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Healthy Windows

A blog about how to reach and maintain a healthy windows operating system.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Your Web Browser Has Been Hijacked.

All PC have at one point had spyware on them. Sometimes its a little simple thing and can be deleted with ease. Other times it can be a nuisance and really ruin your day. One indication of you being infected with spyware is that your browser. The program you use to browse the web. Internet Explorer, AOL, Netscape, Safari, Firefox etc.. All of these web browsers are vulnerable to Browser Hijacking.

Now what happens when your web browser is hijackeed? Your normal homepage might be missdirected. Normally it might be www.google.com then its changed to a different address. Also you will recive pop-ups when you sign on. Sometimes you will recive pop-ups even if you are offline!

Some things to do to prevent this from happening are to never go to suspicious sites. Never give out your personal information, exspecially banking information. One way to be sure that your information is safe while entering it online is to check if the site is secure. In Firefox when you enter a secure page the address in the address bar will be Bold Green and you will see an Icon at the bottom right telling you its secure.

Image hosted by Webshots.com
by Far310

The main way to prevent your browser being hijacked is to always run at least two antivirus programs in the backround. Also run a firewall at all times. The best one is www.zonealarm.com

Keeping your windows updated, your browser updated, running AVG Free and NOD32 and Zonealarm in the backround will GREATLY reduce your chances of being hijacked. Infact It may never be attacked, mine has yet to be.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

E-Mail Attachments

E-mail today can be used to talk to anyone allover the net. You can send them messages, pictures and attachments with just about anything in them. Attachments are a dangerous thing. You rarely open them or even an E-mail if you don’t know who its from. An attachment could have a virus that could disrupt your computer or even erase your entire hard drive. This is especially dangerous if you work in a large corporation or business where serious damage could occur.

Now which attachments are dangerous?

Mainly the thing to look for is if there is a file name that ends in .exe also called an executable. Running executables is extremely risky, leaving you vulnerable to the whims of an attacker: an executable may install a virus, covertly transfer your data to a remote host computer, or even destroy your data entirely. Now some people are crooks and try to cleverly disguise the names. Now it may show up as Music.mp3. Making you think that it’s really an MP3 file for music but some Attachments that seem safe may be disguised by clever names -- an executable program may look a lot like an MP3 file if the name is Music.mp3.exe.

Now the big question, How can you protect yourself?

Be careful in what you are doing. Never open an attachment from a person you don’t know, especially if it’s a person that sounds suspicious. A good thing to have would be an anti-virus program that scans your e-mail for incoming viruses in an e-mail attachment. I have two one of them is called AVG Anti-virus it can be found http://free.grisoft.com/softw/70free/setup/avg71free_394a763.exe

Another program I use to scan my e-mail is NOD32 Antivirus System which can be found http://u4.eset.com/eval/win/v2/nentenst.exe

Two programs are better than one and I have never gotten a virus thanks to good common sense and those two monitoring systems.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Third Party Solutions

The best thign about thris part solutions is that they are free and work great, somtimes even better than the ones you pay for.

Mozilla Firefox
A safer Internet browser than Internet Explorer and uses less Memory (RAM).
And has other useful functions, such as built in Google search bar, tabs, almost no pop ups. Another added bonus, is that there are no ActiveX controls in Firefox. Mozilla's Homepage.
Download here.
Once you’ve installed Firefox, you’ll need some plug-ins to make some sites work properly. You can view the essential plug-ins here.
Never uninstall internet explorer, just never use it. Windows still needs it for important updating procedures.

Perfect Disk 7
This program makes you wonder why you even used the Microsoft Disk Defrragger.
Among other things, it defrags your HDD(s), and optimizes the files, defrags your system page file, and the master file table. Altogether these things may seem insignificant, but together, they've sped up my PC immensely. The computer now boots in about 4 passings of the loading bar. Perfect Disk 7 is made by Raxco Software
Download the trial here.
I really urge you all to buy this software, it's by far the best disk defragmenter on the market.

CCleaner
Great program to remove unneeded files from your computer. It deleted 700MB from mind, and 1.5GB from my friend’s. Also has a basic registry cleaner. Great all round cleaning program. CCleaner Homepage.
Download here.

RegCleaner
This great program searches your registry for un-needed registry entries and deletes them. (It also makes a back up, before you start). Download here.
Once installed you need to allow it to clean the registry automatically; to do this select "Options" > "Registry Cleanup"> "Method" then select "Automatic". To then clean the registry select the "Tools" option > "Registry Cleanup" and then "Do them All".
This program is no longer supported.

Cerulean Studio's Trillian
This IM client integrates MSN, ICQ, AIM, YIM and IRC. So you don't have to have 5 programs open at once eating up your ram. Cerulean Studios’ Homepage.
Download here.

Lavalys EVEREST
This handy program allows you to see all your computer information in one centralised place. It also provides links to Manufacturers websites, and links to Driver Update pages. Lavalys's Homepage.
Download here.

Viruses/adwar/spyware/security and firewalls


All of the above can slow your computer down and your internet connection.
So, make sure you have a firewall, and also antivirus which are kept upto date.


Anti-spyware

Microsoft® Windows AntiSpyware (Beta)
Newly released AntiSpyware program for Microsoft. Seems excellent, and if you keep it running in the background it queries most suspicious activities. Up to you whether you keep it running in the background, but definitely download, install and run a scan every so often.
Download here.
Microsoft have a guide on how to install and configure the program here.

Ad-Aware Second Edition
A great, free Spy/Ad ware solution. Detects and deletes most Spy/Ad ware.
Free definition updates. Second Edition. Made by Lavasoft.
Download here.

Spy Sweeper
A great, free Spy/Ad ware solution. Detects and deletes most Spy/Adware.
You need to pay to get definition updates. Made by Webroot Software.
Download here.

Spybot - Search & Destroy
A great, free Spy/Ad ware solution. Detects and deletes most Spy/Ad ware.
Free definition updates. It finds the same as Ad-Aware, if not more. Made by Safer Networking.
Download here.

NOTE: I use all four of the above. So that if one program misses something, the other three are bound to pick it up (I use Spyware Blaster too). I recommend you use them all to, just to make sure nothing gets missed.

Spyware Blaster
This great program stops spyware and adware before it even hits. It protects you against malicious ActiveX programs, cookies and much more. Read here for more info. Made by Javacool Software.
Download here.

CWShredder
Think you’ve got the well known Trojan/spyware CoolWebSearch on your computer?
Well you can use this handy tool to get rid of it.
Download it here.

HijackThis - Only for more advanced users
Serious spyware infestation? Especially with Internet Explorer, this will help get rid of those pesky search bars that just keep coming back. This programs requires a slightly higher level of computer literacy.
Download it here.
Confused by HijackThis' results? Post them here for a detailed analysis.

Anti-Virus
Online Virus Scanners
These online virus scanners can be useful to check if you have a virus, which your antivirus has missed.
  • Trend Micro Nice online scan, can be used with almost any internet browser.
  • Symantec Security Check Good, but you need to use Internet Explorer
  • Jotti's Malware Scan Great scan, utilises many virus scanners to check if the file. Almost bound to find the virus. Can only check on file at a time, but this is very useful.
AntiVir
This free anti-virus program by AntiVir is one of the best free AV programs out there. According to this thread at AndandTech AntiVir has the highest virus detection rate among free scanners.
Download here.

avast! 4 Home Edition
Anti-virus program by alwil software is one of the most used free antivirus options. (The one I use)
Download here.

Firewalls
Firewall Check
Want to check how effective your firewall is to external elements?
  • GRC Shields UP! Great all-round scan, checks all commonly used ports and more.
  • Symantec Security Check Nice scan by Symantec, sad they try to sell you stuff at the end – even if you pass perfectly.
Sygate Personal Firewall
This free firewall by Sygate is generally revered as one of the best free firewall around.
Download here.

Zone Alarm
This free firewall is made by Zone Labs. It’s your decision whether you use Sygate Personal Firewall or this, both are very good free firewalls.
Download here.

Personally I prefer zonealarm

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Simple Stuff

Basic Solutions

Simple Stuff
Keep these things in mind when using your computer.
  • Don't open E-Mail attachments from people you don't know, and if you do - be careful, run a virus scan on them before opening.
  • Don't run files you don't trust, especially if they are just bare .exe files from a dodgy source.
  • Once you've downloaded a file, run a virus scan on it. Just to make sure, it can't harm you.
  • If your antivirus tells you you've got a virus in your temp internet files, stop browsing that page immediately. Close all internet pages, clear the temporary internet files and run a full system scan.
  • Before running a virus scan, clear your temp internet files and clean out the Sun Java Temp folder.
  • Pay close attention to the task manager, if you see a new process there, and you haven't installed anything - be cautious, it may be legit - but do some checking anyway. Google the process name, and run a virus/adware scan.
Windows XP Service Pack 2
If you’re using Windows XP, and don’t have Service Pack 2 installed – install it!
Microsoft’s Top 10 reasons to install Service Pack 2.
You can get it here. Once you’ve downloaded it, Microsoft and I recommend:
  • Check here for programs that might behave differently when using Service Pack 2.
  • Check here for programs that may stop working when using Service Pack 2.
  • Backup all essential data, My Documents, game save files, program configurations etc...
  • Do a full system scan for viruses, using all the anti malicious software programs you have. This is covered more in depth below.
  • Check for special update instructions from your computers manufacturer.
  • Once you’ve made backups, scanned for threats, and installed. Instantly check for Windows Updates (see below).
Windows Update
Although this will not speed your PC up, it will keep it safe, run Windows Update regularly. (Only works in Internet Explorer)

Office Update
Although this will not speed your PC up, it will keep it safe, run Office Update regularly. (Only works in Internet Explorer)

Update Everything Else
I can't tell you where to go to update your programs. But I can tell you. Look through every program you have, and download every available update for it. The programs you have may contain fixes in the program, or security related issues.
AutoPatcher seems to be a good program for generally updating all installed software (that’s supported, and you have). Although, I’ve never used it.

Defragment
Very simple solution, defragment your Hard Drive. This simply rearranges the files in your hard drive into a logical order, meaning your computer will spend less time looking for the files. A simple diagram can be found here.
To do this, follow the instructions shown in this picture, then highlight the selected drive, and click "Defragment".
For a better Disk Defragmenter, see Perfect Disk 7 below.

Disk Cleanup
This simple program included with Windows deletes ( / compresses)
some unused/unnecessary system files, such as:
  • Downloaded Program Files
  • Temporary Internet Files
  • Offline Web Pages
  • Office Set Up Files (If you have it)
  • Recycle Bin
  • Temporary Files
  • WebClient/Publisher Temporary Files
  • Compress old files
  • Catalog files for the Content Indexer
To use this, follow the steps in this picture. Select the drive, if you have more than one (or of you have several partitions). Then select the options to cleanup, and then press "OK". For more info on getting rid of junk on your computer, check CCleaner below.

Add/Remove Unused Programs
If you installed a program to try it, and didn't like it. UNINSTALL it, why keep it lying around in your Hard Drive? Or if a program doesn't work, uninstall it. Or if you just plain don't use it for any reason, uninstall it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Your Browser

The most important thing about spyware is that the only real way you can get it aside from instant messaging clients is through your browser. internet explorer comes with windows XP so it is the default browser, and the browser most people use. however it is very unsafe to use because It allows the execution of an ActiveX which could transmit a serious virus, spyware or adware or other malicious code onto your PC. My favorite browser is mozilla firefox. you can download it for free at www.getfirefox.com Mozilla firefox has many advantages over Internet explorer.

Some features of Firefox include

A Better Web Experience
Firefox 1.5 has an intuitive interface and blocks viruses, spyware, and popup ads. It delivers Web pages faster than ever. And it’s easy to install and import your favorites. Packed with useful features like tabbed browsing, Live Bookmarks, and an integrated Search bar, Firefox will change the way you experience the Web, for the better.
Faster Browsing
Enjoy quick page loading as you navigate back and forward in a browsing session. Improvements to the engine that powers Firefox deliver more accurate display of complex Web sites, support for new Web standards, and better overall performance.
Automatic Updates
The new Software Update feature makes it easy to get the latest security and feature updates to Firefox. Firefox automatically downloads these small updates in the background and prompts you when they are ready to be installed.
Tabbed Browsing
Use tabbed browsing to open multiple Web pages in a single browser window, and quickly flip back and forth. Drag and drop open tabs to keep related pages together.
Improved Pop-up Blocking
Firefox’s built-in pop-up blocker has been enhanced to block more unwanted pop-up and pop-under ads.
Integrated Search
Tap into the power of the Web’s most popular search engines with the built-in Search bar, and easily add new engines.
Stronger Security
Firefox keeps you more secure when you’re browsing the Web, closing the door on spyware, worms, and viruses. The Firefox community of developers and security experts works around the clock to monitor security issues and release updates to better protect you.
Clear Private Data
Protect your privacy with the new Clear Private Data tool. With a single click, you can delete all personal data, including browsing history, cookies, Web form entries and passwords.

The firefox browser is overall A MUCH safer choice than Internet Explorer. Its userbase is growing fast and their are a ton of extensions and themes you can customize it with.

Extensions are free apps made by users that help you with everyday tasks. Some of my favorite extentions are ShowIP which tells where your information is going. TrustWatch Which has websites and lits if they are trustworthy withe your information. It is very useful expecially when you buy items online, you want to make sure your information is going to the right people. Another one is All in one sidebar, that has my favorite bookmarks with the click of a button.

So overall firefox is A huge improvement than Internet explorer or most other browsers when it comes to saftey and security, It also has a growing userbase that will help you If this article didnt convince you to get Firefox and be on your way to A safer system check out some of the user made movie clips also promoting the wonderful browser of Fifrefox that can be found at http://www.firefoxflicks.com


Saturday, July 08, 2006

What Is Spyware?

According to a recent study 80% of home PCs have spyware on them,. Spyware is very common and can really do some damage. What is spyware you ask? Spyware is any software that covertly gathers user information through the user's Internet connection without his or her knowledge, usually for advertising purposes. Spyware applications are typically bundled as a hidden component of freeware or shareware programs that can be downloaded from the Internet; however, it should be noted that the majority of shareware and freeware applications do not come with spyware. Once installed, the spyware monitors user activity on the Internet and transmits that information in the background to someone else who can use your information against you for all sorta of nasty reasons. Spyware can also gather information about e-mail addresses and even passwords and credit card numbers!

Scary Right? Now bookmark this blog and check it frequently because the last thing you want to do is to have your PC infected with spyware stealing all your personal information. I will show you how to check for spyware what programs to use, which ones are the best, and by the way you dont have to pay for any of the anti-spyware applications I will reccommend to you. So bookmark this blog check it a few times a week possibly click a few ads to keep its momentum going.

Thank You for your support it means A lot to me!