Data Recovery Article
Secure Your PC and Internet Communications
By Aaron Turpen of Aaronz WebWorkz
In today's world of online connections, hackers, information
nabbing, and other nefarious Internet deeds, many wonder what they
can do to protect themselves. This is especially true with those
who have an "always-on" or static IP connection to the Internet
(cable modem, DSL, etc.).
There are many tools out there to help, but by far the best is
ZoneAlarm from Zone Labs. A free version for private use is
available from their website (http://www.zonelabs.com) while the
commercial and Pro version are about $50. The paid versions include
one year of upgrades and support.
Whichever version you choose, you'll be well covered from most
Internet attacks by this handy little firewall. After first
installing ZoneAlarm, you'll be bombarded with messages from the
software asking whether this program or that should have access to
the Internet. This will be your first clue as to how great this
program is. Once you've chosen who can have access and who can't
(obvious choices like your web browser, proxy service, email client,
etc. will need access), you'll rarely see anything from the program
unless something is wrong. If you aren't sure about a program, you
can click on information and if Zone Labs has that software in their
database, they'll inform you as to what it is.
The software is highly configurable for different types of
connections or security levels, but for most people, the default
settings are good enough. I prefer the Pro version, which includes
a free piece of software that checks your system for "spyware"
and "adware" (programs which spy on you or use advertisements to pay
for themselves - in both cases usually at the expense of your
privacy). The Pro version also has the ability to "map" where an
intruder is attempting to come from. Sometimes this is useful in at
least tracking down the would-be hacker's ISP so you can complain.
Once you have your new firewall set up, you'll want to consider anti-
virus software. There are many to choose from, but I've always
preferred the highly acclaimed Norton Anti-Virus, made by Symantec.
It is available off-the-shelf or through their website and several
other vendors (Amazon.com and the like) as well. Expect to pay
around $50 for this software, but it's the best $50 you'll ever
spend on your computer. Norton scans all incoming and outgoing
emails, your hard drive, all downloaded files and email attachments,
and even disks, CDs, and other media when you put them into the
drive. Most of this is in the background and you won't even notice
it happening. The drag on your system is minimal in most cases as
well. There are a lot of configuration options, but again, the
default settings are best for most people. Watch for it to scan
your system every Friday night for viruses. This can be changed or
disabled completely at your discretion.
Finally we come to file downloads and other online sharing. While
the majority of virus and Trojan horse attacks are made through
email file attachments or shareware/freeware downloads, this is no
reason to stop using or accepting either. I myself run many useful
shareware and freeware programs and receive literally dozens of file
attachments to emails daily.
The anti-virus software you've installed is your first line of
defense. The next few steps may seem like common sense to some, but
may have been overlooked by others.
Make sure the person sending the file/email is someone you know and
that the subject line of their email is "normal" for the type of
subject they'd put in (rather than something strange like "[email protected]
this!"). If you're downloading freeware/shareware, be sure that the
site is reputable and fairly well known. If you've used the site in
the past and not had problems, you've established trust and should
guard it carefully. I personally prefer cnet.com and tucows.com for
most of my shareware requirements.
Whatever your chosen download site, make sure they have reviews of
the software - either by professionals or by other users (many have
both). Before you install software, read the software agreement
(usually long and boring, but you NEED to do this) before you
install it. If the program is adware or spyware, it will HAVE to
list their information-gathering techniques in this agreement.
Otherwise the software is illegally collecting information. You may
also want to double-check the software at www.spychecker.com
a free public database of known spyware and adware programs.
When the program first attempts to access the Internet, if you have
ZoneAlarm or another firewall installed, you should receive an alert
that the program is attempting to access the Internet. If you don't
know what the program is doing or why it needs to access the
Internet, you probably should block it from doing so. If software
doesn't inform you of its intentions before doing something, it may
be attempting to do things behind your back. In my book, this is
ground for dismissal.
Regardless of how you access the Internet, your security and the
welfare of your PC is always of concern. The simple steps I've
outlined here and the recommendations I've made should protect you
most of the time. While nothing is 100%, putting the odds in your
favor is definitely better than playing against a stacked deck.
About the Author:
Aaron Turpen is the proprieter of Aaronz WebWorkz, a full-service
Internet company provided web design, hosting, and consultation.