Windows Security Risks – 10 Rules To Live By

Acronym Update: 09/17/2008

Dear Readers,

This is a long, but definitely not cumbersome update. Take it seriously! Your wallet and the health of your computer could depend on it. This Update is so rich with information that I should simply call this my October 2008 version of The Acronym. However, I am not going to live on yesterday’s bread when I enjoy writing and meeting your needs so much.

Just when I was beginning to think that Windows XP with the latest SP3 update was approaching the level of security provided by Macintosh OS X 10.5 …. In the spirit of the election season I would like to claim that I DON’T RECALL such a statement. [Begin Southern accent] I did not have relations with that operating system, Miss Windows XP….. I did not lie about it. Uh hum, I just admired her from a distance and just one time.

All kidding aside, it seems those looking to do harm to Windows users are at it again. Detection of these threats and solutions to them are lacking in typical Windows fashion. I am generally referring to a whole host of vulnerabilities, but specifically I want you to know about a malware attack known as Anti Virus 2009. In this attack, an un-authorized web browser will open while you are on the Internet. It will start showing a graphic saying that it is doing a scan of your computer for viruses, spyware, etc. THIS IS A LIE! Do not click on this ad. FALSE ADVERTISING ALERT!!

If you did click on it, you will need some help. The company promoting the product (if you’d call it that…. promoting fraud is what I’d like to say) wants you to pay $50 or more to remove it by actually purchasing Anti Virus 2009. Don’t do it! I’ve read reports online from victims who stated that they were charged far more than that by traveling this route to fix the problem.

The only sure remedy is to back up what files you can, re-format your hard drive, reinstall Windows, reinstall essential programs, and transfer those backed up files onto your computer again. 99% of you cannot do this on your own. This means you will need to book an appointment with me. These tasks I’ve outlined take anywhere from 3 to 6 hours, but don’t worry I’ll take cash, check … even Visa and American Express. (I don’t discriminate like the Olympics do with their silly Visa commercials. That’s what I call bi-partisan.)

Windows users – The Acronym’s Security Manifesto. 10 Rules To Live By.

1) Stay current with your Windows Updates. I am a big fan of having Windows Updates automatically downloaded and installed, as long as you are not using a dial-up Internet connection. You can do this by going to your Control Panel >> Windows Updates. If you have not enabled this setting previously or don’t think these updates have been installed in a while, it wouldn’t hurt to go http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com from the Internet Explorer browser.

2) Download the latest version of the Firefox browser and use it as your primary browser. http://www.firefox.com You may experience 1 out of 100 websites that display better in Internet Explorer, so go ahead and use IE for those sites. However, Firefox is much more secure and user friendly than Internet Explorer. On the Windows side of my Intel-based MacBook, I use Internet Explorer as little as possible.

3) Make sure you have a legitimate Anti Virus program installed, ie. Norton, McAfee, AVG, Kapersky. There may be other good ones, but you can bank on one of those for being adequate. After installation, enable automatic updates. Scan your hard drive weekly for viruses. You can choose to schedule weekly scans, but when those scans begin — YOU MUST STOP EVERYTHING YOU ARE DOING and allow the scan to finish. On a computer made within the past 3 or 4 years, it’s not uncommon for such a scan to take 45 to 90 minutes

4) Be sure to have Windows Firewall enabled (Control Panel) or use a firewall solution provided by one of the 4 companies mentioned above. Firewall software prevents authorized intruders, ie. people on other computers, from accessing your computer. Sometimes your firewall software can tend to be overprotective, but sites or application that you mistakenly block can always be unblocked.

5) Know that AT&T DSL, Comcast and Cox cable Internet provide security software (anti-virus + firewall at the very least) for free or at a very low cost (Cox) to their subscribers. You don’t have use the software they provide, but it is legitimate and will save you anywhere from $50 to $110 per year. However, if being able to interact with the technical support department of your security software provider on a real-time basis, ie. by phone or live chat, is important to you be sure to check to make sure that the Norton, McAfee, etc. provided by your Internet service provider gives you that option. If this is not possible, and you are the type that likes to talk to tech support a lot — buy your own software.

6) If you have been confused by bundled security suite software in the past, please download the free version of AVG http://free.avg.com and use the Windows Firewall at a bare minimum. Also have one of the following anti-spyware solutions installed….

7) Ad-Aware I no longer recommend Ad-Aware.  Malware Bytes is a fine secondary malware scanner.

#8 Back up your important files regularly. If you have less than 100 document files on your computer and maybe a few photos, a 2 to 4 gigabyte (GB) flash drive will suffice. Go out and get yourself one. If you don’t have this, it’s like driving a car without brakes. If you are one of those limited backup type of users, save all of your documents, pictures, etc. under one main folder, ie. My Documents (sub-folders are OK), and every week drag that folder onto to your flash disk overwriting the previous contents. If you have kids, have downloaded music, and large numbers of photos and documents — YOU MUST GET AN EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE. I recommend selected Western Digital and Seagate models, with comprehensive backup software and a 3 to 5 year warranty. If you have multiple computers in the house, a high speed Internet connection and a wireless router, you may want to choose an external hard drive with networking capabilities. Otherwise, you may want to buy a separate external drive for each computer. At $100 to $150 for a 300 to 500 GB drive, i think buying a separate drive for each PC may indeed be better unless one of those computers is a laptop and you can easily move it to the location of the external hard drive. Recommended external hard drive backup: monthly or more frequently depending on the importance of your data.

9) No adult websites / no file sharing websites. The Anti Virus 2009 scam I mentioned at the beginning of this post was primarily caused by malicious web code inserted on pornographic video and file sharing websites.

10) If all of this information has been particularly troubling to you and you realize that maintaining your computer will take too much effort, buy a Mac!! Check out the Apple Store: http://store.apple.com

While I give my seal of approval to all of the security software mentioned in this post, I do not know each of them in the utmost detail. I am personally quite familiar with the Windows Firewall and the Norton security package provided by AT&T DSL. If you have specific questions about your security software, consult the help / tutorial section of the software first. Next, contact the software provider for help. If those two steps fail to address your question adequately — contact me for an appointment. I cannot sufficiently help you with the operation of your security software over the phone, however a REMOTE APPOINTMENT can likely be scheduled saving both you and I time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this write -up as much I have.

This election season, VOTE NO ON DIET SODA AND NO ON FOODS WITH CORN SYRUP IN THEM !!

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