This page contains some simple, easy to read information about protecting your PC. As far as I am capable of writing it, there is no tech-speak.


Before we start, let me tell you that there is something naughty and wicked about, it is a computer bug (or maybe it is a worm or trojan - but who cares, it is certainly naughty and wicked). It is called BugBear. You may wish to have a look at something that I hurriedly put together some time ago - if so, click here. If you do look at it, please take the time to read it very carefully AND to really get the best out of it follow the links in it !!
Perceptions
I think that the first step in this story (or journey maybe) is to talk about ways that folks space has been invaded !
Now your computers
If you have computers, they can be attacked. The damage can range from them being stopped from working to personal information being deleted/modified/stolen through minor irritations.
Is it worth protecting ??
It seems to me to depend on what you use it for.

If you use it only for playing games, or to hold recipe's, or to surf the internet for fun then it may not be worth your time and effort protecting it.

If you use it business or to help you to run and organise your personal life then it very probably worth some effort on your part to protect it


If it is worth protecting !!
The things that do the damage are viruses, worms and trojans. I see no reason to re-invent wheels, or to re-write perfectly good texts. So for a story called The truth about viruses, worms and trojans, click here.

There are lots of Anti virus programs out there. Some are brilliant, some are just plain useless. I am not an expert on which are the best, all I will do is to tell you that Norton AntiVirus 2002 works for me. It is much better than the 2001 version - it has lots of important new features. I understand that 2003 is now available, I have not tried it, but I suppose that it will be at least as good as my 2002     !!

The folk that write virus, worm and trojan programs are generally called hackers. I am told that ofter the do it just for fun, just to prove that they can - not for malicious purposes. Well, regardless of why, they are a damned menace and I wish that they could be directed to more useful work. They are, believe me, very clever folks.

These misguided folk are continually trying to write bigger and better programs. I seem to remember someone saying that new viruses, worms and trojans are being produced at the rate of one per day. The antivirus programs have files containing virus definitions, by definition, they are always out of date. It is therefore essential that you obtain updates for the virus definitions.

It really makes me cry when folk tell me that they got a free AntiVirus program from a man in a pub three years ago, and never updated the Virus Definitions. BUT, they say, it has never discovered a Virus !!
Well would that surprise me !!??!!??

I used to download new definitions every month (took about 40 minutes) - it did not need me to sit and watch it - just to click on the "YES" button when it asked if I really wanted to do the scheduled update. Then I changed to every 14 days (about 20 minutes)

BUT NOW I have told it to look for updates any time that I am connected to the internet. Every so often a little yellow message pops up saying "I have just updated" your virus definitions. I did not even know that it was lookin, but oh how I love that little yellow PopUp - it makes me feel comfortable     !!

In order to understand how to protect your computer, you need to know how these bad programs get onto your computer. It certainly is not by telepathy or osmosis. It is always as a consequence of something that you or someone else does on your computer.

There is the first clue - the words "someone else" !! You should find a method of locking your computer when you leave it. There are lots of programs that do that - just click on an Icon when you are going to leave it and type the password in when you get back.

I remember an occasion when a young man was seen walking around all of the PC's in an office. He was inserting a floppy disk and tapping a few keys on the keyboard. It was later found that he had installed an "irritating virus". He thought it was a great lark. He was less amused when he found himself unemployed!!

Viruses, worms and trojans (bad programs) can get onto you computer in two way. The first way is from Floppy Disks or CDs.

Sensible folks ask their AntiVirus program to check any unknown Floppy Disks or CDs before they use them. Do you ??? If not, serves you right if you get bad programs on your computer.

The other way that bad programs get on to your computer is down the wire when you connect to other computers.

That means either connections to networks - in your home or in your office. OR Being connected to the internet The internet is after all millions of other computers and when you are connected to it, you are connected to all of those millions of computers !!

What is worse (and I guess that you had not thought of it) all of those computers are connected to you. They may not choose to poke around your computer, but unless you take precautions, they could do !!!!! If they do get in, there is no reason why they should not leave some of the bad programs on your computer.

To make sure that you have taken precautions, visit http://grc.com . When you get there, follow the link to "ShieldsUp" and the "Test my Shields" and "Probe my Ports".

If you do not get a clean bill of health, then YOU ARE AT RISK!!

The way to protect yourself is to obtain and install a firewall.

Firewalls

I installed a firewall program to protect myself from folk that come sneaking into my PC when I am connected to the internet or other PCs. The one that I use and recommend is ZoneAlarm. It can be obtained (for free) from http://www.zonelabs.com. It is at the top of most technical review lists. It is easy to install and takes no effort to use.

ZoneAlarm does, and all other firewalls should, only allow communications into and out of your computer from things that you have said yes to.

Just imagine that you have installed a bad program that waits untill it see's an internet connection and then send private information back to its creator. For example, it could send details of any EMail addresses on your PC back to the creator AND THEN the creator could EMail "bad programs" to those addresses - you would not want that would you ?

ZoneAlarm would tell you that "bad program is asking to contact the internet" and allow you to say either OK or NO. It will also stop stuff coming in unless you accept it. Anything that you are not sure of, say NO !!

When you want to fetch or send EMails, Zone Alarm will ask if it should allow your EMail program to communicate with the internet. When you say yes, it will allow the communication to begin. Fire walls will not check the contents of "allowed" communications. Your AntiVirus program should have and AutoProtection that looks at everything going up or coming down the wire to see that it is not a "bad program".


Specifically Email
The most used EMail package is Outlook / Outlook Express so most viruses that are transmitted by EMail are written especially to exploit features and holes that exist in those two packages. So I found a little used package which is good (and smaller and faster than Outlook) and very fully functional. It is called Phoenix Mail. It can be downloaded for free from

http://phxmail.sourceforge.net/

or

http://fox.hispeed.com/phoenix/us_home.shtml

It really works, if you try it and have any problems, feel free to ask me. Do not open any attachments that you are not certain about


N O T E When I said do not open any attachments that you are not certain about, I really do mean ANY - even Graphics files - a way has been found to hide viruses in graphics files. Some EMail packages will automatically open attachments (especially Graphics files) - now they are REALLY dangerous.

If you are interested, you might want to look at a page about EMails and Security - it is at
http://www.textsafe.com/mailsec.htm

Do you ever send mail to more than one person at the same time, if so, you may be interested to look at
http://www.textsafe.com/bigmailinfo.htm


Thank You
Thank you for reading this page. Hopefully it has been useful. Make any comments about it in the boxes below (it would be useful if you told me who you are).