How to Protect yourself from malware!

Make sure you get your system protected from occurrences of malware. Below are some simple steps you can take to reduce the chance of infection in the future. I strongly encourage you to do them all. There is no perfect solution to totally prevent malware from infecting your PC, however, these steps will help.


1. Visit Windows Update: Make sure that you have all the Critical Updates recommended for your operating system and IE. The first defense against infection is a properly patched OS. For anyone who is not yet running at least Windows XP SP2 (which you really should be running at a minimum if your PC supports it) see the below link before updating. If you already have Windows XP SP3 then you don't need to worry about SP2 since you are more current already.

You should check for Windows Updates at least once a month. Go to the below link to get your updates or check to see if you need any:

Note: If you have problems getting your Windows Updates, see if the below thread helps:

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:

Before you decide to skip getting your Windows Updates for whatever reason you think you have, make sure you read the below link and understand the possible risks to your security.

Cleaning a Compromised System


2) Anti Virus: make sure you have one and keep it updated. Here are some good free ones:

These are better than Symantec/Norton or McAfee because they are free and because they are not so system resource hungry. The recent versions of Symantec/Norton and McAfee have become very bloated. This does not mean they do not work. If you have either of them and are happy with it, stick with them. But whatever you choose remember to Only Run ONE AV!

3) Firewalls

A firewall is software or hardware that acts like a gate to help protect your computer against hackers and some computer viruses and worms that try to find unprotected computers that are connected to the Internet. This gate allows you to you to accept connections from sources you trust, and it keeps the gate closed for ones you don't trust. A firewall works by examining information coming from and going to the Internet. It identifies and blocks information that comes from a dangerous location or seems suspicious. If you set up your firewall properly, hackers searching for vulnerable computers cannot detect your computer (often referred to as a stealthed connection)

There are two kinds of firewalls:

  1. Hardware Firewall - normally built into a router if you use one. If you do have a router with a firewall, make sure you enable it. And also password protect your router, especially if it is a wireless router. Wireless routers can be less secure because they use radio frequencies to communicate with your PC. So if you use a wireless router, you can help enhance the security of your network by enabling the firewall and by requiring a password to connect to your network. Make sure you also enable encryption on your wireless network.
  2. Software Firewall - special software that you must install. Use a software firewall even if you do have a hardware firewall. But only use one software firewall. Running multiple software firewalls is unnecessary and using more than one software firewall on the same connection could cause issues with connectivity to the Internet or other unexpected behavior.

If you don't have a Software Firewall, get one of these below. You can try the ones listed below. They are listed in an order of best to worst based upon leaktesting that has been perfomed by Matousec You will notice that the Windows XP SP2 is the worst performer on the list. I don't care if you're on dial up or High Speed....you must have a firewall or you can get infected faster than you can download any tools to fix your problems. If you use Vista, make sure you check for compatibility before choosing a firewall. The firewalls list with blue links are free, the ones in green are not free.

Notes:

  1. For Win XP SP2 users, after installing any of these firewalls, you must make sure to disable the firewall that is part of WinXP SP2. It is enabled by default, and it does not provide adequate protection and is only an incoming (uni-directional) firewall. Similar to antivirus applications, you must use only one software firewall. The information in the following will help you disable the firewall:Windows Firewall Some of the above firewalls may automatically disable the Windows firewall for you, but it is best to check for your self.
  2. For Vista users, your built-in firewall is better than the one in XP but most still feel that it is not a adequate firewall and lacks certain capabilities.
  3. We often get questions about testing your firewall for security and open ports. You can use sites like the below to do this:

4) Get a Temp File/Cookies/index.dat cleaner

5) AntiSpyWare Tools


Three types of tools exist:

Realtime blocking tools - pay tools and free tools - ONLY USE 1 REALTIME BLOCKER

Pay Tools
 

Free Tools
 

After the fact scanning tools

Non-realtime protection no scanner

What do we recommend ?

IMPORTANT NOTEs:

  1. Use only one realtime blocker - I do not recommend using multiple full blown blocker/scanner/removal tools (like AVG Antispyware paid version, Comodo BOClean, CounterSpy, MS Windows Defender, SpySweeper, SpywareGuard, and Spyware Terminator) at the same time as a long term solution. Doing that temporarily to clean a system is okay, but long term you may find that it slows your system down too much. It is okay to run one of these, along with the other items listed above because the others are not too resource hungry (that is, as long as you do not use Spybot's Teatimer).
  2. Beware of Rogue Tools - There are loads of bad (also called rogue) anti-spyware programs available out there. You should familiarize yourself with the list maintained at the Spyware Warrior website. See: Rogue/Suspect Anti-Spyware Products & Web Sites

6) Adjust Active X security settings

7) Use Mozilla FireFox in place of Internet Explorer.

Alternative browsers like are somewhat more secure because they are have fewer security holes and because fewer malware writers attack the non-Microsoft browsers. This does not mean that FireFox cannot get infected. As time has gone on, FireFox has become more popular to attack, but it is less frequently a target than Internet Explorer. You must also remember that no browser will protect you from yourself. If you access questionable sites, download illegal pirated or cracked software, keygens...etc or go to porn type websites then no browser will be secure enough.

For people with young children, you may want to consider installing Glubble It is a FireFox addon for families with children under 12 years of age. It enables families to be sure they only see the best of the web. It allows you to control which sites your kids are allowed to access.

8) Uninstall Microsoft Java and Replace with Sun Java

You may already have Sun Java if on a newer OS or a newer PC. Just get the current version of Sun Java installed. The link to it is given below.


Microsoft no longer supports Java and it is often a source of installed spyware and hijacks so it is a good idea to remove Microsoft Java Virtual Machine and Install Sun Java. To remove it follow these steps.

Make sure you check that you have the lastest version of Sun Java installed by clicking the link. If you have an older version, install the new version and then remove all old versions. It would also be a good idea empty the Sun Java cache periodically because many baddies will store themselves there.

You can choose a different language if you need it from the top menu on that page. (Any files or registry entries not found or errors can be ignored and go to the next step)

9) Disable the AutoRuns Feature used to spread malware

Run this procedure: Disabling AutoRuns
 

10) Use Passwords & Create Restricted User Accounts

All user accounts should have password protection. Especially on Win NT, 2K, XP, and 2003 systems. Make sure you do not leave the Administrator password account password blank. This is the default. Also it is a good idea to completely disable the Guest account. When you choose your passwords, choose them wisely. Do not make them too short and do not choose anything that would be easy to guess.

When creating user accounts on WinNT, 2K, XP, and 2003 systems, it would be a good idea to only have one account with administrator priviledges. Create all other user accounts as restricted users. Especially for your children. This will prevent them from installing anything that you do not approve and install for them. It will also save you a lot of time cleaning up the mess that will occur when they have unrestricted access to the PC.

It the most secure option would be to never surf the internet on an account having administrator priviledges, but doing this will cause certain difficulties for some people.


11) Security starts with you! Be careful what you download and from where!

You are downloading unknown/untested files which may be infected from unknown sources directly onto your PC and while these programs are running you are sharing your PC with the whole world since these programs will allow others access to your PC bypassing the firewall and other security programs. I strongly advise avoiding these programs and servers completely. But if you must use them, choose more wisely. See the below link which can help you make a more educated choice:
 

Spyware Info's Clean and Infected File Sharing Programs
 

12) The True Story About Cookies!

First let's get right to the point. Cookies are not problems that you need to be concerned with. Too many antispyware programs flag cookies and make them sound like they are high risk items. The truth is that they are not high risk problems and in most cases are actually very useful to you.
 

This subject has long been debated on the internet and obviously there are many opinions about cookies. Cookies are not executable programs. They are simple text files stored on your PC to help websites (and you) track useful user settings and non-personal information, like which advertisement you last saw (which prevents you from seeing the same ad over and over again).
 

Yes some cookies are often referred to tracking cookies, but tracking is more complicated then just having a cookie. Every website you visit would have to have knowledge of the particular cookie so that they could use it to add tracking info to it and to make use of it. You will see many antispyware programs indicating various cookies as tracking cookies and this can artifically make detection counts look very high. It is also a sore point when doing comparisons between antispyware programs. If one program detects cookies and another does not, it can make the one that does not detect them look like it is doing a bad job.
 

Similarly it makes the one detecting them look like a great product since it picks up things the other missed. Thus most (not all) programs will detect cookies to avoid this hazard. Don't be fooled by cookie counting. If cookies are the only thing showing up, you are in good shape. They are not harmful and you can just ignore them or if so desired, you can easily clean them using your browser or other tools like CCleaner.
 

13) What to do if you do get infected!
 

14) How often should you run scans?

A very common question is how often should I run scans. A good rule of thumb would be to run full scans at least twice a month. If you do an excessive amount of surfing and downloading (especially P2P or torrent downloading) you may want to make it a weekly scan.
 

If twice a month is too much for your schedule then at a minimum you really should complete full scans once a month. And make absolutely sure that you keep all of your protection software up to date.
 

15) Miscellaneous Tips

  1. Keep System Restore Enabled: Do not permanently disable System Restore. Many people do this and lose the safety net that it provides. It just could be the thing that saves you from having to do a total reinstall.
  2. User Account Names: Since many people are sensitive about their real names being seen in logs (although we do not consider it an issue), it would be a good idea to not use your real names on user accounts you create on your PC. Also it is a good idea to not use spaces or special characters (like & or others) in your account names. And use separate accounts for each user. Do not use combined accounts. For example, Kathy & Jim should have separate user accounts named Kathy and Jim And My User Account should be MyUserAccount
  3. Use Restricted User Accounts to Surf: It is highly recommended that you only use a Restricted User account while surfing the internet. This can help to keep certain malware infections off your PC since they may require admin level privileges to do their dirty work. Some people find using restricted accounts full time to be too much of an annoyance. You can safely surf using an Admin account if you practice safe surfing, but many people are their own worst enemies and should really consider using Restricted User accounts.
  4. Avoid Making Online Purchases On Public Computers - A hacker or thief can easily put a keylogger on a public computer that allows them to know everything you've typed including your credit card numbers and passwords. Stay away from public access computers when doing online shopping!
  5. Don't Save Your Credit Card Numbers Online - Many reputable sites give you the option to save credit card numbers online to make future purchases easy. However, if the company's database is ever successfully hacked, your information could be exposed. It's safer to re-enter your numbers with each transaction. After all what is more important to you, you financial security or saving a little bit of time typing

LUP: 052411