BOOT CAMP 325 (11/05/04)
worms, trojans, spam, spyware, adware, phone diallers, security holes, identity
theft… Doom mongers would have you believe that you and your PC are under
sustained attack from hackers, organised crime syndicates, deviants and
scammers but if you step back for a moment and take a closer look at all of the
nonsense pouring into your email inbox you can see it for what it really is, an
annoyance that would disappear, almost overnight, if we all took some basic
can be boiled down to just five simple steps:
anti-virus and firewall software and keep it updated.
sure your operating system is up to date.
a browser cleaner utility once a week.
open unexpected email attachments.
respond to or buy from spam emails.
is no excuse whatsoever for not having anti virus and firewall software on your
PC and it needn’t cost you a penny. The free version of AVG (www.grisoft.com) virus scanner works as well as most paid-for programs and its signature
file is updated several times a week. A firewall program will protect your PC
from hackers but the one included with Windows XP currently only prevents
external access to your PC. Programs like Zone Alarm (www.zonelabs.com) and Agnitum Outpost Free (http://www.agnitum.com/products/outpost/) also stop any
unauthorised programs making use of your Internet connection. Once again both
programs are completely free.
has its faults but it is as safe and secure as something as complex as an
operating system could reasonably be expected to be. Unfortunately Microsoft is
a target, and a mighty big one at that, for those determined to seek out and
exploit loopholes in features that were, in the main, originally meant to be
helpful to users.
potential security issues in Windows are uncovered, like the recent ‘Sasser’
virus which infects networks, patches are made available for download from the
Windows Update website (http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/), usually well before they
have a chance to become a serious problem, though recently there’s been a
disturbing trend for these loopholes to be ‘leaked’ in an effort to further
undermine Microsoft. Most new PCs are set to automatically check for updates
but if you have switched this feature off you should make a point of checking
the update site every couple of weeks.
Apple OS and Linux are frequently touted as safe alternatives to Windows but
both systems have their share of security flaws. The only reason they have
escaped serious attention from virus writers – so far -- is due to their
relatively small user bases, which makes it difficult for infections to spread.
of the Internet is reasonably safe but if you stray off the beaten track –
visit file sharing or porn sites or download pirate software for example -- or
you are unexpectedly redirected to a web site then there is a chance your
computer could pick up hidden spyware, adware or a home page ‘hijacker’, which
all have the potential to expose data on your PC and relay it to who knows
whilst surfing an official-looking dialogue box appears on your screen, asking
to install an ‘add-on’ or ‘plug-in’ never click the OK box. It could be
anything, from an email worm to a premium rate phone dialler that will play
havoc with your phone bill, (though only if you have a dial-up Internet
connection, diallers don’t affect those with broadband). The simple rule of
thumb is if you didn’t ask for it, you don’t want it! Occasionally these boxes
won’t go away when you click the close window icon. When that happens close
your browser; if it persists press Ctrl + Alt + Delete and End Task the
offending web page. As a last resort close any open programs and switch the PC
if you are careful where you click your mouse there’s still a chance you’ll
pick up some of this rubbish so get into the habit of running a freeware
cleaner utility like AdAware (www.lavasoftusa.com) or Spybot Search and
Destroy (http://www.safer-networking.org/) at least once a week,
and make sure that they are both regularly updated. See also Tip of the Week.
and Trojans, carried by email attachments are clogging the Internet at the
moment and they’re almost always spread by carelessness. Again, it’s easy to
stay safe. Never open an email attachment, even if it is from someone you know,
unless you are expecting it and one hundred percent sure of its legitimacy. If
you are uncertain, and you know the sender email them and ask them to confirm
unsolicited emails or ‘spam’; the reason you get so much of it is because a
very small number of people respond to them so here are a few simple pointers.
Whatever they are selling it is bound to be rubbish or a con. Never click the
‘remove me’ link on a spam email, it merely confirms your email address as
active and adds it to even more mailing lists. You haven’t won a prize in a
lottery you didn’t go in for and no one is going to give you a share of a $3
million bank account belonging to a deceased Nigerian government official.
Buying prescription medicines over the Internet is a very, very bad idea and
the recent spate of ‘phishing’ emails should alert you to the fact that banks,
building societies and credit card companies do not send out emails asking you
to reveal your PIN number or account details.
filtering software is one way of keeping your inbox under control and one of the
easiest and most effective is MailWasher (www.mailwasher.net). The free version lets you see the contents of your inbox, on your
ISP’s server computer, it will flag up suspect messages and allow you to delete
them before they get anywhere near your PC.
Next week – Home movies to DVD
The practice of sending emails, usually purporting to come
from financial institutions requesting details of bank or credit card details
program designed to repeatedly dial a premium rate number, running up a huge
phone bill for the PC owner
Hidden program on a PC that allows an external 'client' PC
to access files stored on the hard disc drive when it is connected to the
Internet or a network
TIP OF THE WEEK
AdAware and Spybot eradicate most homepage ‘hijacker’
programs but for persistent pests the solution is Hijack This. It is a powerful
freeware utility that seeks out programs and components that attempt to tinker
with your browser’s settings. It identifies both friend and foe, so use it with
care and click the ‘Info’ button or do a Google search on any suspect items
before you delete anything. You’ll find more information and the download at: