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Protective Programs

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My computer has a whole barrage of protective programs. Together with careful use of email and the Internet, these should keep the nasties and nuisances at bay.

Always be certain that the name of an anti-spyware program is exactly the one you were looking for. Unscrupulous people will put up a spyware program with a name just slightly different from that of the good one—a one-letter variation in spelling or the addition of an extra word means that this is likely to be rogue software.

And never have anything to do with popups that appear and tell you that your computer "may be infected". It probably isn't, but click on that popup and it well could be—or you'll be told that it is and asked for money to clear the (non-existent) infection.

Antivirus software. Antivirus software is essential; don't even think of using your computer without it! Your computer may have come with an antivirus program pre-installed. If so, it's useless without the latest update. Update it immediately! This may take quite a few minutes the first time; thereafter updates will be quick. Check daily for updates, or set the program to do this itself.

A free antivirus that's well-spoken of is AVG. Ones that you buy and register include Vet and Norton. They come with a small annual fee. When the fee is due, pay it before you buy the bread!

I'm currently using Avira AntiVir Personal free anti-virus software. I did buy one of the big suites that's meant to take care of everything, but found it less than satisfactory. Avira is annoying in that puts up a "nag" screen ("buy our full product") once each day, but I can live with that.

The Other Essentials

The following programs are all free for individual use. If you need advanced features, there's a registered version of each. I, for instance, have a registered version of MailWasher, because that allows me to have it inspect email to more than one address. Updates to free versions are often manual rather than automatic. You can read about the differences at the individual sites.

You may also wish to:

The next two programs are tried and true, but are probably not necessary if you're running Malwarebytes and/or SUPERAntiSpyware. You decide.

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This adds two unbelievably long lists of websites to the Restricted Zone part of Internet Explorer. If, thereafter, you find yourself at one of these sites, it will not be able to install unwanted and dangerous material onto your computer. This is especially useful if you let other people use your computer. If an ill-advised person decides to look at grubby or illegal material, you won't come back to find your homepage hijacked and flipping straight to something you just don't want to see.

Once you have the package downloaded, have a look through the readme files and license text, so you'll know what to do next.

If, once you've run IE SpyAd, you go to Tools > Internet Options > Security and click on the Sites button, you can look at the list of sites. Some just consist of numbers, but further down you'll see names that give you an idea of what a site might be about. There's no need to check the list, but it will give you an idea of how many thoroughly nasty sites are out there.

This is a download link for IE SpyAd

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Mailwasher lets you view mail without downloading it. It also suggests which emails it suspects of being spam, or of carrying a virus. You then have the opportunity to mark those that you yourself recognise as unwanted before clicking a button to send your real mail to your usual email client—Outlook Express or whatever.

Mailwasher keeps a list of blacklisted sites and a list of people you name as friends.

It also has its own list of known spam sources.

You can check the contents of letters you’re not sure about before deciding whether to download or delete them. You can also see the size of attachments. If you see an attachment that you know is too big for your connection to handle, you can delete the email and then, if it was from a friend, email them back and explain that you can only receive attachments up to a certain size.

You can mark for deletion items that Mailwasher has not marked and you can unmark any items that you feel you want to receive.

When you click the “Process Mail” button, your regular email client will be loaded and all unmarked letters will be transferred to it. The marked mail disappears.

This is a download link for Mailwasher.

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SpyBot Search and Destroy

This program searches your computer for spyware. People have found over a hundred pieces of spyware on their machines the first time they’ve run it.

An item of spyware is something that hangs around in your computer and watches what you do when you’re on line. Its results are used to inform spammers what sort of products or web sites you’re most interested in. Some really bad spyware watches the keys you press and tries to collect passwords, credit card numbers and banking details.

Apart from the hazards that spyware presents, it’s using your resources. Often, people are alerted to the presence of spyware when their computer slows to a crawl, even when they believe that they have just one program running.

Some spyware openly offers itself as a device to remember passwords for you. How very convenient! Why, it’s just like not having a password at all!

This is a download link for SpyBot Search and Destroy.

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AdAware is very similar to SpyBot, but using both programs makes you doubly sure. Sometimes one will find something that the other doesn’t

For a discussion and explanation of the merits of each, read this informative article. I think it will persuade you to use both programs.

This is a download link for AdAware.

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Zone Alarm

Zone Alarm and other firewall programs notice and inform you when anything on your computer tries to “phone home” (contact the computer whose owner made the software). There’s a “Remember this answer,” thingy, so it won’t jump up every time that you try to send an email.

You’ll be amazed, though, at just how many of your programs do try to contact the Internet. Sometimes you can see an obvious reason, but sometimes there’s none that you can see. It’s quite satisfying to hit the button that denies one of the big expensive programs from getting in touch with its parent company.

Take the time to do the tutorial and make suitable settings. It's a chore. You'll wonder why you got yourself into this—but once it's done it's done and a lot of nasty business is prevented from happening without your knowledge.

The real purpose, though, is to stop spyware from sending your personal details (sometimes including passwords) and browsing habits back to its host.

This is a download link for Zone Alarm

This is a download link for Outpost Free Firewall. Outpost.

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Spyware Blaster

This watches for things trying to put themselves into your computer via either Internet Explorer or FireFox. After installation, the program needs to be configured. The simplest way to do this is to click "Enable all Protection". The result, on the Protection tab, should be like this:

Spyware Blaster with all protection enabled.

(Obviously, if you have only one of these browsers installed, you won't be able to enable protection for the one you don't have.)

This is a download link for Spyware Blaster

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StartUp Monitor

This warns you if a program that you are installing tries to put itself into Start Up. Except for security programs like those listed above, the answer is "No".

This particularly applies to office suites, which often have indexing or fast finding services. No-one I know has ever found these services to be useful, and some of them can slow your machine to a crawl. Similarly, toolbars that give instant access to office programs are resource-hungry. You don't need them. Everything is in your start menu, and you yourself can add shortcuts to frequently used programs to your desktop or the Quick Launch bar.

Again, programs that are needed by your hardware—scanner, printer, flash card or whatever—will leap up when you want to use them—there's no need for them to be running in the background all the time.

This is a download link for StartUp Monitor

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you. My email address is here.

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