Monthly Archives: July 2008

Free Internet Child Protection – Parental Control Bar

There is little doubt that the Internet neighborhood can provide a rich educational and cultural experience for children of all ages and backgrounds.

But would you drop your child off in a neighborhood where more than half of the buildings were adult stores, and it was potentially full of predators? Well of course you wouldn’t.

But if you let your child explore the Internet unsupervised, or without having communicated to your child information concerning potential on-line dangers, this is close to what you’re doing.

According to the FBI in the United States, the following are some of the most important positive actions, you as a parent, can take to reduce your child’s possible victimization on the Internet.

  • Communicate, and talk to your child about potential on-line dangers.
  • Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.
  • Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom.
  • Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software.

Since computer-sex offenders are a very real danger on the Internet, the FBI suggests that you instruct your children to:

  • Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line.
  • Never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or an on-line service to people they do not personally know.
  • Never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.
  • Never download pictures from an unknown source; there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images.
  • Never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.

An important aspect of ensuring that your child is safe while using the Internet, (recommended by the FBI and child safety experts/organizations) is the installation of parental control software.

Parental controls will provide you with the advantage of being able to:

  • Block access to materials (text and pictures) identified as inappropriate for kids.
  • Permit access only to materials specifically approved as safe for kids.
  • Specify what types of materials are appropriate for your child.
  • Monitor your child’s activity on the Internet by storing names of sites and/or snapshots of material seen by your child on the computer for you to view later.
  • Set different restrictions for each family member.
  • Limit results of an Internet search to content appropriate for kids.
  • Enforce time limits set by parents.

ParentalControl Bar, a browser toolbar, is a free solution available as a download on the Internet. ParentalControl Bar is provided free of charge to the public by, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free, effective internet control tools.

ParentalControl Bar Features

Child/Parent Mode

This status indicator makes it easy to tell if your computer is in Child-Mode or Parent-Mode. When in Child-Mode, control features are enabled and web sites are blocked based on your parental settings. When in Parent-Mode, control features are disabled and you, the parent, have unrestricted access to the Internet.

Parental Password

A single password makes it easy for you, the parent, to enable or disable Child-Mode. There is a hint to help you remember your password, or if you forget it completely have it sent to a parental email address.

Help Menu

Clicking this button opens the toolbar menu where parents can access tutorials, help menus or change your password.

Change Parental Settings

Clicking this button opens the parental settings menu where you can specify the types of content you wish to block your family from accessing in Child-Mode. You can also manage your personal list of ‘blocked’ and ‘child-safe’ sites from this menu.

Easily Block Adult Sites

The toolbar helps block a significant amount of adult-oriented websites. In addition, you may select specific sites to block by clicking this button. Once you have added a website to the ‘blocked sites’ list it is only accessible in Parent-Mode

Parental Alert

When the toolbar is in Child-Mode, this parental alert blocks your child from accessing adult-oriented websites (based on your parental settings).

Add Web Site to Safe List

Clicking this button adds the website you are currently visiting to the ’safe site’ list. Once a website is added to the ’safe site’ list it can be accessed from either Child-Mode or Parent-Mode (regardless of site label).

For parents looking for a cost-effective tool to help give their children controlled freedom on the Internet, Parental Control Bar is a safe way to go.

System requirements: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Internet Explorer 5.5+, FireFox 1.5+, Safari 10.4+

Download at:

For more information on Internet safety issues for parents and /children/teenagers, visit CNET. This site includes information on the following.

  • Developing safe and smart Internet citizens
  • Parents, tech outdo lawmakers on Internet safety
  • Parental controls that keep tabs on young Web surfers
  • User-generated videos challenge parental controls
  • Growing concerns over cyber bullying
  • Readers address online safety for kids


Filed under Browser add-ons, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Internet Safety, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Safari add-ons, Safe Surfing, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Free A-squared HiJackFree – Detect/Remove Malware

There are plenty of good anti-malware products, but experienced computer users’ realize that to ensure maximum safety, it’s important to have layered defenses in the ongoing fight against malware.

Given the virtual epidemic of malware currently circulating on the Internet, no single anti-malware tool is likely to identify and remove all of the millions of rogue malware that infests the cyber world.

A recent study carried out by PandaLabs of more than 1.5 million users, revealed that 23% of home computers with up-to-date security solution installed were infected by malware. Current data indicates that this situation has not improved

If you are an experienced/advanced computer user and you’re looking for a program to strengthen your anti-malware resources, then HiJackFree is one that’s worth taking a look at. This free application, from EMSI Software, offers a potent layer of additional protection to add to your major anti-malware programs.

The program operates as a detailed system analysis tool that can help you in the detection and removal of Hijackers, Spyware, Adware, Trojans, Worms, and other malware. It doesn’t offer live protection but instead, it examines your system, determines if it’s been infected, and then allows you to eradicate the malware.

Quick facts:

Analyzes the system configuration using live online analysis

Manages all types of Autoruns on your system

Controls all Explorer and Browser plug-ins (BHOs, Toolbars, etc.)

Manages all running Processes and their associated modules

Controls all Services, even those Windows doesn’t display

Allows you to view open ports and the associated listening processes

Allows you to view all DNS entries in the hosts file

Manages installed Layered Service Providers

Multilingual – language packs for English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and many more.

This is a worthwhile application to add to your anti-malware toolbox that impressed me with its performance on my test systems.

A-squared HiJackFree is free for private use only.

Last Update: May 12, 2008


System Requirements: Windows 98/Me/2000/XP/2003 Server/Vista

Download at:


Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Malware Advisories, Windows Tips and Tools

Free KeyScrambler Personal – Defeat Keyloggers While Surfing

Cyber-crooks are relentless in their pursuit of your money and let’s face it – it’s all about the money. In the worst case scenario, your identity and your financial security can be severely compromised.

Despite the best efforts of AntiSpyware, AntiVirus, and other Internet security products, you still face substantial risks while surfing the Internet. One type of risk/danger that is rarely considered, or discussed, is the Keylogger.

A Keylogger is a form of spyware, which once installed on a computer, can record every keystroke that is made on that computer, and transmit those keystrokes back to a cyber criminal. The function of a Keylogger is to steal passwords, bank account numbers, and other personal information.

A Keylogger in action: The to_my_love.scr (to my love screensaver), is currently circulating on the Internet by way of a personal invitation email. Clicking “yes” when your computer asks whether you want to install this screensaver, installs a Worm/Keylogger on the machine.

This Keylogger is capable of stealing IM passwords, email passwords, bank account numbers, and confidential/financial information. Using IM, email, and other contact information from the now infected computer, the Worm/Keylogger goes on to infect other machines. That’s right, the computers of friends, family, and perhaps even co-workers.

Protect yourself with KeyScrambler Personal: KeyScrambler Personal is a free plug-in for FireFox, Internet Explorer, and Flock web browsers which protects all input you type into the browser from Keyloggers. This free version of KeyScrambler encrypts your keystrokes at the kernel driver level.

When you type on your keyboard, the input travels along a path within the operating system before it arrives at your browser. Keyloggers plant themselves along this path and observe and record your keystrokes. The compromised information is then sent to the cyber criminal who will exploit your passwords, bank account numbers, and other personal information.

By encrypting your keystrokes at the keyboard driver level, deep within the operating system, a Keylogger is beaten since it can only record the encrypted keys which are indecipherable.

Unlike AntiVirus and AntiSpyware programs that depend on recognition to remove Keyloggers that they know about, KeyScrambler will protect you from both known and unknown Keyloggers.

Quick facts:

Protects user input in all parts of the browser against key-loggers.

Protects login credentials, credit card numbers, passwords, search terms and more

Works with IE, FireFox, and Flock: Java, Flash, PDF Forms

Email protection including Yahoo, Hotmail, and Gmail.

No learning curve.

Protects against Keyloggers even on security compromised computers

Requires no effort on your part after installation

In the top 5 FireFox Extensions for security and privacy

System Requirements: Windows 2000, 2003, XP, and Vista (32-bit and 64-bit)

Download at: QFX Software

For full, free, system Keylogger protection checkout Are You Being Tracked? – Get Snoop Free Privacy Shield on this Blog.


Filed under Anti-Keyloggers, Browser add-ons, Encryption, Encryption Software, Firefox Add-ons, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Internet Safety, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Safari add-ons, Safe Surfing, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, trojans, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools

The Myth of the Computer Security Savvy Generation

We continuously hear and read that we, in North America, are computer literate and how wonderfully technically competent this new generation of computer/connected device users is. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. This is a myth.

People love myths. It seems that we will buy into any myth provided it agrees with, or reinforces, our already held misconceptions. Myths of course, get their status precisely because they do reinforce our beliefs, properly held or not.

Well, let me be the one to shatter this myth for you. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, could be further from the truth.

We know that anecdotal evidence, while interesting, does not always tell the tale. On the other hand, gather enough anecdotal evidence and one may have enough data to propose a theory, that can withstand probing and prodding.

Since I’m involved in Internet and system security, and write on these issues for both my personal Blogs, and for the website, I’m the “go to” guy for my friends, their friends, my neighborhood; the list goes on.

These opportunities to deal with average/typical computer users, as opposed to corporate users, have provided many opportunities to develop anecdotal evidence on the abysmal state of a typical computer users understanding of even minor technical issues but most particularly, computer security.

As a tech/geek, I am in touch with hundreds of other techs/geeks from all over the world on a fairly consistent basis. This contact provides all of us with the opportunity to exchange information on the world of technology. Of course, like most people, we don’t always agree on the relevancy, or the truth, of the information being discussed.

One undisputed reality however, that we all agree on, is the lack of knowledge exhibited by typical computer users, and most importantly, the lack of knowledge concerning the need to secure their machines against the ever increasing risks to their privacy and their financial security on the Internet. Essentially, we’re in agreement that the old expression, slightly modified, covers it “they simple don’t know what they don’t know.”

So anecdotally I can tell you, there’s a major lack of knowledge and skill relating to computers/connected devices, security and technology in general in North America.

The role of a poor quality education, and functional illiteracy, in all of this cannot be underestimated. There is no doubt that functional illiteracy severely limits interaction with information and communication technologies (e.g. using a personal computer working with a word processor, a web browser, a spreadsheet application, or using a mobile phone efficiently).

In the United States it’s estimated that 40-44 million (28-30% of adults) are functionally illiterate, in other words, they cannot read for content. In fact, it’s not uncommon that first year college students are required to take a course in remedial reading.

There was no surprise then in reading that the American Council of Life Insurers reports that 75% of the Fortune 500 companies provide some level of remedial literacy training for their workers. How’s that for literacy in a technology driven world?

The results of this function illiteracy can be seen in the overriding statement from a recent home computer security survey developed by National Cyber Security Alliance, and security firm McAfee: computer users are in need of a “reality check” when it comes to home computer security.

Based on the survey, McAfee and NCSA stated; while 98 percent of computer users agree that having up-to-date security software is important for system security, a significant number of the survey respondents have computers with security software that is incomplete, or dangerously out of date.

The results of this survey are consistent with my own anecdotal evidence, and I am confident that this survey does not overstate the case.

Highlights of the survey:

Ninety-two percent of those surveyed believed their anti-virus software was up to date, but in fact, only 51 percent had updated their anti-virus software within the past week.

Seventy-three percent of those surveyed believed they had a firewall installed and enabled, yet only 64 percent actually did.

Approximately 70 % of PC users believed they had anti-spyware software, but only 55 percent actually had it installed.

25% of survey participants believed they had anti-phishing software, but only 12 percent actually had the software.

Where do you fit in all this?

Computer security, especially while surfing the Internet has to be a priority; it cannot take a back seat to anything. It needs to be first and foremost in computer users’ minds as they interact with the Internet.

Most of us now store a large volume of confidential personal information on our home computers, including information concerning our personal finances, taxes, health, and perhaps personal documentation of other types.

So, it may well be that you need to take the time to survey your computer to insure that all relevant security applications have been installed, are up to date, and are operating correctly.

If you need to update or add additional security applications to your computer, then checkout The Top 10 Security Applications on this Blog for reviews and free security application downloads.


Filed under Freeware, Internet Safety, Living Life, Online Safety, Personal Perspective, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

Got a New Computer? – Stay Safe – Minimum Security Precautions

So you just got a new PC and, I know, you can hardly wait to put it through its paces; see what it can do, and hopefully just burn up the Internet.

Since you’re reading this, that’s a good indication that you’re aware that there are some fundamental precautions you need to take before you connect to the Internet with your new machine.

I know you’re smart enough to recognize that you should be reading this on your old machine.

Let’s review those fundamental precautions.

Patch your operating system. Download and install all available patches and service packs by connecting to Windows Update. According to Swedish security company Sophos, 50% of unpatched and unprotected systems will be infected with malicious code within 12 minutes of being connected to the Internet.

Install a firewall. Windows XP comes with a basic firewall, and if you are running Windows Vista, it comes with a more robust firewall (Windows Firewall) than XP, as well as anti-spyware utilities (Windows Defender). However, the consensus is; third party applications are usually more effective. Keep in mind that the XP firewall offers only minimal protection.

Choosing a firewall.

There are a number of free firewalls that are worth considering. The following are two that do the job particularly well.

Comodo Firewall Pro

The definitive free firewall, Comodo Firewall protects your system by defeating hackers and restricting unauthorized programs from accessing the Internet. I have been using this application for 14 months and I continue to feel very secure. It resists being forcibly terminated and it works as well, or better, than any firewall I’ve paid for. This is one I highly recommend. Amazing that it’s free!

Download Comodo Firewall Pro


The free version of ZoneAlarm lacks the features of ZoneAlarm Pro’s firewall. Its program control asks you regularly whether to allow programs; for some this can be intrusive and annoying. But it’s been around forever it seems, and it can’t be shut down, or out, by mal-ware.

Download ZoneAlarm

Install anti-virus software.

There is no doubt that an unprotected computer will become infected by viruses and malware within minutes of first being connected to the Internet. There are many free versions of anti-virus software available and the programs that have a well justified reputation are listed below.

avast! 4 Home Edition

This anti virus app is a real fighter, scanning files on demand and on access, including email attachments. Let’s you know when it detects mal-ware through its shield function. An important feature is a boot-time scan option which removes mal-ware that can’t be remove any other way.

Download avast! 4 Home Edition

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition

Similarly, this program scans files on access, on demand, and on schedule. Scans email; incoming and outgoing. For those on Vista, your in luck, it’s Vista-ready. I have been using this application since its release and it now forms part of my front line defenses. I recommend this one highly.

Download AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition

Install Spyware and Adware Software. It’s not only a virus that can put your computer down for the count, but a multitude of nasties freely floating on the Internet. Listed below are a number of free programs that offer very good protection against malware.

Ad-Aware 2008

Many software reviewers consider Ad-Aware 2008 Free as the best free spyware and adware remover available. It does a relatively good job of protecting against known data-mining, Trojans, dialers, malware, browser hijackers and tracking components. The only downside with the free version is real-time protection is not included.

Download Ad-Aware 2008


Do you want to get a better understanding of what programs are being added to your computer? Then WinPatrol is the program for you. With WinPatrol, in your system tray, you can monitor system areas that are often changed by malicious programs. You can monitor your startup programs and services, cookies and current tasks. Should you need to, WinPatrol allows you to terminate processes and enable, or disable, startup programs. There are additional features that make WinPatrol a very powerful addition to your security applications.

Download WinPatrol

ThreatFire 3

ThreatFire 3 blocks mal-ware, including zero-day threats, by analyzing program behavior and it does a stellar job. Again, this is one of the security applications that forms part of my front line defenses. I have found it to have high success rate at blocking mal-ware based on analysis of behavior. I highly recommend this one!

Download ThreatFire 3

If you are now on the Internet, and you have not yet taking the precautions as outlined above, you are extremely vulnerable and it is critical that you take the following precautions:

Stop surfing the Web and patch your operating system. Only then download the protective software as noted above, or software that you are familiar with that will do an appropriate job of protecting your computer.

Do not visit any other websites until you have done this!

Additional security precautions:

Establish a password for the administrator account. Only you should have access to the administrator settings on your PC. Unfortunately, XP installs with open access to the administrator’s account. Be sure to change this.

Create a new password protected user account. Using this account for your general day-to-day activities adds another layer of protection to your computer. A user account does not have the same all-access permissions as your administrator account, and in many cases this extra layer of protection will restrict malware from gaining a foothold on your PC.

Good luck and safe surfing.


Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Software, System File Protection, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

The Best Free Word Processor – AbiWord – Multilingual MS Word Alternative

A friend called me recently and wondered if he could “borrow” my copy of MS Word so that he could update a saved copy of his resume in Microsoft Word format. It seems he no longer had access to Word.

I pointed out to him that he could simple download any one of the many free alternatives to Word that are available for download; most of which “save” and “open” in Word’s .doc format. It surprised me to learn that he was unaware that there are free alternatives to Word, of which, AbiWord is arguably one of the best of these light word processing applications.

AbiWord has been designed to integrate perfectly with the operating system it runs on, and there are many, including Windows, Linux, Mac OS X (PowerPC), ReactOS, and BeOS. This great application has been written to take advantage of the functionality provided by the system it runs on, such as image loading, or printing capabilities.

AbiWord is no slouch when it comes to being able to read and write all industry standard document types, like OpenOffice, Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, Rich Text Format, HTML web pages, and many more.

There’s no learning curve involved with AbiWord since it features a similar looking interface to Word, with it’s basic character formatting, paragraph alignment, spell checker, interactive rulers and tabs, styles, unlimited undo/redo, find and replace, and image support.

AbiWord has a very small resource footprint, which allows full functionality on systems that are not considered “State of the Art”. For those users with underpowered systems (by modern standards), this alternative light word processors should prove to be ideal.

I find AbiWord with its surprising amount of features and simple straightforward interface, to be the appropriate word processor I need running in the background while I’m on the Internet. Its small memory footprint, as opposed to memory hogging Microsoft Word, is ideal for most of my day to day work. In fact, portable AbiWord is my word processor of choice for my portable office on my USB key.

As you can see from the picture below, this article was written on AbiWord.


Multi Platform


Advanced document layout options

Tables, bullets, lists, images, footnotes, endnotes and styles

Available in most common, and many not-so-common languages

Spell checker

Dictionaries for over 30 languages

Supports right-to-left, left-to-right, and mixed-mode text

The above feature allows support for languages like Hebrew and Arabic

Mail Merge capabilities

Download at:


Filed under Freeware, Mobile Applications, MS Word Alternatives, Open Source, Portable Applications, Productivity Software, Software, USB, Windows Tips and Tools

Is The Internet Broken? You Decide

Each time that you connect to the Internet you are wandering through a raucous neighborhood which has a reputation for being jam-packed with predators.

These predators are intent on stealing your money and personal information, installing damaging programs on your computer, or misleading you with an online scam.

Cyber-crooks are relentless in their pursuit of your money and “It’s all about the money,” according to Graham Cluley, senior technical consultant at Internet security firm Sophos. In the worst case scenario, your identity and your financial security can be severely compromised.

Looking at estimates provided by a number of Internet security companies, the consensus seems to be that there are over 11,000,000 malware programs currently in the ether. Various Internet security companies report having to deal with as many as 20,000 new versions of malware daily. Here’s the math; one new malware program every four seconds!

Since additional sophisticated threats are being developed, or are currently being deployed, some observers are of the opinion that the Internet is essentially broken. If you think this is an exaggeration, check this out and then you decide.

Tainted search engine results: Internet security gurus have known for some time that we can not rely on Internet search engine output to be untainted and free of potential harmful exposure to malware.

Cyber-crooks continue to be unrelenting in their chase to infect web search results, seeding malicious websites among the top results returned by these engines. When a potential victim visits one of these sites, the chances of downloading malicious code onto the computer by exploiting existing vulnerabilities, is extremely high.

Infected legitimate websites: According to an Internet security industry leader Sophos, over 90 percent of dangerous websites, that is – websites that are distributing Trojan horses and spyware – are legitimate sites that have been hacked through SQL injection.

It was reported recently that over sixteen thousand web pages were infected daily between January and June of this year; three times the rate of infection noted in the previous year. Work out the math, and you’ll find that’s one new infected legitimate website every five seconds!

More disturbing, seventy nine percent of compromised web pages tracked this year were on legitimate web sites; including web sites owned by Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and ironically, security vendors.

Drive-by downloads: Drive-by downloads are not new; they’ve been lurking around for years it seems, but they’ve become much more common and craftier recently.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, drive-by download, they are essentially programs that automatically download and install on your computer without your knowledge.

This action can occur while visiting an infected web site, opening an infected HTML email, or by clicking on a deceptive popup window. Often, more than one program is downloaded; for example, file sharing with tracking spyware is very common. It’s important to remember that this can take place without warning, or your approval.

Rogue software: Unless you have had the bad experience of installing this type of malicious software, you may not be aware that such a class of software even exists. But it does; and regrettably, it is becoming more widespread. Most rogue software uses social engineering to convince users’ to download this type of malicious software.

A rogue security application is an application, usually found on free download and adult websites, or it can be installed from rogue security software websites, using Trojans or manipulating Internet browser security holes.

After the installation of rogue security software the program launches fake or false malware detection warnings. Rogue security applications, and there seems to be an epidemic of them on the Internet currently, are developed to mislead uninformed computer users’ into downloading and paying for the “full” version of this bogus software, based on the false malware positives generated by the application.

Even if the full program fee is paid, rogue software continues to run as a background process incessantly reporting those fake or false malware detection warnings. Over time, this type of software will essentially destroy the victim’s computer operating system, making the machine unusable.

Some types of rogue security software have the potential to collect private and personal information from an infected machine which could include passwords, credit card details, and other sensitive information.

Email scams: Email scams work because the Cyber-crooks responsible use social engineering as the hook; in other words they exploit our curiosity. The fact is, we are all pretty curious creatures and let’s face it, who doesn’t like surprise emails? I think it’s safe to say, we all love to receive good news emails.

It seems that more and more these days, I get phishing emails in my inboxes all designed to trick me into revealing financial information that can be used to steal my money.

If you’re unfamiliar with phishing, it is defined as the act of tricking unsuspecting Internet users into revealing sensitive or private information. In a phishing attack, the attacker creates a set of circumstances where the potential victims are convinced that they are dealing with an authorized party. It relies for its success on the principle that asking a large number of people for this information, will always deceive at least some of those people.

A personal example of how this works is as follows. According to a recent email (similar in form and content to 20+ I receive each month), my online banking privileges with Bank of America had been blocked due to security concerns. This looked like an official email and the enclosed link made it simple to get this problem solved with just a mouse click. What could be easier than that?

Clicking on the link would have redirected me to a spoof page, comparable to the original site, and I would then have begun the process whereby the scammers would have stripped me of all the confidential information I was willing to provide.

My financial and personal details, had I entered them, would then have been harvested by the cyber-crooks behind this fraudulent scheme who would then have used this information to commit identity and financial theft.

These types of attacks against financial institutions, and consumers, are occurring with such frequency that the IC³ (Internet Crime Complaint Center), has called the situation “alarming”, so you need to be extremely vigilant.

Being involved in computer security, I am amazed and frankly frustrated, at the lack of knowledge exhibited by most typical computer users, and most importantly, the lack of knowledge concerning the need to secure their machines against the ever increasing risks on the Internet.

We now live in the age of the “Interconnectedness of All Things” in which we are beginning to see the development and availability of large numbers of Internet connected devices. There is no doubt that this will lend new strength to computer-aided crime and in this new political environment we now live in, perhaps even terrorists.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the dangers we are exposed to on the Internet. There are many more technical reasons why the Internet is becoming progressively more dangerous which are outside the scope of this article, but one worth mentioning is the recent discovery that the very backbone of the Internet DNS can be compromised.

The Domain Name System serves as the “phone book” for the Internet by translating human-readable computer hostnames, e.g., into IP addresses, e.g., which networking equipment needs to deliver information.

So what do you think? Is the Internet broken and if so, how can it be saved?

Be kind to your friends, relatives, and associates and let them know that all of the above dangers are now epidemic on the Internet. In that way, it raises the level of protection for all of us.

Be aware of the following security risks on the Internet:

Trojan horse programs

Back door and remote administration programs

Denial of service

Being an intermediary for another attack

Unprotected Window shares

Mobile code (Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX)

Cross-site scripting

Email spoofing

Email-borne viruses

Hidden file extensions

Chat clients

Packet sniffing

Review the following actions you can take to protect your Internet connected computer system:

Install an Internet Browser add-on such as WOT (my personal favorite), which provides detailed test results on a site’s safety; protecting you from security threats including spyware, adware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, and online scams.

Don’t open unknown email attachments

Don’t run programs of unknown origin

Disable hidden filename extensions

Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched

Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use

Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible

Disable scripting features in email programs

Make regular backups of critical data

Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised

Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer.

Install a personal firewall on the computer.

Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet.

Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments.


Filed under Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Internet Safety, internet scams, Online Banking, Online Safety, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, Search Engines, System Security, trojans, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools

Manage System Memory Effectively – Get FreeRAM XP Pro (Free)

Is your machine always “just poking along”? Do you know which of your running programs are RAM hogs? Do you still have DLL’s running in the background when they’re no longer needed, and they seem to take forever to unload??

Unfortunately, in many cases, Windows fails to correctly unload programs and DLL’s from memory (RAM) on program exit. So less memory is available for new programs; this can cause excessive system slowdown, or in some cases system crashes. FreeRAM XP Pro will free up and optimize memory, allowing your computer to perform to its optimum level.

This free utility includes automatic memory monitoring and optimization, advanced tray support, fast, threaded freeing with a stop option, multiple system-metric monitors, a simple and attractive GUI, memory reporting and diagnostic logging, and real-time memory information.

The program’s AutoFree feature intelligently scales how much RAM is freed with your current system status, so that RAM is optimized without slowing down your computer.

FreeRAM XP Pro has been designed to be easy to use, yet highly customizable by computer novices and experts alike. Despite the fact that I have 1 GB of Ram, I have used this neat little utility for a number of years, and I have always been impressed with its performance.

Fast facts:

Automatic, real-time memory monitoring and optimization

Fast, threaded memory freeing with stop option

AutoFree option intelligently optimizes RAM without sacrificing performance

System metric and performance monitors

Advanced tray support

Memory reporting and diagnostic logging

Simple, attractive interface

RAM-cuts (RAM-freeing Windows shortcuts)

Customizable Windows hotkey support

Access to Windows memory-related tweaks that could enhance system performance

Process memory usage reporting

Unique memory compression technology directly reduces applications’ “working set” memory requirements instantly and without swap file usage: completely unlike other memory programs

Requirements: Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP/2003 Server

Download at:


Filed under Freeware, Memory Optimizers, Slow Computer, System Memory Management, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Porno Sites – The Dangers You Need to Know

Consider this statistic: the pornography industry has revenues larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined.

That’s right, the combined revenues of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink. You’re not really surprised, are you?

Even if you are an infrequent user of the Internet, it is probable that you have been exposed to unwanted porn while surfing the web.

Now, I hold no moral, religious, or political views on the availability of pornography on the Internet; except of course that which is clearly illegal or morally reprehensible, such as child pornography.

My main concern with pornographic Websites is focused instead on the primary/secondary use that many of these sites are designed for – as a vehicle for the distribution of potentially harmful malware applications that can be surreptitiously dropped onto unwitting visitors computers.

WOT, (Web of Trust) has just released a study of 19 million sites covered by the website reputation database which was conducted from March to May 2008 and focused on dangerous sites – such sites amount to 1 in 20 Internet sites.

The survey employed sophisticated algorithms to ensure the filtering of non-adult content, and to enhance the accuracy of the finale results.

For those that are unfamiliar with WOT; it is a free Internet Browser resource (my personal favorite), that has established an impressive 4.5/5.0 star user rating on CNET, tests web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams, helping users avoid unsafe web sites.

According to the key findings of the study, Websites offering adult content are the single most significant security threat exposure for Internet users, both home users’ and corporate users’, with 31% of dangerous websites falling into the category of adult sites.

Experienced computer users are generally aware that pornographic web sites are notorious for spyware, viruses, browser exploits and phishing attacks on insufficiently protected computers.

The credibility of this view is emphasized by Esa Suurio, CEO of Against Intuition Inc., the company that supports Web of Trust, who concludes from the survey that “Visiting the red light district of the Internet makes the user vulnerable to spyware, viruses and leakage of confidential information which can cause significant damage.”

Esa goes on to say “Given the size of the problem there has been surprisingly little debate on the topic. Perhaps the suffering parties, individuals and companies, hesitate to express their complaints in public.” No doubt this last can be explained by the old Puritan view, still held by many, that condemns the viewing of pornographic material.

Recently I came across statistics that indicate 91% of corporate computer users’ routinely break their company’s Internet usage policies. WOT’s survey makes it clear that such lack of responsible usage, particularly where inappropriate sites are accessed, can “put their company at risk by introducing malware, viruses and spyware which can cause a security breach in the organization. The potential for damage is enormous, from inside and outside their firewalls, considering that confidential data can be stolen by keyloggers and tracking cookies, a common form of malware used by porn sites”.

As a result of this survey WOT has been enhanced its database with double the coverage of pornographic sites than it had previously. Parents who are concerned for the safety of their children on the Internet will be glad to know that WOT has information on nearly 1 million sites that are rated poorly for child safety.

Supporting statistics:

4.2 million pornographic websites

420 million pages of adult content

11 new porn sites are created each hour

34% of Internet users received unwanted exposure to porn

The average age of first Internet exposure to pornography is 11

Malware and phishing attacks cost computer users $18 million per year

Download WOT

WOT Demo video

Market facts, related links and research about Internet safety


Filed under Browser add-ons, Firefox Add-ons, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Internet Safety, Internet Safety for Children, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Phishing, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, trojans, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools

Think Your Computer’s Junk? – But Is It?

If you’re in the market for a new computer it’s probable that it’s due to one of the following.

Your computer takes a long time to boot and operates slowly.

Your Internet experience is slow.

Your Hard Drive is full.

I test new software on an almost daily basis, and I do the majority of that testing on a Dell OptiPlex 110 with 512 Meg of memory, running Windows XP Professional. Surprisingly, this is a 6 year old computer and 90%+ of the software and Internet testing that I perform, runs smoothly and adequately on this platform.

So keep in mind that for everyday work, word processing, spreadsheets, e-mail, and general Internet surfing you don’t need the latest, greatest, and most expensive computer.

If your current operating system is Windows XP (and 93% of us run XP), read the requirements that Microsoft set out as the minimum requirements for a computer to run Windows XP when the operating system was released.

These requirements were taken directly from the Microsoft website. “Here’s What You Need to Use Windows XP Home Edition”

· PC with 300 megahertz (MHz) or higher processor clock speed recommended; 233-MHz minimum required;* Intel Pentium/Celeron family, AMD K6/Athlon/Duron family, or compatible processor recommended

· 128 megabytes (MB) of RAM or higher recommended (64 MB minimum supported; may limit performance and some features)

· 1.5 gigabyte (GB) of available hard disk space.

· Super VGA (800 × 600) or higher resolution video adapter and monitor

· CD-ROM or DVD drive

· Keyboard and Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device

I have seen, even quite recently, machines which meet only these minimum requirements satisfy the needs of their users.

This article is not all encompassing, but let’s take a look at some of the alternatives you have before you replace what may be a perfectly functional computer which meets your current needs. If you do decide however, that upgrades to the system are required, a good rule of thumb is to purchase a new system if the upgrades total 50% or more of the cost of a new computer.

Your computer takes a long time to boot and operates slowly.

PCs don’t slow down without a reason. All computers have characteristic operating patterns that lead to predictable, but preventable issues. Simple maintenance, practiced regularly, which is easy even for a non-expert, can keep an older PC running smoothly at peak performance for years.

Disk fragmentation, especially on intensively used systems, will degrade performance over time. This is a good task to automate by using a third-party tool like Auslogics Disk Defrag. This application is free and it does a great job.

Auslogics Disk Defrag:

The program is extremely easy to use, does not require any analysis phase and is faster than most disk defragmentation software I’ve tested in the past, and it’s free. In my view, it’s one more maintenance process in helping me get the maximum performance out of my hardware.

Fast facts:

Improve computer performance and stability

Increase your productivity – no more waiting for files to open

Defragment disks in minutes

Disk fragmentation map and detailed fragmentation report

Download at:

Your Hard Drive is full.

A full Hard Drive will not function efficiently since you require at least 2 – 3MB of free space for programs to run smoothly. If you lack this much free space, you should uninstall unused programs on your primary drive. A superior program to uninstall programs from your computer is Revo Uninstaller. This free program with its advanced and fast algorithm scans before, and after you uninstall an application.

Revo Uninstaller:

Revo Uninstaller is a superior program to uninstall programs from your computer. This free program with its advanced and fast algorithm scans before, and after you uninstall an application. After the program’s regular uninstaller runs, you can remove additional unnecessary files, folders and registry keys that are usually left over (those “orphaned” registry entries we talked about earlier), on your computer. This feature is a definite plus.

Fast facts:

Superior uninstaller


Fast algorithm scans before, and after uninstall

Removes additional unnecessary files, folders and registry keys

Download at: Developer’s Site


Running a Disk Cleaner will optimize systems by emptying the Recycle Bin, Temporary Setup Files, Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Old Chkdsk Files, Temporary Files, Temporary Offline Files, Offline Files, and so on. For a full and through cleanup, I highly recommend CCleaner. As well, you should consider copying archived files such as pictures and music, to CD’s or DVD’s to free space on the Hard Drive.

Fast facts:

Frees up valuable hard disk space

Advanced features to remove unused and old entries

Comprehensive backup feature

System tray icon

Privacy tool

Download at:

Your Internet is slow.

Even the fastest Internet connection is a lot slower than any relatively modern PC, so make sure your Internet settings are properly optimized. Ashampoo Internet Accelerator 2 is an excellent free Internet connection optimizer.

Ashampoo Internet Accelerator 2:

A slow Internet connection costs time and gets on your nerves. So, taking the time to optimize the settings is considered a must. Ashampoo Internet Accelerator is a great little application that makes it easy to perform this simply task.

Fast facts:Free

Fully automatic

ISDN, DSL via LAN cable or cable modem, DSL via wireless LAN

Improvements in performance connection

Download at:

Clean your machine:

Keep your computer clean and dust free and perform a periodic full system cleaning. Elsewhere on this Blog there is a comprehensive article on cleaning your computer. Check out “Save Your Money – Spring Clean Your Computer

What Dirt?:

High heat and dirt are definite killers of system components! Just recently I had to replace a CPU on a client’s machine due to resticted airflow caused by dirt on the CPU fan.

Check all connections.

Open the system and verify that all connections feel solid and are placed correctly. Double-check any accessory cards for a snug setting and good connections. Make sure cable tensions are appropriate.

Don’t strain connections:

Having too much strain on a cable or connection can damage the cable, device, jack/node, or the computer. Be sure that there is plenty of slack in the cables on the device and computer ends. Excess strain may cause intermittent performance issues.

Malware Infections.

It’s possible of course, that the performance of your computer has been adversely affected by malware infections. If you believe that’s the case read my article on this Blog, The top 10 best free security applications your security toolbox can’t be without!

Once you have removed system-clogging clutter, ensured your Internet settings are properly optimized, are satisfied your system is not infected with malware, and performed the other simple maintenance, your old PC should satisfy you with its capabilities.

1 Comment

Filed under Disk Cleaners, Freeware, Hard Drive Maintenance, Interconnectivity, Registry Cleaners, Slow Computer, Software, System Utilities, Uninstall Managers, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools