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SECURITY - PART 1


Windows Update

Microsoft Update is a web site for updating Microsoft Windows operating systems. It is a location for downloading critical updates, service packs, security fixes, patches and free upgrades. Most updates and patches are available once a month on Microsoft Update. Updates can always be downloaded manually. The Microsoft Update web site requires Internet Explorer and the ActiveX control. It is not compatible with other web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox or Opera without installing specialized plug-ins.

Keeping your Windows operating system it up to date is not optional. As soon as patches and fixes are posted to Windows Update, hackers and other bad guys start writing bugs and viruses to take advantage of the problem. The easiest way to protect your system is to turn on Automatic Updates.

Automatic Updates

Windows can keep your computer up to date automatically with the latest updates. You do not need to search for critical updates because Windows delivers them directly to your computer. Windows recognizes when you are online and uses your Internet connection to search for downloads from the Windows Update Web site. An icon appears in the notification area each time new updates are available.

How to Turn On Automatic Updates:

  • Right-click on "My Computer".
  • Left-click on "Properties".
  • Left-click on the "Automatic Updates" tab.
  • Select "Automatic (recommended)".
  • Select "Every Day".
  • Select a time when your computer will be on and online.
  • Left-click on "OK".

Click here to see an animated demonstration of turning on Automatic Updates.

Just set it and forget it. Occasionally, Windows will ask you to restart your computer after an update. You can restart at your convenience -- just make sure to save any data you're working on.

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Anti-Virus Software

A computer virus is a computer program that spreads by inserting copies of itself into other executable code or documents. Viruses are one of the several types of malicious software. The term "virus" often refers to worms, trojan horses and other sorts of malware as well. Viruses can be intentionally destructive or can be fairly benign or merely annoying. The major effect of viruses is their uncontrolled self-reproduction, which wastes computer resources.

Included in the many types of viruses are:

Trojan horses
A Trojan horse is a computer program that pretends to do one thing (like claim to be a picture) but actually does damage when one starts it (it can completely erase one's files). Trojan horses cannot replicate automatically.

Worms
A worm is software that uses computer networks and security flaws to create copies of itself. It replicates itself to new computers using the flaws and then begins scanning and replicating again.

Email viruses
An email virus will use an email message as transportation, and will copy itself by automatically mailing itself to hundreds of people in the victim's address book.

Anti-virus software is necessary to help keep your system secure. All anti-virus software provides two types of protection:

  1. Real-time protection that monitors all computer traffic on your system and attempts to stop virus attacks as they happen. You should not run more than one anti-virus program for real-time protection at a time.

  2. Runs complete scans of your system to find and remove any virus activity you may already have. These scans can be started manually but the most common choice is to set the anti-virus software to run the scans automatically at specified intervals. I recommend at least one complete scan per week. You can run as many anti-virus scans as you wish using various programs.

There are many anti-virus programs available ranging from expensive to free. Here is a brief overview of the most popular and some recommendations:

Rating: 1 star
I do not recommend any of the Norton products. Norton uses a lot of your system resources, bogs down your RAM (memory) and causes your system to run slower. The following web site, "What Slows Windows Down?", shows that Norton Internet Security is the number one cause of system slowdowns and causes a 58% system delay on your system. In addition, since Norton is the most widely used anti-virus, hackers tend to target PCs with that software installed.


Rating: 2 stars
McAfee also uses a lot of your system resources and causes your system to run slower. "What Slows Windows Down?", shows that McAfee Internet Security Suite is also one of the largest causes of system slowdowns and causes a 12% system delay on your system.


Rating: 4 stars
According to "What Slows Windows Down?", BitDefender only uses 4% of your system resources. BitDefender Internet Security is a full security suite with spyware and anti-virus protection and the firewall protects against outside attacks. It features a spam filter that watches for phishing attacks. It scans all or part of a system on demand and can run multiple scheduled scans at intervals ranging from hours to years. Its real-time protection eliminates most viruses the moment they appear. By default it scans accessed files, incoming and outgoing email, and downloaded files.


Rating: 5 stars
This is the anti-virus program I use at the moment and recommend it highly. If you're going to pay for an anti-software program, this is among the best. NOD32 is a very effective anti-virus system that handles file scanning, email scanning and real-time protection. It is very successful at preventing installation of spyware.


Free Online Virus Scans

The following web sites offer free online virus scans. This could come in handy if a nasty bug renders your own anti-virus software useless. These online scanners must be run on the Internet Explorer browser.

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Anti-Spyware Software

What is spyware? -- Spyware is software that performs actions such as advertising, collecting personal data, or changing the configuration of your computer, usually without obtaining your consent. Spyware that displays advertisements and tracks your personal information is known as adware. This does not mean that all software which provides ads or tracks your online activities is bad. For example, you might sign up for free online email but agree to receive targeted ads in exchange for the service. You may have decided that it is a fair tradeoff. You might also agree to let the company track your online activities to determine which ads to show you.

Other kinds of spyware, known as malware, make changes to your system that can be annoying and can cause your computer to slow down or crash. Programs known as browser hijackers can change your web browser's home page or search page, or add components to your browser you don't need or want. These programs also make it very difficult for you to change your settings back to the way you originally had them.

There are a number of ways spyware can get on your system. A common trick is to covertly install the software during the installation of other software. Many times misleading pop-up ads trick you into clicking on them and then spyware is installed. Whenever you are installing something on your computer, make sure you carefully read all disclosures, including the license agreement and privacy statement. Sometimes the inclusion of unwanted software in a given software installation is documented, but it may appear at the end of a license agreement or privacy statement.

Spyware also includes such nasties as:

  • Key loggers - Sometimes called a keystroke logger, key logger, or system monitor, is a hardware device or small program that monitors each keystroke a user types on a specific computer's keyboard.

  • Root kit - A rootkit is a collection of programs that enable administrator-level access to a computer or computer network. Typically, a cracker installs a rootkit on a computer after first obtaining user-level access, either by exploiting a known vulnerability or cracking a password. Once the rootkit is installed, it allows the attacker to mask intrusion and gain root or privileged access to the computer and, possibly, other machines on the network.

Anti-spyware software is necessary to help keep your system clean. Some anti-spyware programs provide two types of protection:

  1. Real-time protection that monitors all computer traffic on your system and attempts to stop spyware attacks as they happen. You should not run more than one anti-spyware program for real-time protection at a time.

  2. Runs complete scans of your system to find and remove any spyware programs you may already have. These scans can be started manually but the most common choice is to set the anti-spyware software to run the scans automatically at specified intervals. I recommend at least one complete scan per week. You can run as many anti-spyware scans as you wish using various programs.

Many anti-spyware programs perform scans only and do not offer real-time protection. Most of these types of anti-spyware software are available free of charge. Both types of software are reviewed below:


Anti-Spyware software that provide system scans and real-time protection:

Rating: 5 stars
Spy Sweeper's various shields provide active protection to keep spyware from invading your system including the Keylogger Shield, which detects programs that monitor and record your passwords and other keystrokes. Automated scanning is also included.


Windows Defender
Rating: 3 stars
Price (Nov. 2013): FREE
You just can't beat the price. You can schedule automatic scans and choose whether to have Defender automatically apply the default action for each threat found. It's not as thorough as Spysweeper but it will protect you from the majority of spyware. Included with Windows 7.


Anti-spyware software that perform system scans only:

Spybot - Search and Destroy
Rating: 4 stars
Price (Nov. 2013): FREE

  • Click on "Update".
  • If it finds updates, check all of them and then click on "Download Updates".
  • Click on "Immunize" on the left menu.
  • If a message pops up that says "Please immunize" at the end then click on "Immunize" on the top left (next to green plus sign).
  • Click on "Search & Destroy" on the left menu.
  • Click on "Search for Problems".
  • When it's done, click on "Fix selected problems".

Spyware Blaster
Rating: 4 stars
Price (Nov. 2013): FREE

  • Click on "Download latest protection updates" at the bottom.
  • Click on the "Check for updates" button at the bottom.
  • If it says no updates are available, you're done.
  • If updates are available, download them and then click on "Enable All Protection" after updates are downloaded.

Free Online Spyware Scans

The following web site offers free online spyware scans. This could come in handy if a nasty bug renders your system unusable. These online scanners must be run on the Internet Explorer browser.

Return to top      Security - Part 2




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