The Internet Continues To Be A Challenge

For anyone running a business, big or small, in this day and age, the internet and all its uncertainties can make it difficult. For that matter, John Q Public sitting in his family room plugging away at his computer can be like walking through a mine field.

The internet was discovered in 1957 and nobody can argue that its development has been a goldmine for people accessing information and, in fact, enabling businesses and individuals to sell their products to a global audience - your widgets can be sold right there in your home town and in Tokyo, Japan if there is a market. Hell, if there is no market you simply email an agent there and hire him to create the market; then start getting your shipping department to set the postage meter for Japan.

Life is good. All these righteous people working together to create the internet and those enterpreneurs who take on the challenge and use it in their business plan. But - there is the other side of the coin. In every society there are those miscreants that misuse tools made availble to them. These are people like the recent Microsoft employee that stole four hundred and sixty thousand dollars from Microsoft and was trying for another $3.7 million. Then there is a whole country that just "turns off" the internet because of civil unrest. There are also those that choose to support the WikiLeaks Army by employing software that floods and shuts down internet web sites such as Mastercard and Visa. You're well aware of the spammers that fill our Inboxes with unwanted mail telling us to buy penis enhancers, cheap medication and a host of other things, and another being scaremongerers that tell us our computers are hacked and we need to download their software.

The above examples are just a few of the individuals or groups that make one stop and question whether we are making any headway in cleaning up the internet. We must not give up hope as there are many fine individuals and security groups working away to do just that. This article is being posted here to help - all my suggestions that follow involve no outlay of money in that all programs are freeware.

1. Hackers love to hack the number one guy. Saying that, you can be sure Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser is the number one target as it has the most users. Your choice of browser is yours. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages but by and large, no one browser is more secure than the next one. If you were weaned on IE as I was then continue to use it, but keep it and your operating system up to date. Don't blame Microsoft if you get hacked if your Windows Updates slipped your mind.

2. Use browser helpers. Install SpyShelter. SpyShelter monitors vulnerable and weak spots in your computer system to ensure that even the most advanced keyloggers are shut down even before these can launch a single dangerous attack against your computer. A keylogger is malware that has been silently installed on your computer and it keeps track of everything you type. Later this information is retrieved and your identity is stolen or your savings are removed from your bank account. Install WinPatrol, a jewel of a program that sits in the background and warns you of impending problems. Install Spyware Guard which provides a real-time protection solution against spyware.

3. Never be hooked up to the internet without having an anti virus application installed to protect you. And it does no good unless it is kept up to date. New variations of virii are developed and discovered daily - you need to set your anti virus program to update automatically. I have tried them all and I have finally settled on Avira as my av of choice. There are a host of others but some will cause more problems than they are worth.

4. Keep your applications up to date. If you are running an old version of Acrobat Reader that allows you to read pdf files, your computer is insecure. There are a few easy ways to stay updated: a. visit Calendar of Updates on a regular basis and see which of your applications have been updated. b. Use the Secunia Scanner to identify out of date applications.

5. Get your harddrive ready by eliminating a lot of files that you don't need. Temporary Internet Files - these pesky little files have a way of adding up to a lot of space being used on your harddrive. Every time you visit a site on the internet a temporary file is created (as sort of a shortcut) and when you visit that same website the next time your computer loads these shortcuts instead of downloading them all over again from the internet. The website loads faster that way. These files can all be deleted safely. In IE browser click on Tools, then Internet Options and under Browsing History click on Delete - there you can tick Temporary Internet Files and Cookies and click on Delete. Close the window by clicking Apply then OK. If you've never done this before watch for a whole lot of files being deleted in the applet shown. Your next step is to clear your Recycle Bin. Right-click the desktop shortcut and use the Empty Recyle Bin. At this point you have probably deleted hundreds if not thousands of files and created large gaps of "empty space" on your harddrive so we now have to get everything continuous again and we do this by Defragging your harddrive. Your computer comes with a defragger built in but Auslogics Disk Defrag does a much better job. Install and run it and your harddrive is now ready for the next step.

6. If your computer came with only one harddrive then your operating system and all your files are all on the same harddrive and this could be a problem down the road. If a virus or trojan toasts your computer you stand to lose everything whereas if the operating system was set up on a partition by itself you have a better chance of restoring your files. Download and install Easus Partition Master. Run this software and create a new partition. Once finished and you have restarted your computer you can safely move all your files like your movies, pictures, text files, etc to the new partition. NOTE: your operating system must remain on the root partition as well as any folders that were created when applications were loaded. So if you see a folder called Intel or Adobe or the like - leave them alone.

7. Imaging Your Harddrive: This section allows you to make a copy of your operating system on your root partition and allows you to save it in case you are ever forced to reinstall Windows because of a virus, trojan or harddrive failure. Download and install Macrium Reflect. When you start it up the program allows you to create a boot CD/DVD which I recommend you do. As you will be imaging a very large set of files you will need to use more than one dvd so this step is better accomplished if you have access to an external harddrive. If you don't have one, buying one would be a worthwhile investment. When you run Macrium Reflect you completely erase the contents of your root partition and insert the image you have just created so in effect you are simply restarting where you left off when you took the image. Make sure that image is securely saved on your external harddrive as it can be a real time saver down the road if you have a computer that has been pooched.

8. So What Stuff Do I Need To Run To Stay Clean?
There is no "one suite" of security tools that can keep your computer clean as malware can slip through all your defences in so many ways - number one being the way you use your computer. Need an example? File Sharing is key in malware being passed around without the user's knowledge. File Attachments in your email is another. So accept the fact that some malware is going to end up on your machine and combat that malware by installing and running two spyware scanners that will identify and delete it. Again, these scanners are only effective if you keep them up to date. And run them often as their spyware defintions get updated on a daily basis!
Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware are your two tools.

9. So What Stuff Do I Need To Stay Clear Of
Every business person looks for ways to improve his business and a lot are reaching out to Social Networking like Facebook. In my opinion this is a fatal mistake. Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, will disagree but the fact that he became an instant multi-millionaire probably has a lot to do with it. Facebook is riddled with security flaws and "having a wall" and "inviting friends" is akin to putting your computer on a park bench at lunch time and letting anyone go through your business records. I feel the same way about Twitter. Sure, the "Tweet Me" icon looks pretty cute on your business web page, but get real - how does a pimpled-faced thirteen-year-old in White Plains, New York looking to get as many "friends" as he can have to do with your business being successful?
Business owners looking to improve their status on the internet should stick to blogging and newsletters - you are then dealing with serious people interested in your product line, not somebody hoping to fill his "friend quota".

10. If you presently do not have a web page get one. Why settle on selling your widgets just at the Farmers Market when there are folks out there in White Plains, Puerto Vallarta and Kafr el-Sheikh that really need your product.

11. Is Your Computer A Zombie ?
This is a very important matter so read it twice! The miscreants discussed above love to infiltrate computers with spyware, virii and trojans to gain access to your computer. They then control your computer (without your knowledge) to send spam, attack websites, send phisher scams, spread viruses, download pornography, and steal personal information. One security firm estimates that 80% of spam is sent through zombie computers. One expert asserts that 1 in 3 infected computers is a zombie. Australia's communications regulator has reported that there are approximately 25,000 to 30,000 computers compromised by malware every day in Australia. Obvious signs to check for are:
 • Internet activity when you aren't yourself accessing the Internet,
 • Slow machine response,
 • Disabled virus checker,
 • Unable to update virus checker
So you ask what to do? Unplug your computer from the internet immediately and unfortunately for you the best way to proceed is to take your computer to a serviceman or power user who can delete the contents of your computer and give you a fresh start. He'll be able to save your documents and pictures, but they will need to be "thoroughly checked" for hidden malware - you don't want to reintroduce an infection on your newly loaded computer. Of course you could just stick your head in the sand and continue being a zombie and sometime in the future either your ISP will cancel your account or there will be a knock on the door and two burley detectives will flash their badges. Oh, and when you get that fresh computer home be sure to start using it in a secure manner so you do not become reinfected. Be prepared to spend a few bucks as flattening a computer is time consuming and a serviceman doesn't work for nothing.

All of the programs above are straight forward to run but if you are one of those "all left-handed dudes" that gets nervous easy, you might want to have a power user do Steps 5, 6 and 7 for you. Not to scare you - if you screw this up your computer may not want to boot up. Use your best judgement as only you know your nerd level.

All of the above programs run flawlessly on my WindowsXP SP3 'Puter - Pat Keenan

Yes, I know - Windows XP is no longer supported and a security threat to have connected to the internet. My work computer is Windows 7. The XP box enables me to print and scan - damned if I was going to throw out perfectly good hardware. And while on the topic I might burst your bubble but I have that box connected to the internet and it is perfectly safe the way I have it set up and make use of it contrary to the scare tactics that Microsoft uses to get you to buy their "latest and greatest" operating system which no doubt will require you to buy a brand new computer!.

47 Mercury

I am not a Microsoft VIP nor do I have any college degree in computer maintenance - I'm simply a self-taught power user who works on 'puters as would a backyard mechanic work on his prized automobile making sure it runs on all eight pistons, not allowing foul gases escape into the air and looking like a hundred bucks when parked in his driveway. If you'd like me to check out your 'puter problems drop it off and I'll see if I can help. It won't be a freebie but it won't cost much.

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