The Internet is a savage old west environment lacking real structure and law. You have to be wary around every corner or your computer could get proverbially “shot in the back”. While the Internet is the wild west full of mad men and killers, your PC should be a fort allowing access only to the friendly and wanted visitors.I intend to help guide you on setting up your walls and gates to keep out the bad guys and keep your operating system from becoming a haven for no goodnicks.
I’ll start by addressing Spyware and Adware. These twins are running rampant around the WWW (Wild, Wild West) wreaking havoc on all computers they come into contact with. Sometimes they sneak in when you tell another program to come in. Sometimes they are dressed up as something they are not and hide out causing little irritations like system lockups and general unresponsiveness.
How can you tame these outlaws and make your PC peaceful again? Hire on Spybot Search and Destroy.
You can have it round up the baddies and throw them out of town. Spybot is also really good with it’s wall building capabilities. Tell it to give “Tea Timer” a go. It gives you full control over registry changes made to your system, so the only changes that happen are the ones YOU make happen.
The next Deputy to hire on will be Adaware, for the longest time it reigned as the top hired gun for getting rid of the riff-raff and when used along with Spybot you have yourself one hell of a anti-Spyware / Adware force to be reckoned with.
Viruses. One of the most feared groups of outlaws on the internet. They can sneak into your walls and send your information back to the enemy. They can recruit or force otherwise good files into being bad. They can eat up important files or simply burn your place to the ground. You need something with a sharp eye watching over your town to keep it clear of these dirty scum.
Try AVG on for size. It’s not so big as to get in the way constantly like the McAfee and Norton brothers do and does the job just as good. Just make sure to keep it up to date and it’ll nab the intruders and have them hanging at the gallows by dawn.
Hypothetically speaking, let’s say some baddies are in town. Your hired guns Spybot, Adaware and AVG have all been taken hostage and just can’t get the job done. You need something that is up to date, something that can get all the bad guys in one trip.
You need to hire some help on from the outside. Try Housecall from TrendMicro. Housecall is kept up to snuff everytime you use it. It also tackles all the WWW’s worst scumbags from A to Zlob, whether Adware or Spyware or a Virus.
Sometimes these big killers are just too much for your needs. Maybe you’ve got a bad feeling about one file you downloaded from some website and just want to check it out in a hurry. You could use AVG’s context menu scan by right clicking or you could use something else. Something like Virus Total’s online scanner. Fast, full of finesse. Sleek and all done on their website, so no extra occupants in your place.
Sometimes the best solution is to just lock everything down except for one door. That way everything coming in and out can be monitored as if there was an invite list. That’s a firewall for you. They all act basically the same way to the intruders. They are the doormen into your fort and check to see if the visitor is on the invite list, if they are not they kindly tell them to keep heading on down the road.
The thing that makes one firewall different from another is just how bossy, loud and obnoxious they will be toward you. This all comes down to how much you can tolerate and feel comfortable with, but if I might suggest a few….
Sygate I can personally vouch for. I used Sygate for years and once you tell it who is welcome and who isn’t it’ll basically leave you alone.
Tiny Firewall with a name like that it sounds like it’ll be well mannered.
Now that you have rounded up all your deputies they need a Sheriff to keep them all working and in line. That’s where you come in. You need to make sure your defenses are all up to date. That means scheduling automatic updates, manually updating if required and changing your habits to make sure you aren’t inviting any baddies into your forts walls.
Common sense is the most powerful defense against your PC becoming the home of the nasties. Always use trusted sites for downloading. Softpedia is a great site for downloads, as is Download.com but mind the fine print when installing those downloaded files. Sometimes they come bundled with legitimate software that you just don’t want. Yahoo Toolbar is a fine example of this software. While it may be completely legitimate, I personally have never wanted it, but it is bundled with many different freeware applications.
Another great point I missed above is to check the license of the files before you download them. Some are Freeware, Open Source and Gnu while others are Shareware (free to try), or you just have to out right buy them. All the applications I have listed above are freeware. They cost nothing to use.
The Internet can be a rough place for novice computer users. Taking the time to read up and understand how to maintain your computer will make your experience with it much more enjoyable in the long run. There are almost always free legitimate alternatives to any pay for program, so you don’t have to shell out the bucks to feel secure. Just maintain your updates, run a scan for the nasties from time to time and keep things cleaned up and your PC should not experience that unexplainable slowdown I hear from most of the people I do work for.
Maintaining your computer isn’t nearly as hard as you might think. The programs do most of the work for you. Perfectly capable programs are available for free. So before you shell out upwards of $80 an hour for someone else to run a few scans with software they acquired for free, try it yourself and save some cash.