It is beyond dispute that the Internet now fits the criteria of a world that is not just perceived to be, but is in fact, personally threatening to uninformed or casual Internet users.
In a sense it is unfortunate that you can’t buy paranoia at the local computer store, or that you can’t download it from the Internet.
Despite the best efforts of antispyware, antivurus, and other Internet security products, you still face substantial risks while surfing the Internet. Malware (a genetic term for all sorts of nasties), evolves so rapidly today that staying ahead of the curve has proven to be all but impossible for security software developers.
While reputable Anti-malware software is often capable of detecting harmful and malicious attempts to compromise your computer, this is not always the case. Anti-malware programs that rely on a definition database (most anti-malware programs) can be behind the curve in recognizing the newest threats.
So we all need to become infected with a mild case of paranoia when using the Internet. Being paranoid, suspicious, and untrusting while surfing the web, might not make you invulnerable to malware infections or worse, but it will certainly reduce the odds enormously.
The prime area where paranoia can play an important role in preventing you from becoming a victim of cyber criminals is in overcoming the instinctive human response to just “click”. That instinctive response poses one of the biggest risks to your online safety and security.
Curiosity, coupled with a conditioned response can often override self-discipline and common sense; so it’s not unusual for people to engage in some, or all (shudder), of the following unsafe surfing practices.
- Downloading files and software through file-sharing applications such as BitTorrent, eDonkey, KaZaA and other such programs.
- Clicking links in instant messaging (IM) that have no context or are composed of only general text.
- Downloading executable software from web sites without ensuring that the site is reputable.
- Using an unsecured USB stick on public computers, or other computers that are used by more than one person.
- Opening email attachments from unknown people.
- Opening email attachments without first scanning them for viruses.
- Opening email attachments that end in a file extension of .exe, .vbs, or .lnk.
- Trojan horse programs
- Back door and remote administration programs
- Denial of service
- Being an intermediary for another attack
- Unprotected Window shares
- Cross-site scripting
- Email spoofing
- Email-borne viruses
- Hidden file extensions
- Chat clients
- Packet sniffing
Having developed this new sense of paranoia you will no doubt take the following actions to protect your computer system, your money and your identity:
- 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 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
- Be proactive when it comes to your computer’s security; make sure you have adequate software based protection to reduce the chances that your machine will become infected.
For help in understanding the items on this list, and read How To’s on configuring them, hop over to Tech–for Everyone.
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 removed any other way.
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.
In my view, Ad-Aware Free is 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; real-time protection is not included.
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. Highly recommend this one!
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 6 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!
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 get to be intrusive and annoying. But it’s been around forever it seems, and it can’t be shut down, or out, by mal-ware.
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.
Surfing the Internet without using Sandboxie is, to me, like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. Deadly! This application creates a “Sandboxed” protected environment on your machine within which you browse the net. Data that is written to your hard drive is simply eliminated, (or not, your choice), when the sandbox is closed. Utilizing this application allows you to surf the web without the risk of infecting your system with mal-ware or other nasties. This is another security application I have been using for over 10 months and it has yet to let me down.
Snoop Free Privacy Shield is a powerful application that guards your keyboard, screen and open windows from all spy software. I have been using this application for quite some time, and I have been amazed at the number of programs that have requested access to my keyboard and screen. Particularly, programs that I am in the process of installing. If you’re serious about privacy, this is a must have addition to your security toolbox.