NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, April 2005
The Computer Corner
by Joe Shipley, Phoenix PC Users Group

Protecting Your Computer During the “Flu and Virus” Season
With all the viruses and other malware around, I have accumulated a group of software that I consider to be necessary ‘protection’ for any computer that connects to the Internet. The software I recommend consists of:

All of these programs are FREE. Millions of people are using them. For Ad-aware alone, there have been more than 90 million downloads just from Download.com.

Once these programs are on your system, you need to make sure they are updated. AVG and Zone Alarm have automatic updating; the others need to be updated by clicking a button.

Ad-Aware and Spybot specialize in removing spies and malware from your system. They each will remove some bad things the other does not, so I use them both.

When running Ad-Aware, first do an update to check for the newest definition files. After updating, run the program. If the program finds items which need to be removed, you’ll see a display of the items suggested for removal. If there are no check marks in the boxes to the left of the item name, right-click in the frame and choose the “Select All” option. This will check all the items for you. Click on “Next” to move the items to a quarantine area. Once quarantined, the items are removed and will refrain from causing you any problems. If you remove something you really need, you can go to the quarantine area and recover the item to have it restored.

Upon installation of Spybot, the program will search for updates and give you the opportunity to download them. Do so. Updates are good. After updating, run the Immunizer to make sure you block about 2,000+ bad sites. Once updated, go to “Search & Destroy” to begin searching for more than 24,000 (as of this writing) spies, malware, Trojans and other bad things, which if found, will be removed from your system.

One of the features included with Spybot that I recommend is called “Tea Timer.” This feature advises you every time a change is proposed for your startup files. Viruses, worms and Trojans will often insert instructions into the startup files. By utilizing Tea Timer, you can determine if a change to these files should be permitted or not. The logic of whether or not to allow a change is simple: if you just installed some software and you’re prompted for a change, it’s probably ok. But if you’re prompted for a change and you did not just install new software, just click NO. When in doubt, keep it out. You can always add it in later.

CWShredder can be used to remove a specific group of web search files that can hijack your browser to take you to certain websites and use specific search engines, whether you want to or not. The shredder removes those web search hijackers.

Zone Alarm is a terrific firewall that advises you of every attempt made by your computer to access the Internet, and of each attempt by the Internet to access your computer. At first it may seem like an annoyance, but once you catch on to the rhythm of how it works, it will greatly reduce the number of unauthorized Internet accesses without your consent. The program runs in the background, and gives you the chance to let it learn which Internet sites are acceptable and which aren’t. For example, the first time you go to do online banking, you may see a message asking you if you want to go to a specific site. If you say “NO,” you won’t be able to reach your bank’s web site. Don’t be alarmed. Try your bank again, and when you’re prompted to see if you really want to go to the bank’s site, then check the box “Remember this site” and click on the “Allow” button. The next time you want to go to the bank’s site you’ll get right in.

AVG Antivirus is a good antivirus program, self-updating, and will scan email as well as perform a regular antivirus scan. You can even setup automatic virus checking to have your system scanned when it’s convenient for you. With AVG you can, as Ron Popeil says, “Set it and Forget it!”

The last component of my protection package is Panicware’s Popup Stopper. This handy Popup blocker actually works. And if your bank’s web site uses popups which are being stopped, you can hold down the control key to temporarily disable the stopper to let you receive popups you actually want. You can also open the control center and disable the stopper at any time if the handy control key feature doesn’t do the job for you.

So this flu season you can get added protection by using the software described above, and minimize your downtime.

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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