+++ Basic Internet Security Tutorial +++
by Xierox

This is a guide to basic internet security.
All information listed here is correct to
the best of the authorís knowledge. If you
see a mistake, please contact the author
and it will be corrected. Thank you.
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:TABLE OF CONTENTS :
:Virii Vanquishing: : : `
:Spyware Smashing:
:Firewall Fortification:
:Last Not Least: : : :
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*** VIRII VANQUISHING ***

VIRUS DEFINITION
A virus is simply a program that spreads itself. It does not have to be malicious, although they normally are.

PROTECTION
Companies specializing in virus removal and protections are prevalent. Some of the most popular antivirus software makers are Norton, McAfee , and Panda Software. The prices on these products generally range from $35 to $50. While they are all excellent, it is possible to get great protection for free. AVG is a great antivirus program that is free for personal use. It is a fully functional antivirus program that is easy to download and install. You have the option to upgrade to the professional version which offers more features, but the average home-user will not feel the need to. I would highly recommend giving AVG a try out first if you're in the market for antivirus. Save yourself a few bucks!

FREE ONLINE ANTIVIRUS SCANS
Sometimes you may find yourself in need of an antivirus scan, but you have no antivirus software readily available. Thankfully, there are many free online virus scans. These are some of the best:

Trend Micro: House Call

Panda Active Scan


*** SPYWARE SMASHING ***

WHAT IT IS AND DOES
Dictionary.com defines Spyware as "any software that covertly gathers information about a user while he/she navigates the Internet and transmits the information to an individual or company that uses it for marketing or other purposes; also called adware." Spyware is increasingly becoming a security and privacy concern for home users. While some users are not as concerned with the privacy violations of spyware, there are other affects of spyware that are derogatory. It can, for example, hijack your homepage (change it and not allow you to change it back), spawn popup ads (even with popup blocking software), and add irremovable bookmarks. Also, as they are running processes they will consume system resources. While one piece alone would not consume very much processing power, when you have fifty pieces installed it starts to add up. I have personally witnessed upwards of three-hundred individual pieces installed, and have heard stories from friends of up to a thousand.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT SPYWARE
There are many companies and programs out there that deal solely in removing spyware. Below, you will find a list of programs I find that work very well and take care of all my spyware needs.

Ad-Aware, by Lavasoft
This program is free for personal use. It is developed by Lavasoft, a company headquartered in Sweden, and is frequently updated. You can download it from download.com or lavasoftusa.com. It is free for personal use.

Spybot: Search and Destroy
This program is great when used side-by-side with Ad-Aware. What one misses the other catches. Spybot tends to be stricter on what it classifies as Spyware. It is a very good program and comes with loads of features that an advanced user will love. It is also free for personal use.

HijackThis
HijackThis is a tool, that lists all installed browser add-on, buttons, startup items and allows you to inspect, and optionally remove selected items. (taken from HijackThis' website.) This can be very useful when manually removing a piece of spyware or browser plugin that refuses to be removed by Spybot or Ad-Aware. A word of warning, though, be VERY careful when using it. It is possible to damage your system. DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE REMOVING SOMETHING!!

WHAT TO DO IF SPYBOT OR AD-AWARE SAYS IT CAN'T REMOVE IT
Sometimes, Spybot or Ad-Aware will have trouble removing a piece of Spyware. This is generally because the Spyware is running in the background and it cannot be deleted because of this. To correct this, simply boot the computer into Safemode (this is generally done by pressing F8 upon bootup and selecting Safemode, although sometimes it can be a different F-key depending upon your BIOS) and run the scans from there and it should most likely be removable.

TIPS ON PREVENTING SPYWARE FROM INSTALLING IN THE FIRST PLACE
Spybot and Ad-Aware are great for removing spyware, but what can you do to help prevent it installing in the first place? There are a couple things.

Spyware Blaster
This program will prevent many spyware from installing in the first place. Spyware Blaster works with Internet Explorer and Mozilla/Firefox. It is free for personal use.

Use Firefox or Mozilla
Internet Explorer ties in with Windows in a way other browsers do not. This can allow spyware to be installed much easier, not to mention that it makes your computer much easier to exploit. Recently several large flaws in I.E. have been discovered and in response the U.S. Government has recommended using a different browser. I would personally recommend either Mozilla or Firefox. Mozilla is an open-source project that is a web-browser, IRC client, Mail-client, and web-development tool. For more information visit Mozilla.org. It is completely free. Firefox is the Mozilla browser only. It does not include anything else; it is a browser, plain and simple. As it is developed somewhat separately from the Mozilla browser, it tends to be one step ahead of the Mozilla browser. It can be gotten from here. Both Mozilla and Firefox come with a built-in Pop-up blocker. This helps a lot with spyware as quite a few spyware originate from popup windows. The Mozilla Project developers also produce a free Mail-client called Thunderbird that is an excellent alternative to Outlook Express. Users will find it goes nicely with Firefox and its built-in Junk-mail Filtering to be extremely nice.


*** FIREWALL FORTIFICATION ***

WHAT IS A FIREWALL
A firewall is basically a piece of software or hardware that allows or denies internet access to programs on your computer. It allows or denies access based on what the user tells it. Most (not all) hardware firewalls do not monitor outgoing connections, only incoming, so if you're looking for more control, chances are you will be going with a software firewall.

FIREWALLS
Firewalls are nice all around protection. They help prevent virus, trojan, and spyware infections and help thwart crackers who attempt to break into your computer. While they can be a little pain to set up at first, once configured, they sit dociley in the background quietly doing their job of helping protect you.

HOW THEY WORK
When a program on your computer tries to access the internet the firewall will stop that attempt and ask you whether or not you want that program to have internet access. You then tell it either to give it internet access this one time, always give it internet access, deny internet access this one time, or always deny internet access. (Don't worry, if you mess up you can always change it.) This very useful when it comes to Trojan Horses. (A trojan is a program that opens a backdoor on your computer through which a cracker can have access to your machine.) By denying a Trojan internet access it renders it harmless.

Not only do most firewalls monitor connections that your computer creates, they also monitor incoming connections from other computers, also. There are generally different levels of strictness you can set your firewall on. Play around with it and see which is right for you.

GOOD SOFTWARE FIREWALLS

Windows XP Firewall (comes installed)
An extremely basic firewall. It does not have the ability to deny internet access to programs. You will most likely want to turn this firewall off and use a real firewall. If you have Service Pack 2 installed the firewall is a lot better, but I would still recommend downloading a third-party firewall.

Sygate Personal Firewall
I used this, but have since migrated to Kerio. I found it very nice and out of the way. It seems to work very well and its logs are very clear and easy to read. This firewall has a thumbs up by me. It has a free version with all the necessary features. You can choose to upgrade to get more, although I did not.

Zone Alarm
This is highly recommended by almost everyone, although personally I do not like it. It is free to use for personal use. You can choose to upgrade (for a fee) and you get more features.

Outpost
This free firewall is comes highly recommended by many people. It is free, but offers an option to upgrade to the Pro version for those who would like a more customizable firewall.

Kerio
Kerio personal firewall is available free for personal home users. It is a limited free version but still comes with quite a few features. This is the firewall I use and out of all of the ones I've tested it is my favorite. It seems to have the most amount of features out of all of them and hasn't cause any trouble in the time I've had it. This is my firewall of choice.

*** LAST NOT LEAST ***
Run updates for all your software regularly! Spyware and Anti-Virus Scans are not nearly as affective if they do not have the lastest definitions installed because they can catch the lastest malware!
Run Windows Update regularly! It will patch your system against many known Windows flaws that Microsoft has discovered. This is an absolute must. Doing everything but this still leaves your computer wide open!