Internet Security for Dummies

Have spent the last 6 weeks educating myself about virii, trojans, spy- and ad-ware.

The net-net for safe computing in the age of bullies is as follows:

  • Use Macintosh; failing that,
  • Download and use any browser but Microsoft Internet Explorer
  • Keep MS operating system security patches up-to-date
  • Keep anti-virus programs up-to-date
  • Use a firewall
  • Get to know your computer. Learn what processes it normally starts up and are required for your computer to run efficiently. On my machine (MS XP Home) ctr+alt+del brings up Windows Task Manager - which will come to be your new best friend. Any process shown as "running" in Windows Task Manager can be "Googled" whereupon you will find out what that process actually does and whether it is necessary to run your computer. Do it.
  • "Google" HOSTS file. A good HOSTS file can prevent a lot of adware from ever getting near your hard drive.
  • Subscribe to CERT (Computer Emergency Readiness Team) mailing list(s) as appropriate to your level of interest. They offer valuable and timely tips and alerts. Heard about Microsoft's latest image vulnerability from CERT first, and got the patch before anything bad happened.
Don't have an anti-virus program? Shame!

Don't have an ad-ware checker? Shame!

Basically, you should have at least two of each of the above running on your computer. Why? Developers rely on folks like you to bring new variants to their attention, so it takes time to create the updates that detect them. If one developer doesn't have the newest virus, likely the other will.

Regarding firewalls, one must have one these days, but a more effective solution is to install a router between the wall and your computer - whether you need a router or not. The router acts as a hardware wall between your computer and the internet. Why security professionals do not advocate the router as a security solution for the single computer household or business is beyond me.


I've been using Trend's PC-cillin for years, starting with a year or so just using their free on-line virus scan. PC-cillin has its own firewall, too. This link takes you to their on-line virus scan. You must navigate there with IE's Active-X enabled. Just don't forget to disable upon completion of the scan.


Grisoft's AVG runs well with Trend's package and they have a FREE personal edition.

Got a suspicious file? You can upload it to the experts at Kaspersky, one of the most highly-regarded AV providers. According to industry insiders, Kaspersky's AV program is excellent; the downside is, it uses a lot of resources.


Wasn't that happy with Symantec's program. Think it conflicted with other AV / Ad-ware programs I had running at the time. Your mileage may differ.


Have heard good and bad about Panda.



I use and highly recommend both Pest Patrol (they offer a FREE on-line scan) and the FREE Spybot Search & Destroy.


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