FREE Services for Protecting your Computer

November 27, 2008

FREE Services for Protecting your Computer
~James Dunn

I like MicroSoft OneCare for a commercial product that takes care of virtually everything associated with the security of your computer; you get 3 licenses for about $50 a year (about $17 a computer). I use it myself on 3 of my computers and have had zero issues on those 3 computers.

I like it mostly for two of its features: it keeps the registry clean so my computer doesn’t slow down, and the Backup program allows each computer to automatically back itself up on one of the other computers; so if one computer dies, the backup is always up to date on one of the other computers.

But on my 4th computer I didn’t want to purchase another license so I optioned to use free security protection software offered on the Internet. These are well established programs that have had a good history of working well.

As always, backup your system and data before you attempt to do anything which might arbitrarily affect computer operation.

Windows XP “System Restore”

This built-in XP program will return your computer to a known condition. If you get into something unexpected, you can potentially use System Restore to get rid of a new glitch or other problem. Basically, it returns your system to what existed on a particular date.

<Start>

<All Programs>

<Accessories>

<System Tools>

<System Restore>

Check <Create a Restore Point> This will save your current system before you do anything else.

Come back here if you want to Restore your computer to a previous known condition.

Check <Restore my Computer to an Earlier Time> To a date Before a problem existed.

If you go back far enough, you will breeze past where you may have installed a program and unload it. System Restore in-general does not affect data storage.

System Restore uses a fixed amount of memory, so eventually the oldest saved system settings will be overwritten by new settings during the creation of the current Restore Point. So you can not arbitrarily go back to the settings of two years ago. So watch carefully for glitches and get rid of the glitches as soon as possible (like a pop-up disables your firewall).

Reboot your computer manually after using System Restore. This helps to stabilize your computer.

After using System Restore, remember to get the Updates from Microsoft so your computer has the current security patches.

http://update.microsoft.com/microsoftupdate/v6/default.aspx?ln=en-us

Again, reboot your computer manually after installing the security patches.

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Scanning Your Computer for Problems Before Loading Security Software

You can run a free security check software from Microsoft before you attempt to download security programs. This will help ensure a hacker hasn’t put something on your computer to keep security software from loading properly.

http://onecare.live.com/site/en-us/default.htm

Make sure you backup and save any volitile programs and all your data before running this program. As you should do before running any new program!

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I

Yahoo Default Email client and Pop-up Protection

If you do Not want Yahoo Messenger, but you still want pop-up protection and Yahoo Mail to open automatically.

You can just download the Yahoo Toolbar here:

http://toolbar.yahoo.com/

The Yahoo Toolbar provides free Pop-up protection, and provides the utility to allow IE to open the Yahoo email Compose page with the email link you clicked on in a web page.

Be sure to browse the available buttons for the Yahoo Toolbar, many of them are quite useful.

  • Restart your computer
  • Open your Internet Explorer web browser
  • Select “Tools” from the menu bar
  • Select “Internet Options”
  • Select “Programs” tab
  • Drop down “Email:” list and select “Yahoo! Mail”
  • Select “OK”.If you would rather use Yahoo Messenger to automatically open your Yahoo email Compose window when you click on an email link:
    • Download the most current version of Yahoo Messenger and include ALL of the options
    • Restart your computer
    • Open your Internet Explorer web browser
    • Select “Tools” from the menu bar
    • Select “Internet Options”
    • Select “Programs” tab
    • Drop down “Email:” list and select “Yahoo! Mail”
    • Select “OK”

    This also provides you with a large number of useful tools on your desktop, including messaging, streaming music, Finance tools, your Yahoo Calender and Address book, news, games…

    Now whenever you click on an email link your Yahoo email program will start automatically.

    .

    Registry Cleanup

    My laptop started running really slow.

    You can use a free registry cleaner from Microsoft for your PC, this helped immensely:

    MicroSoft OneCare Registry Cleaner

    http://onecare.live.com/site/en-us/center/cleanup.htm

    Read the terms of use. There might be something specific to your machine.

    .

    Anti-Virus for your computer and email:

    This is a free antivirus program that my father has been running for years, without any issues. It does not check for spyware, just viruses.

    Anti-Virus Group (AVG)

    http://free.grisoft.com/

    .

    Anti-Spyware Protection:

    This program protects your computer from hackers who place small programs in your computer to capture your account numbers, passwords, usernames, ….

    Nothing is hack-proof, but this program found over 60 occurrences of spyware on my computer the first time I used it; then it cleaned it off.

    Spybot Search & Destroy

    http://www.safer-networking.org/en/mirrors/index.html

    .

    Firewall Protection:

    A Firewall creates a lockable door between you and the Internet/network. Programs must have a key to be able to interact with your computer. This is the most important tool to protect the security of your computer. Be careful who you give a key to.

    The best firewall I know of, is the Hardware Firewall provided by Routers. Many of us have wireless routers so that we have a Wi-Fi network in our home. This has saved my computer on a large number of occassions. Even if they get past my Windows Firewall (software), they are stopped by my hardware firewall.

    To enable your Windows Firewall

    • Click <Start>
    • Click <Control Panel>
    • Click <Windows Firewall>
    • Check <On (Recommended)>

    To Obtain a Free Software Firewall

    POP-UP Windows and their ability to Get Around Your Firewall

    The pop-up windows that ask you a question are attempting to get a “key” from you to gain access to your computer. All you have to do is click on one of their control buttons (yes or no for example) which tells your computer to give them access. Often the displayed pop-up has nothing to do with what the buttons are intended to do.

    Some of those pop-up applications are designed to permanently turn off your firewall and notify the hacker that your firewall is shut down. Allowing the hacker access to everything in your computer. Unless you have a hardware firewall, like in your wireless router.

    Unless I’m on a reputable website where I am intentionally trying to use one of their services, I won’t ever click on a pop-up control! Ever! Every time one of those controls is clicked, I’m taking a risk that its a hacker trying to mess with my machine.

    Usually it is benign stuff and companies want to look at your usage statistics that IE collects. However, sometimes it is hackers trying to get information or just to mess up your computer.

    No matter which button you push on a pop-up, whether it says yes or no, any button starts an “Active-X” control that loads a program through your firewall. You just gave them a key by pressing one of the buttons.

    Instead of clicking any of the buttons inside the pop-up Window, click on the little “x” in the top right corner of the system window frame. This usually will get rid of the pop-up without having to use any of their controls.

  • If the pop-up doesn’t have a frame, where they are trying to force you to use their controls.

    • Press together the buttons Ctrl, Alt, Delete
      • this will open your Task Manager
    • Select “Task Manager” if it is given as an option.
    • Click on the “Applications” tab.
    • Click on any program that doesn’t look like it belongs
      • usually an Internet Explorer icon with some wording that describes the pop-up will be visible
    • If nothing unusual is visible, then close down Internet Explorer and restart the Internet Explorer application and navigate back to where you were before the pop-up.

    Remember, any pop-up you click on is a risk. I only click on pop-ups when I’m on reputable sites and I’m specifically trying to do something that requires the pop-up.

    Low-cost Web Hosting

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