protection

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Testing Your PC

ShieldsUP!!
Sygate
Firewall

ZoneAlarm
Anti-Virus

avast!
Viruses & Hoaxes

Snopes.com
Vmyths.com
CIAC HoaxBusters
Spyware

Spybot Search & Destroy
Advanced Windows Care
Malwarebytes
Spyware Doctor
Ad-aware
Spam

MailWasher
Pop-Ups

ZoneAlarm Pro
Google Toolbar
Email Settings
Maintenance

Advanced Windows Care
SmartDefrag
Recommendations

Firefox
Thunderbird
Ubuntu
 
Testing Your PC Computers communicate with each other via the Internet through what are called ports. Hackers can find these ports and connect to your computer without you even knowing about it.

Most computers do not close down all the ports, so you are vulnerable to attack.

Gibson Research Corporation is the home of ShieldsUP!! - a free service that checks your computer for open ports and explains how to close them. They also provide a wide variety of information and services to help protect your computer.

Sygate Online Services also offers a free scan of your computer.

Tools available to you are:
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Firewall A firewall blocks hackers from connecting to your computer while you are connected to the Internet.

Two very good articles that explain firewalls:
Tools available to you are:
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Anti-Virus An anti-virus programs protects your computer from:
  • viruses - a program that is placed on your computer, then runs itself to alter the way your computer operates.

  • worms - code that exists inside other files, rather than a program of it's own.

You can best protect yourself by:
  1. Making sure your anti-virus software is always running.

  2. Making sure your anti-virus software is always up-to-date with the latest virus definitions.

  3. Never opening an attachment unless you are positive it is safe.

  4. Never opening an email if you have several appear at once containing the exact same subject line, even if it someone you know, and especially if the subject line seems unusual for the person sending it.

Tools available to you are:
  • I prefer avast!. The free version works really well and the program is not as intrusive as others.

  • If you have AOL, protection  is built in and you don't need to buy it.
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Viruses & Hoaxes Usually an email that warns you about a virus. There are two types of warnings about:
  1. emails - these warn you about an email that contains a virus.

  2. files - these warn you about files on your computer.
The email usually includes some variation of the following instructions/information:
  1. Delete the email or file immediately.

  2. Opening the email or file will cause severe damage to your computer.

  3. The virus was announced by a reputable organization.

  4. Forward this warning to everyone you know.
Before doing anything, check if the email is a hoax. If it is, simply delete the email, and do not forward it to everyone you know. Also, read the article "Toxic Excuses" from About.com.
Tools available to you are:
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Spyware: Tracking & Advertising This is done in one of two ways:
  1. Cookies: cookie is a piece of information stored on your hard drive that keeps track of sites you have visited. Each cookie is stored in a separate file, and is created by the website you visit.

  2. Tracking Software: If you install a program that changes your desktop image, or allows you to connect to other users for the purpose of sharing files, or any of several other programs available from the Internet, it may also install a small program that tracks your activities.
Tools available to you are:
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Spam Spam is unwanted email, usually advertising a product. In some cases, you can get off the mailing list by either sending an email back to the sender (not a good idea) or by bouncing the email. However, much spam can be very difficult to eliminate, because spammers have adapted a technique used by telemarketers. Some telemarketing companies use a computer program to generate phone numbers. The computer calls the number, and if someone answers the telemarketer starts the pitch. If there is no answer, the computer moves on and dials the next number. Spammers are using programs to generate email addresses, then send the advertisement to the generated list.

Bouncing an email means sending a message to the sender that the email was rejected. This can only be done on the mail server computer. When an email is sent to you, it arrives in your account on the ISP (Internet Service Provider) email server computer. When you check your email using your email program, the email is downloaded to your computer.

Legitimate marketers will remove the email address of a bounced email.

MailWasher will allow you to bounce emails while they are still on the email server computer. The freeware allows you to set up one account, while the pro version allows you to set up many accounts.
Tools available to you are:
  • MailWasher

  • Most ISP's (Internet Service Providers) have some form of spam filtering/blocking.
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Pop-Ups A pop-up is a browser window that opens up while you are visiting a website. Often, the purpose of the pop-up is to sell something. Pop-ups open by using a program called JavaScript. Web site designers use JavaScript to make the web site more interesting, functional, and useful. Most browsers have the ability to run JavaScript. You can disable JavaScript, but then your ability to interact with and/or view a website might be severely limited. Tools available to you are:
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Email Settings Because of the tight integration of Microsoft products, they are more vulnerable to viruses and worms. Here are some suggestions for protecting computer if you use these email programs.
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Maintenance There are three common causes for poor performance:
  1. Bad Registry Settings
    The registry is where Windows keeps critical information about software that is installed and about recently used files. Invalid registry settings remain behind when software is updated/removed or when you move/delete files. These invalid registry settings cause your computer to operate more slowly.

  2. Defragmentation
    Fragmentation is when a single file is in more than one piece on different parts of the hard drive. Defargmentation is the process of storing those pieces next to each other.

    Files are saved in blocks on the hard drive. Imagine these blocks are like tiles on a floor.

    Let's say you open up Micrsoft Word and start working on a new report. You get partially finished and save the file for later. The file is saved in one "tile" on the hard drive. You then open a new document and write a letter. That file is saved in one "tile" on the hard drive, right next to the report "tile". You go back to your report and write some more. The report file is now bigger than it was - it now takes up two "tiles" on the hard drive. The second "tile" is stored after the "tile" for the letter. Because the two report "tiles" are not next to each other, the file is said to be fragmented.

  3. Spyware
    I've already discussed spyware earlier. Spyware runs continuously, and uses an Internet connection whenever one is available. It is very easy to have several spyware programs running at any given time. Every spyware program running on your computer represents a decrease in performance.
IObit has two excellent freeware programs that take care of all of these problems.
Tools available to you are:
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Recommendations Here are a few additional software recommendations. I use these to minimize my security risks:
  • I use Firefox as my browser.

  • I use Thunderbird as my email program.

  • I have recently installed Ubuntu, a Linux-based operating system, on my laptop. Once I am more comfortable with it, I will install it on my desktop.
Tools available to you are:
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