Security for Internet Surfing
The internet is prone to viruses, trojan horses, adware and spyware. It is important that you protect your computer against these poisons. Use the following list to secure your computer(s).
- Install virus detection software and maintain current virus definitions. This will detect both computer viruses and trojan horses. I use AVG Internet Security because my Norton Internet Security 2005: Anti Spyware Edition was hacked and no longer reported viruses correctly. Schedule a virus scan to be run periodically. I have mine scheduled to run weekly and run it more frequently when strange things start happening.
- Install a firewall. Your computer may have a firewall installed when you purchased it. (Windows XP includes a firewall, but many users prefer to use a different one.) I use Zone Alarm.
- Install adware protection. This may be a utility to scan your computer and/or a service that monitors your computer for malicious adware software trying to install itself. I use AVG Internet Security and Ad-Aware SE Personal. The latter is free for scanning and you can pay for the monitoring service. Use File Research Center's online scan for a quick check of what is now running on your computer; it does not detect malware that is not currently running. To determine if a specific file is dangerous, enter the filename in the form below.
- Keep your passwords secure.
- Do not store them on your computer, unless in encrypted files.
- Do not copy passwords or credit card numbers to the clipboard - hackers may be able to access your clipboard. Test your clipboard security at Source Codes World. If your clipboard data is unsecure, they will tell you how to protect it.
- Use a different password for each account. This is especially important on financial accounts and email.
- Use security measures when available on a website. If your webmail host offers secure login (https://), then use it all the time by bookmarking it and using the bookmark. Other security measures such as special keypads and verifying your ip address may be available.
- There are programs available to maintain secure passwords, but I'm not sure that I trust them. Forum messages report two negatives about RoboForm. (Research any security product that you plan to use. These negatives may have been fixed in the current version.)
- It leaves passwords in your clipboard, which could be copied by a website
- It uploads some information to it's website - supposedly not your passwords, but how do we tell?
- If you accidently enter the password of your payment processor (or other critical site) into the login of another website and they use the same login email address, change your password at your payment processor.
- Beware of phishing websites that pretend to be a different website to lure you into entering your login and other secure information. Customers of payment processors, auction sites and banks are often targets of phishing. Emails usually lure the targets to the websites, but they may also appear in traffic exchanges or even as the payment processor at a website. Never click the link in an email and then enter your login or other critical information. Instead, type the link into your browser yourself, or use a bookmark/favorite.
- Keep you operating system and browser updates current. If you use a Windows operating system, be sure that Windows Update is turned on.
- Read Blocking Unwanted Parasites with a Hosts File and install their hosts file. The file is more restrictive than I like, even eliminating Google Adsense, the bread and butter of many websites, including this one. You can easily edit it with any editor, putting a # before any website you want to allow.
If their explanation is too technical for you, I'll summarize. Your browser looks in the hosts file for an ip address for a link, before it searches the internet for one. Any website that appears in your host file is directed to the ip address on the same line. 127.0.0.1 is the ip address of your own computer, so your browser will not be able to find a website directed to that ip and will return an error that it cannot find the website, even if it exists on the internet. A # makes everything after it a comment, which is ignored when looking up ip addresses. You can comment out lines to allow access to the website and you can add additional websites to the list to prevent access to them.
Put a shortcut to
"C:\Program Files\Windows NT\Accessories\wordpad.exe" C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc\hosts
on your desktop, so you can easily edit the file, changing the directory for the wordpad and the hosts file if you are not using Windows XP. For more information about the hosts file, including other download sources and the location of the file in Linux/Unix/Netware/Apple operating systems, see The Hosts File and what it can do for you.
- For peace of mind, if you are running Windows, install The Ultimate TroubleShooter which identifies what is running on your computer and makes suggestions for improving your computer environment.