: IE7 is now much more secure than IE6 which was the current IE browser at the time of writing.
* Block as many bad sites as possible.
Blocking web sites is one of the most secure ways of keeping badness out of your PC as it stops your computer being able to even view the bad sites and stops bad programs you may already have from sending information about you back to the creators and also can stop quite a lot of adverts appearing on your screen.
Thanks to the vigilance and dedication of certain individuals on the web, there are ever growing lists of the sites you don’t want to visit, being kept up to date by people who want the web kept safe.
They also create handy little tools that will automatically block the sites you really should stay away from. Try http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/spywareblaster.html
SpywareBlaster as one method of blocking the baddies or for a little more in depth blocking try the http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm
MVPS hosts file, which adds 1000's of known sites into your blocked list.
Once again make sure you keep these tools up to date and it should make your life bug free.
* Firewall yourself!
Firewalls are your used to keep your PC secret while it is connected to the internet. They will stop your computer broadcasting it's presence on the net to would be hackers. It will also make sure your computer is not accessible from the outside world.
Windows XP and above now come with a fairly decent in built firewall, make sure it is switched on in your Security Centre (START > SETTINGS > CONTROL PANEL > SECURITY CENTRE). The windows firewall only protects against incoming attacks and does not block out going web traffic, also once again as this is Microsoft and they are the market leader you can guarantee that the windows firewall will be the target of most hack attacks. So using a third party firewall as well such as Zone Alarm is a very good idea.
If you have a router that connects you to the internet, there is a good chance it has a firewall built into it as well. Have a look through your routers manual or check out the manufacturers website for details on how to set the firewall up.
Safe Surfing Habits:
While the tools above will do their best to keep you protected there is still nothing safer than using a bit of web sense while browsing.
First rule when it comes to web sense is "DONT CLICK ON THE FLASHY BANNER THINGS!!!!" if it says your a winner and your 100,000,000th visitor or click here for a free IQ test, then you can guarantee you've failed the IQ test as soon as you click the advert. Just don’t do it. If you want to know about a product, search Google for it.
Never click links from people on Instant Messenger programs like MSN, Yahoo or AIM. Even if it is someone you know there is a chance they may have got a virus and don’t know it is sending out the links. If a friend sends you a link then ask them what it is before you click it.
If you get an email from your bank/ebay/online store with a link asking you to log in or verify your details, DONT! These types of organisations NEVER send emails asking for your account details. If your unsure open up your browser and type in your banks website address manually and then log in.
Stay away from "warez" sites or sites that proclaim to have free screensavers or movies. If a website says FREE FREE FREE everywhere, chances are you will pay in the long run. If you must download free software's then use a trusted site such as Softpedia or Download.com they will check the programs and verify they are spyware and virus free.
Don’t install things such as Emoticons, smilies, toolbars or any other nice little add-on that says it will "enhance" your web experience, cos what they mean by enhance is actually slow down and cause errors. There are certain toolbars out there that are good and will enhance it for you such as Google's Toolbar or MSN's Search Bar.
You can dramatically cut down on the number of spam emails you receive by setting yourself up two email addresses. Use one for family and friends and people you trust and use the other for registering at websites such as this one. The less places you give out your personal email address to the less it will be sold on to advertisers and spammers ( don’t worry http://www.techmonkeys.co.uk/index.php?page=4
Techmonkeys never give out your personal info). Also never write your email in a public place such as on a forum post or on a public page of a website. Email harvesting programs regularly scan websites and collect email addresses to Spam and advertise to.
By following these simple steps you should find the internet a safer and securer place to be. They don’t call it the World Wild Web for nothing!
To the HUKD Mods: this is a guide I wrote for my own website, none of the links are affiliate links and none are for paid for software (except the NOD32 which states it isnt free) hope this is ok