COMPUTER SECURITY

Since the .gov has decided to install tracking cookies, investigate your browsing habits, and otherwise turn the White House into Mordor, complete with Orc spies, I thought a few words about basic computer security might be in order.

The more so since I learned about security the hard way. By losing a whole lot of work, being forced to reformat the hard drive and start over, and all those fun things to do. Three times.

So to begin Part 1, if Sauron’s Orcs can’t get in, they cannot spy. Nor can they turn your bit box into a trojan server. A computer that is either turned off or is never connected to the internet is hard to spy on. As is a computer with an outboard modem that has a “suspend” button.

This bit box is the “single point of contact” between the Jacal and the internet. The other computers are on, thinking about other things, but they aren’t connected to anything but the AC power. Through “Brick Wall” brand AC filters that will not pass anything but 60 Hz AC into an antique UPS – with more battery than you would think you could cram into a box that is only 8″ X 12″ x 27″. I have some hard science type thinking going on – and I don’t want to lose any data.

A Brick Wall filter also keeps lightning out of this bit box, and a separate UPS takes care of the daily outages from the local UnElectric Power CoOp. When I am through with an internet session, I turn the modem power off, wipe the Temp directories, set a 45 minute timer, and start a virus sweep. The sweep is over long before the timer cuts the juice off. And unless malware can reach in the window and turn the timer back on, nothing will happen while my back’s turned.

Now, that brings up anti-virus programs. But before we go there, your front line of protection is the “firewall.” There are a lot of firewalls on the market, but on Steve Gibson’s recommendation I have used Zone Alarm for at least a decade. It works fine, except on the rare occasions when there is a conflict and I have to turn it off. Zone Alarm was disabled all three times that I picked up a problem.

ZA would love to sell you their program, and if you are sure your AV programs are compatible, the pay versions are most excellent. But I use the free version, because my AV programs don’t like the pay version. You will have to look for it – make sure you aren’t downloading the “free trial.” With that, let’s go to the AV program.

And while that’s a case of everyone to their own taste, “ez the goodman sed ez kissed the pig,” I have used most of the popular programs on the market, including the free ones. I have had by far the best luck with Kaspersky. Yep, 69 bucks for a year is pricy – but that is for three ‘puters. I have one here, and two that are on 24/7 at my business. Which makes it cheap for me – or I would get together with someone and split the expense.

I have spent three years with the big Red K, and I have had NO virus infestations. I wish I could say the same about the yellow box and black box brands. Which is why I use the Russian brand instead of the American brand.

Since this box has a LOT of memory, I back Kaspersky up with SpySweeper. SS keeps a list of virus and trojan sites and won’t let me go there. With as much work as I have in progress on this box that makes me feel a lot better. Of course, I do let SS do it’s thing once a week as well as the nightly virus sweep from Kaspersky. Which makes me a bit easier in mind.

Backing that up, I have a program called “SysTweak.” It has a quick disk cleanup that does a good job of removing all of the day’s internet junk. It also does a quick spyware sweep and yank out by the roots thing that seems to find tracking cookies just fine. The two parts take around a minute to run – so I run ’em. Wiped temp files and erased cookies tell no tales.

So computer security here has six separate parts.

1.) Keep them blocked from the ‘net unless you want to access the ‘net.

2.) Make sure you have an effective firewall.

3.) Make sure you have an effective anti-virus program, with up to date definitions.

4.) The firewall and AV programs are backed with a highly rated anti-spyware program.

5.) Anything I may have contracted from the ‘net is wiped before shut down.

6.) The power is OFF after the security programs are run.

And if that sounds like a lot of trouble, a minute or so at the end of a session beats the heck out of a day getting everything reloaded – and starting a nearly finished project over.

Now, with all that said, it’s time for Part DEAUX.

There is a great deal of free advice on the internet. Most is worth what you pay for it. And some of it will cost you a whole lot more than you would have paid for an effective solution to start with. The most RELIABLE source of good information on Windows based internet security I have found is Steve Gibson’s grc.com site.

Yes, it is a commercial site. Yes, you can buy a couple of products. But most of the programs that will interest you, and all of the advice, is free. So open a new window and type in grc.com.

When the opening screen appears, click on the big Shields Up graphic near the bottom. When the next screen appears, scroll down to “Hot Spots,” and click on “Shields Up.” Read your way to the bottom, and then click on the “proceed box.”

Read down and then let the Shields up robot probe your computers ports. You should get an “all green board.” If you do not, your firewall is not doing its job. DO click on the 4. URL near the bottom of the page and make sure trojans cannot call home. Or call your computer home.

Then go to Leak Test and check your computer for data leaks. If everything is OK, go to the default page and install The DcomBobulator and UnPlug and Pray. The page tells why you need to disable a couple of Windows features that few need.

And the next program usually brings forth howls of protest. Shoot the Messenger disables Windows Messenger E-mail program. Read the text for the reasons you should disable this backdoor into your computer.

You may need more than one session – but when your bit box is invisible from the outside looking in, and you no longer have open gateways for intruders, you will have a lot fewer problems. And life is much too short for problems.

Stranger

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