Ask Leo: How do I keep my computer safe on the internet?

askleo

By Leo Notenboom

Virii & Spyware & Worms … oh my!

“Internet Safety” seems like an oxymoron.

It seems like not a day goes by where we don’t hear about some new kind of
threat aimed at wreaking havoc across machines connected to the internet. While
products other than Microsoft’s are certainly vulnerable, anti-Microsoft
sentiment coupled with the massive installed base make Microsoft products an irresistible target for hackers and “script kiddies”.

Here are some things you can, and should, do to stay safe.

Leo Notenboom

Leo A. Notenboom is the owner of Puget Sound Software, LLC and the Leo in Ask Leo!.Leo has been in the personal computer and software industry since 1979, as a software engineer, a manager of software engineers, and as a consultant.In 1983 Leo joined what was then a medium sized local company called Microsoft and spent the next 18 years in a wide variety of groups working on a wide variety of software. If you're running Microsoft Windows, if you've used a Microsoft development tool or Microsoft Money, or if you've ever purchased a ticket through Expedia, there's a good chance you've been touched by some of his work.And of course, since 2003, Leo has been answering your tech questions on Ask Leo!

3 Comments

  1. I have used AVG free for a long time. But, I knew it just wasn’t enough. It only found 4 files with broken signatures. So, last week I did a massive malware purge. Over the course of 3 or 4 days. I used AVG, Avast, Antivir, Malwarebytes, Kaspersky and almost used Mycleanpc until I saw it was a registry cleaner.

    But, just because it may have found more virus’s doesn’t necessarily mean they were actually virus’s. I wish companies would really abstain from the heuristic analysis part of it. The ability to generate false positives. That science just hasn’t been perfected yet.

    I would pay for a malware scanner provided it was definitely worth it. If it found all the virus’s all these scanners did (and that they were actually virus’s) There is now a virus scanner called HitManPro which takes a difference approach. It is a cloud based scanner and designed specifically not to interfere with others you may have on your system. Panda has one too.

    I read an article in Maximum PC or the like, in which they tested several scanners. Panda was the one that shredded pretty much everything they threw at it. Though, I see Spyware Doctor brags a lot about the awards they’ve won. I haven’t tried that though.

  2. Not a bad article, but it’s not very comprehensive.

    For example, it does not mention the fact that browser helper programs like Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash Player, and Oracle’s Java should also be updated regularly because there’s malware in the wild that take advantage of vulnerabilities in those programs.

    It also doesn’t mention that an awful lot of malware distribution depends on user’s bad browsing and email habits to spread. Examples of that would be opening email attachments the recipient did not expect were coming, or clicking on links seeded on Facebook Walls that lead to malware. Antivirus programs usually have email scanners, and they should be configured and enabled to do the job. Some, like AVG 9 and AVG 2011, also have toolbars that contain the front end for link scanners to help you spot poisoned links on web pages, or poisoned web sites. Those should also be enabled and used.

    For most of my browsing, I use Mozilla Firefox with an add-on called “NoScript”. NoScript disallows running any script on a web page unless I give it permission. That can be a pain in the neck sometimes, but it does mean I have very few fears of drive-by malware infections.

  3. I have recently subscribed to Prevx, and it caught a virus that made it through Yahoo email, McAffee, and some other antivirus antimalware programs I use. I have been very satisfied with that type of protection. What do you think? I still use Windows XP firewall. My computer runs reasonably fast with all of this installed.

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