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     Take Back Your Computer

Almost every day, we see new occurrences of predator ATTACKS on the unwary users of the Internet. It may be as 'small' as a pop up avalanche or as large as identity theft, but it is happening hourly.

To help those looking for some relief, I have put together a list of 10 things that one can do to help REDUCE these attacks -- some actions that you can do to make your machine and life more SECURE.

A personal firewall is normally a software program that will act as a BUFFER between your machine and the Internet. It is designed to protect your computer from INTRUSION (scanning or attack) by hackers while it is connected to the Internet. A good place to find information about firewall programs is www.firewallguide.com/software.htm.

Microsoft creates PATCHES to their products on a regular basis -- and these patches often affect the level of SECURITY on your system. As they release these patches, you need to install those that relate to your operations. The products will not operate properly unless the products updated regularly. To get the latest patches, go to www.microsoft.com/downloads/search.aspx?displaylang=en and get the patches for your windows version.

If you watch the news or visit many news groups, you will notice that many of the predator software (viruses, trojans, spy ware) are directed toward Microsoft Internet Explorer. Part of the reason for this is that it holds the largest market SHARE. Another reason is that Microsoft is rather SLOW to patch browser holes. To avoid these problems, I would suggest that you use one of the open source browsers currently available Mozilla Firefox (www.mozilla.org) is free and Opera (www.opera.com) has free or subscribe versions.

It seems as if Microsoft OUTLOOK has become the product of choice to distribute virus and other types of predator code. The reasons are similar to those for the browser. One way to reduce the possibility that you will become infected with these items is to move AWAY from Outlook. Two good products on the market are Thunderbird (www.mozilla.org/products/thunderbird) and Eudora (www.eudora.com).

Even with a good firewall, these guys can get thru and place stuff on your machine. One way to STOP the placement and/or REMOVE the trash once it has been dropped is with a good anti-virus product. Two good ones are Panda (www.pandasoftware.com/home/default.asp) and a.v.g. (www.grisoft.com/us/us_index.php).

Spyware can attack you from a number of directions. It can be installed from EMAIL or 'dropped' from a malicious WEBSITE. To stop this type of activity, you need to have one or more spyware blocker/removers. Some of the better products are SpywareGuard (www.javacoolsoftware.com/spywareguard.html) and SpySweeper (www.webroot.com/). But before you download ANY ant-spyware type product, research the product on SpywareWarrior (www.spywarewarrior.com/rogue_anti-spyware.htm). Some of the 'anti-spyware products' are themselves installing predator programs.

A new type of program that is being placed on our machines is called Adware. It is TRACKING where we go and what we buy. Some of these programs can even CAPTURE your secure information (passwords and credit card information). A few good free tools have been produced and should be used on a regular basis -- Ad-Aware (www. lavasoftusa.com/software/adaware), Spybot S&D (www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html), and CWShredder (www.intermute.com/spysubtract/cwshredder_download.html).

Part of the way these bad guys attack your computer is by doing random SEARCHES for insecure machines. They have programs that will scan addresses for a machine that is unprotected and begin attacking. One way to see if your machine can be FOUND by these guys is to run the ShieldsUp utility from Gibson Research (http://www.grc.com/default.htm). Steve is one of the good guys who has been around these parts for a long time doing a lot of good!

The best way to keep from being a victim it to be well INFORMED. You need to know what types of attacks are around, how they are being delivered and how to protect yourself. A couple of good sites for this information and education are www.Scam-Information.com, www.spywareinfo.com, and www.spywarewarrior.com/rogue_anti-spyware.htm.

Just like I was told as a kid, 'stay out of bad neighborhoods and you wont get beat up'. Stay AWAY from the bad or questionable sites. Don't give out your email ADDRESS to anyone and everyone. Keep your application and operating system programs up to date.

There are lots of bad guys lurking around the Internet. These people would like to take your money or trash your computer. There is no one SINGLE thing that you can do to make your world safe. You must take MULTIPLE actions. These are some that will help limit your exposure to the bad guys.


Dave Owen is the webmaster of www.Scam-Information.com, providing the information you need to protect yourself from scams and schemers. You may contact him at .

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