Friday, March 31, 2006

A word from the wise

Steve is a good friend of mine who I've known around 20 years. It's not often he issues some advice like this, but when he does I take it to heart since he's one of my go-to people when my computer problems start getting serious.

Spyware is a serious problem, and just this morning I was fighting it trying to get some stuff done. Here's an email he sent out today that I really liked.

Give me a day or two and I'll try and link everything up. For now you can Google these titles and find them.

I can't tell you how many people I've had to help with their spyware infested computers at home. This problem eclipses all other problems. In the course of helping these folks I've built up a check list that seems to work and doesn't cost anything. I thought I'd share it...

1. Use Mozilla Firefox instead of Internet Explorer. Use Internet Explorer only when necessary. The latest version of Firefox works on 99% of sites and is much much less prone to Spyware. Firefox is also a fantastic browser when you spruce it up with Extensions. Extensions is a whole other list that I won't get into here but trust me, you can turn Firefox into something that makes Internet Explorer look pathetic. P.S. Firefox won PC Magazine's product of the year for 2005.

2. Use Mozilla Thunderbird instead of Outlook Express for your email needs. Thunderbird protects you from ActiveX attacks that happen in Outlook Express and you can block images by default and handle junk mail. Thunderbird does everything that Outlook Express does and more.

3. Patch your Windows to the latest patch level. Most problems with Spyware are related to Internet Explorer, but not all. Patching is always a good idea.

4. Use antivirus software that also blocks Spyware. Two products that are free are AVAST and AVG. Avast is my favorite.

5. Scan your PC with several free anti-spyware tools (don't use just one). I use Ad-Aware, Spybot Search & Destroy, SpywareBlaster and Windows Defender (beta product from Microsoft). Here are some details on the products:
a) Ad-Aware - the personal version is free. It's great for cleaning up spyware but it doesn't protect you from getting them.
b) Spybot Search & Destroy - free for personal use. This cleans spyware and also protects you if you use "Immunizations" (which protect you from some websites).
c) SpywareBlaster - the free version requires you to download updates manually but it helps with spyware removal and protects you actively.
d) Windows Defender (beta) - This Microsoft product will be part of the upcoming Windows Vista. It's purpose is to scan for and actively protect you from spyware.

6. Hide your Internet Explorer and Outlook Express icons so you (or anyone else) are tempted to click on them (after replacing them with Firefox and Thunderbird).

7. Teach your whole family (and anyone else using your computer) to "just so no" when they get prompted on various websites to install any software. Kids love to visit sites like "Playstation codes and cheats" that are riddled with spyware. This is especially true with boys. I thank God I had a daughter. :)

8. Make friends with a good computer geek and buy him/her lunch. I personally like Herrera's, Empress Cafe and Ton's Mongolian Grill. :)

Hope this helps. I also hope that the next version of Windows is a lot less vulnerable to spyware.


Ensign Eddie said...

I thought *I* was your "go-to" computer geek. *sniff*


AVGeek said...

Read closely, he's ONE of my go to people ;-)

Now now, it's all better ;-0


-btc said...

Gotta diversify your options.

Can never have enough nerds.

edieraye said...

I finally found it cheaper just to marry my geek - all those lunches add up in a hurry!

-btc said...

THAT is true genius there!

If only Angelina Jolie were a geek... (sigh -- drool)

AVGeek said...

With what my wife's been doing with her iPod lately, I think I did marry my geek.

-btc said...

Hey now, let's not bring your wife's iPod into this....

Anonymous said...

I wish my Pod was bigger....