Welcome to our page on hints and links for the security of your home computer. I spent many years in the military as a telecommunications technician and security officer. I guess you might say that my paranoia has followed me for many year. We use to say in the Navy "The only secure computer is the one that is unplugged" and there is a lot of truth to that statement. In fact, the term COMPUTER SECURITY is almost a conflict in words.

I think it's safe to say that the Internet is growing by leaps and bounds. With each new connection, there are good folks as well as bad folks who are chatting while others are trying to get into YOUR computer without you knowing it. I don't mean to scare you but there are many hackers out there with the single purpose of gleaning information or even bringing down computers (servers from major corporations as well as service providers). Just look at the virus alerts going around these days (as well as the stupid e-mail rumors running rampant).

So, with all this in mind, I thought I would put up a page or two to help those of you who just bought a computer and are surfing the web or, maybe, someone who has owned a computer for some time but is not aware of all the inside workings or protections needed to keep your data safe. Hopefully this section of our corner of the Internet will help you.

Ok, so you think your computer is secure now. Well, there is a great site to test your Internet connection and your computer. Gibson Research has been doing quality work for many years. Since 1988, I have been using their SPINRITE product to recover lost data from hard drives. They know their stuff. Here is a link to their site. To test your system, scroll down until you find SHIELDS UP and click on the link. It's not a trick and it's no joke. The information they give you was gotten from your computer via the Internet. Are you ready? Click on the Shields UP banner and test your system.

Well, how did you do? If you came out green or blue on the test then you are probably pretty well protected already. But, you may want to continue reading just to see all the different aspects of security and how to protect yourself as best you can. If your report said you are exposed to the internet then it's time to do some serious reading and purchasing to protect yourself.

On the first point, I would like to ask you if you know how secure your personal data is on your home computer. If you do banking by mail, bill paying, shopping online and a number of other things, you probably have personal data and banking numbers spread all through your computer. I do not mean to scare you but it's a fact. Every document you write, every graphic you look at and every address and personal data is located in a number of spots on your computer. Even if you erase files, data is still present. Erasing or deleting files does not delete the data but just removes the marker for that file so it can be written over at some point. Can you imagine if you needed to have repairs done on your computer and knew all this? Would you want to take your computer to a technician to keep for a week while he went through it? Now I'm not saying computer repair shops are crooked but you can see the potential for damage if your hard drive/system fell into the wrong hands.

The second point to make is that you must be connected to the Internet if you are reading this. Being very concious of your system, ask yourself how you are protected from others coming into your computer while you are connected. Even a 28.8K modem connection is open for others to get information from you without you knowing it.

Any computer has over 3000 possible ports that data can ride in or out on. There is so much to the internal workings of a computer system it would be almost impossible to go indepth on these pages. What I want to discuss here are the simple methods of protecting yourself against intrusion.

So, without further ado, let's list the items you need to secure your connection.

VIRUS SCANNERS: Virus scanners are a must when connecting to the Internet or even retrieving e-mail. I cannot tell you the amount of e-mail I get in a week with a virus attached. Even worse are the new generation of virus programs. Once installed, they will take information from your hard drive and e-mail it with their payload to everyone in your address book. This type of programming is to make the e-mail look more authentic.

There are two virus scan programs that I can highly recommend. The first one is the Norton virus scanner. I use it and it's been totally reliable for the past 5 years. The new Norton AntiVirus also comes with some great features. Now you can send files to be scrubbed from your hard drive, right within the Norton Protected Recycle Bin (it's the same recycle bin but Norton added some features to it when you install their antivirus software.

The second is from McAfee. They are right up there with Norton. They also keep up with all the latest virus' out there.

The one thing that you have to remember is to download up-to-date virus definitions at least every two weeks at a minimum. I would recommend checking every week or let the virus software check automatically for you. Your scanner is ONLY as good as the definitions you have. Both companies have sites that you can download from with a small annual fee. It's well worth it in my book. Make sure you set it to scan e-mails also (unless you are with AOL or a provider that has their own interface with scans.

FIREWALLS VS ROUTERS: Firewalls will keep most everything out once they are set up but they might also keep you from going out or retrieving something you need. Many firewall problems have been associated with MSN Messenger and other chat programs. I fought with my firewall for a year before tearing it down. I bought a router so I could have multiple computers sharing one Internet connection without using Microsoft Internet Connection Sharing. The great thing about routers is they can stealth your ports (oh there are many ports on a computer just waiting for someone to activate them). After installing the router, I ran the Shields UP and came up STEALTHED on all my ports but one. That one was blocked. Of course, corporations use firewalls to block incoming and outgoing traffic but they also have high paid professionals to set them up and manage them. I don't think most of us can afford that. So, the bottom line is that the router works almost as good as a firewall by stealthing all the ports unless your computer initializes one. However if a trojan (a remote control program where someone else can control your computer without you knowing it) is installed on your computer the router isn't going to do you much good at keeping them out. Again, here's where the virus scanner comes in ... to alert you of virus' and trojans attached to e-mails etc.

 

 

SPYWARE: There are many neat websites to visit on the Internet. On many of them, you will find pop-up advertisements and cute little banners asking you to visit other places. A few companies that do demographics for sale have come up with some neat little programs which, in fact, track your internet usage and visits.

One of them is the Comet Cursor program. I'm sure you've seen it and even allowed it to be installed on your PC. Well, this cute little program that gives the web page it's cute little cursors also sends back demographic (and personal??? who knows) information to the home web server. You don't know this because it is spyware. It runs in the background, reporting on your visits to other sites and records the types of online purchases etc. This, in turn, gives them personal data (or demographics) that they sell to retailers.

Here are a few other adware/spyware programs running around: Adware, Alexa 1.0-5.0, Aureate v1.0,2.0 + 3.0, Comet Cursor v1.0 and v2.0, Cydoor, Doubleclick, DSSAgent, EverAd, EzUla, Expedioware, Flyswat, Gator, Hotbar 1+2, OnFlow, TimeSink v1.0,v2.0 and v5.0, Web3000, Webhancer, Transponder, Wnad along with others being created just to monitor your activites. Pretty scary isn't it.

You will also find adware in various freeware programs. They are not quite as bad as the true spyware programs since they pop up advertisements geared to your surfing interests. Some have only canned advertisements while others actually monitor your visits to sites and tastes which they gear their ads to on the freeware programs you may run.

I could go on and on about this and it is getting more common on the Internet. This is how many folks make money by gearing the ads to your taste in hopes you will purchase something. There is an interesting program that is call AD-AWARE. This program actually searches your hard drive for spyware and adware on your system and will remove all links to it. The only problem is that if you have a favorite freeware application that uses the adware then it will not run again which means you will need to re-install it and live with the adware that comes along with it. Here's the link to Lavasoft. You can check out ad-aware here.

Remember that you get what you pay for. I have listed programs here that cost money but I have tried them and they are easy to configure and use. Beware of freeware that you're not sure of. Some of them install without an uninstall or removal. I've known quite a few folks that have messed up their computer by installing many freeware items.

Also remember that your personal data and your Internet experience should be yours and yours alone. Protect yourself with just a little bit of knowledge and common sense.

Well, that's about it for the moment. I hope you have found this page interesting and informative. If you have any other basic topics for the home computer user that you would like to see here, or have any questions about computer security, please contact me.

Thanks for visiting. Please come back again to see what updates we've done.