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Protecting Your Computer From Internet Hazards

There are a few things you should familiarize yourself with if you are going to be using your computer on the Internet. The fact that you are reading this means you are connected to the Internet. This information may seem boring or tedious to you compared to other colorful and exciting web sites, but becoming familiar with a few basic computer necessities may save a lot of headaches in the future. The first three subjects are vitally important to keeping your computer in good operating condition. If you are not completely familiar with these subjects, do your computer a favor and take a few minutes to read this web page carefully.

All the topics presented in this tutorial are in plain language without difficult technical terms where possible. The topics are not intended to cover all technical aspects of the subjects. They are to familiarize new users with some of the common problems they might encounter with using a computer on the Internet.

What your computer needs to be equipt with before web surfing;

(1.) An up to date anti-virus program
(2.) Some type of anti-spyware programs
(3.) A good firewall
(4.) All current Windows updates should be installed

Virus Protection

A virus is a malicious program which may be introduced into your computer's operating system from various sources. Viruses are created by people who are intent on disrupting the flow of information on the Internet. Some viruses are released by those angry with one of the corporate computer giants and some are only a malicious joke. The damage can be as small as a minor irritation or as large as destroying your entire computer memory.

When you purchase a new computer, the first thing you should consider is a good anti-virus program if you plan to connect the computer to the Internet. Many new computers come with a free trial anti-virus already loaded. Most of these free trial offers are good for about three months. If you received a trial anti-virus with your computer purchase, check the expiration date. You can use the trial version until it expires, but will need to either renew the anti-virus you have or get another anti-virus before the expiration date. There are many commercial anti-virus programs on the market or you may choose to use one of the free anti-virus programs which are available. It does not matter which you choose as long as you have a current anti-virus and either get daily updates or set it to get automatic updates.

If you are using a commercial anti-virus program it will have to be kept current. Most program subscriptions are good for one year and cost about $30.00 for a one year subscription. The program will still scan for known viruses after the subscription expires, but you can no longer receive updates on new viruses which come out after the expiration date. New viruses are released all the time, one or two a week, and you must protect your computer from these new threats. These updates are called virus definitions and must be kept current as new viruses are released. If you can't use a commercial anti-virus, use one of the free anti-virus programs and update it daily.

Viruses may come from several different sources. You need to be familiar with these and know how to protect your computer. One of the most common ways to get a virus is from an infected email attachment. The email message will normally be scanned for viruses when it comes in, but the scan doesn't usually include any attachments. Never open an email attachment until it has been scanned. Be cautious of any attachments which arrive from someone you do not know, but you can get a virus from those you know. They might not even be aware they have the virus. Some viruses, trojans, or worms may take over a computer and start sending themselves to everyone in the address book on that computer. For this reason you should scan all attachments, even those from friends. Be especially cautious of attachments which have a file name that end in .exe, .vbs, .bat, .pif, and .scr . These are the types of files that are most commonly used to transmit viruses and other malware. Also be wary of any zipped files.

Resist the temptation to open attachments from people you don't know. These emails often have titles which excite your curiosity, but contain only a virus which then infects your computer. If you decide to open an attachment, first save it to a file. It is best to have an empty file already created for this purpose. Have the file set to show details so you can determine the file type before deciding to open it. Detailed information on setting up this file can be found on PAGE 3 of this tutorial. Next highlight the attachment in the file. If you have an anti-virus icon on the tool bar, clicking it will cause it to scan the highlighted file or files. A window will open giving details of the scan and letting you know if the file is free of viruses. If there is no anti-virus icon on the toolbar, right click the file name. A dropdown menu should open with one of the options being to scan for viruses. Right clicking an empty area on the tool bar will show which options are available on the tool bar. If your anti-virus is listed, but does not appear on the toolbar, place a check in front of it (by left clicking it) and it will then be available as an icon on the toolbar.

Other ways a virus could get on your computer are from downloads or from shared disks. A virus can be contained in downloads of music, screen savers, games or other programs. This is particularly true of free offers. If you do download anything, save it to a file and scan it with the anti-virus before opening it. It is done the same as with an email attachment. You can also take the precaution of doing a little research on a program you wish to download. Place the name of the program in a search engine and hit enter. Pay attention to any tech discussions which come up in your search. These may give clues to the safety of the download. If you are playing games or loading data from a disc which has been on any other computer, scan the disc with your anti-virus before proceeding.

U.S. Government Cyber Website - Information on new security threats from Uncle Sam
Virus Information from Microsoft - Discussion on need for anti-virus software by Microsoft
Panda free online virus scan
Bit Defender free online virus scan
Trend Micro free online virus scan
Free AVG Anti-virus
Free !Avast Anti-virus


Spyware is not considered a virus. It is hidden programs contained in various things you may download from the Internet, usually without your knowledge or approval. Once it gets into your computer's operating system the spyware reports back to its origin, facts about which web sites you visit, and maybe some of your computer preferences, or how often you use the computer. While these activities normally do no real harm to your computer, they do slow it down considerably. When enough spyware has gotten on to the computer it will become very slow. No one wishes to pay extra for a high speed operating system and then have it slowed down by spyware. Some of the spyware / malware may even highjack your selected preferences for homepage or other options. Many of these highjackers are very difficult to get rid of once they are on your computer. The best solution is to avoid getting them to begin with. This is not always possible, but there are ways to deal with spyware.

Don't be tricked into downloading spyware. On many of the web sites you may visit there will be pop ups telling you there is spyware on your computer or that your computer is running slower. Some of these pop ups will try to look like a Windows message or a message from Microsoft. They will use the same colors and style. These pop ups are not to be trusted. The legitimate spyware removal sites do not use pop ups. Never click on any pop up ad. Some of the pop up spyware removal ads will put more spyware on your operating system, some of which is very difficult to remove. Use only trusted spyware removal tools and get them directly from the approved web sites.

Many free, cute, or helpful little programs offered for download contain spyware along with the programs they offer. The best solution is to avoid all downloads, but you are going to want to add certain things to your computer, so this may not be practical. If you find a program you wish to download, go to your search engine and enter the name of the program. Do a little research on the program. Read any available reports or tech discussions on it and try to determine if it is worth the risk. Programs which change your home page or highjack your preferred search engine should be avoided. If you wish to change the home page, do it using the Tools / Internet Options icon on your tool bar. Do not click on any buttons on a web site which say "Make this my home page" or anything to that effect. Selecting search programs is a simple matter of adding the search engine home page to your browser favorites list or placing it on your links bar. There is no good reason to download any search helpers.

You will probably not be able to avoid all spyware if you use your computer on the Internet. You should get one or two of the programs which are available to check your system for spyware and run them on a regular basis. Some of these anti-spyware programs are offered commercially and some are free. The free programs do a good job and should be sufficient for your spyware scans. These programs will check your operating system for spyware and give you the option to remove it. They may not be able to remove all spyware programs. For hard to remove spyware or highjackers, you may need a program specially designed to remove the one stubborn program you wish to be rid of. You will have to search the web and tech boards to locate these solutions. Two of the free programs which do a good job of locating and removing general spyware are Spybot Search and Destroy and Ad-Aware. Microsoft also has a beta (pre-release) version of a spyware removal program which can be downloaded.

Safer-Networking - Link to free download of Spybot Search and Destroy
This spyware removal program is offered free for personal home use. Donations are accepted and if you find the program useful you should consider making a donation to maintain the program and site.
Lava Soft - A free version of Ad-Aware is available from Lavasoft

Windows Updates

Your computer came with (hopefully) a fully functional operating system, but from time to time it is necessary to update the operating system to address security concerns which may arise or correct bugs in the code. These updates should be free for all registered copies of your operating system and are easily maintained. Keeping your Windows operating system updated is important. Many viruses and highjackers use gaps in the computer code which creates the Windows operating system to work their evil. Keeping the system updated plugs these gaps and helps protect you from viruses, trojans, and worms. It is very simple and easy to keep your system updated. You can use the automatic updates feature which is built into most of the latest operating systems or you can do updates manually.

To set up automatic updates or change your automatic update preferences click Start / Control Panel / Automatic Updates. This control panel option is only available to WindowsXP users who have installed Windows Service Pack 2. If you are using an older operating system, refer to the Users Guide which should be on your desktop. If you use WindowsXP and have not yet installed Service Pack 2, it is available from the Microsoft Windows Download web site.

If you choose to do the updates manually, or just want to check on the status of your updates, click "Tools" on your browser tool bar and select "Windows Update". You must be connected to the Internet for Windows Update to check your operating system. You will be directed to the Windows Update web site and given the option to have your system scanned for needed critical updates. If any critical updates are found to be needed, they should be installed immediately. You may also be offered other non-critical updates after the scan. It is up to you whether or not you need these other updates.

Microsoft Windows Update Web Site
Microsoft Download Center - Security and Updates, games, and other applications available for download


A firewall is a barrier between your computer and the Internet. The firewall protects your computer from some of the hazards of being on line and allows you to decide who has access to your computer through the Internet connection. A good firewall will allow you to choose which programs on your computer are allowed to access the Internet, which must ask before doing so, and which are denied Internet access. Commercial and freeware firewalls are available for your use. A simple firewall comes with some Windows operating systems. WindowsXP with Service Pack 2 installed has a more advanced firewall. This is much better than no firewall, but you may want to consider installing a good firewall in addition to the one which may be included with your Windows operating system. The firewall must be configured to allow or deny access and different levels of security may be selected. Keep in mind that the firewall will not help you, if you set the security settings too low, or allow every connection that is requested. It may take some tinkering with the settings to get your firewall to operate like you need it to, but once it is set, the extra security is well worth the time. You can run the Windows firewall and another aftermarket firewall at the same time. Most good firewalls will keep a log of Internet access activity and have an indicator to inform you anytime the connection is active. This could be invaluable in stopping unwanted and unauthorized Internet access to or from your computer.

Free Zone Alarm Firewall and other Zone Labs offers

There Is Much More

The above topics are certainly not everything you should know before using your computer on the Internet. They are just a few of the basics which should make your Internet experience more enjoyable and trouble free. I hope this topic will be of some help. Enjoy your computer.

Internet Safety

While using the Internet, you may be sending messages to people you don't know or posting messages on a board where they can be read by anyone. You should not use your real name in these messages or postings. Make up a user name and stay with it. Do not give your address on the Internet. Never give out personal information which could allow someone to find you. It is OK to give general information on the Internet. You may give your user name (not your real name), your gender, your age, and the country or state in which you live. It would probably be OK to give the city in which you live. Always keep in mind, there could be someone reading your messages who might wish to do you harm. Each time you give out specific personal information, someone could be collecting it in attempt to locate you. This is especially important for teens and young children to remember. If a stranger asks too many personal questions, you should be on guard and either give obscure answers or break off the conversation completely. A meeting with anyone from the Internet could result in a dangerous situation. Adults should always meet in a public place during the day time. Teens or children should talk to their parents before meeting anyone from the Internet and always take their parents with them for the meeting. It is very easy to give false information on the Internet and the person you are meeting may not be who you think they are.

Pop Up Warnings

While surfing the Internet, you may get a pop up message on your screen. These warnings vary, but many are an attempt to look like a security warning from your computer or anti-virus program. These pop ups will have warnings about a virus on your computer or they may tell you there is spyware on your computer. The pop ups try to look like a warning window and will offer you solutions for the problem. If you click on these pop ups, you will be redirected to a web site which is trying to sell you an anti-virus or a spyware remover. Some of these pop ups may attempt to download programs if you click them. Clicking pop ups could put spyware or viruses on your computer. If you need an anti-virus program or a spyware remover go to the home web site of the program you need. Do not click on a pop up. Close the pop up window with the red X in the top, right corner. If the pop up ad gets on your Start tool bar, right click it and select Close . Do not be fooled by pop up warnings. If you have doubts after the warning, update your virus definitions, and run a system scan with your own anti-virus program. If you wish to remove spyware from your computer use one of the trusted spyware removal programs from their home web site. Never get a program from a pop up.

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Graywolf / 2004