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Web and Computer Security

Well, if that would have been said to me by my father when I was 2 years of age, I would have understood. But when today, my own computer tells me that when I am 34, I wonder why I spent $1500 on my computer hardware and software just to enjoy the (un-realized) benefits of this great and revolutionary information technology?

Today’s cyberspace is hazardous. None of today’s PC users can claim that they never had a computer virus issue or a PC security breach. Now, if you count today’s number of PC users worldwide, they will soon be 1 billion by 2010 according to analysts. When I see all the computer viruses, infections, trojans, and what not around me, and compare it with the 1 billion innocent computer users around the world, I simply feel sorry not only for those billion users but for myself too. But again, as a common user myself, I must admit it was not all doomsday for the whole industry since 1987 when I started to use computers. So, as a responsible member of this great IT revolution, I must share some of the best tips and tricks that I learned to use to make the minimum room for productivity on my computer.

Please note this is a tutorial for someone who has basic know-how of computer usage. For those who are newbies, I would recommend asking a local expert’s help before trying anything out mentioned in this tutorial. In that case, make room for payment from deep pocket. For your own convenience, print this tutorial for step-by-step instructions.

Whenever my computer is infected, I act on any of the following options;

1. FORMAT HARD DISK: I back up all of my data on a CD-Writer if it is still accessible. And then format the whole hard disk drive and re-install each and every application.

2. USE SOFTWARE: I exhaust all anti-virus and other software options. This is usually my first priority as compared to formatting the whole computer hard disk drives.

Now, let me explain both options in detail;

PRE-REQUISITES: Make sure you have a CD-Drive (Writer), empty writable CDs, Windows OS CD (bootable) that contains files such as Format.exe, Scandisk.exe, FDisk.exe, and Attrib.exe files. Microsoft Office CD, Anti-Virus CD, GoldenHawk CD Writing Software in DOS (copy2cd.exe and cdtools.exe), Serial Numbers of your License, Driver CDs of Motherboard, VGA, Network, Sound and Modem devices. Optionally, download (using www.download.com or www.tucows.com) these software from any Internet Café when your own computer is inaccessible and save it on a CD so that you can use it anytime for security purposes;

Golden Hawk DOS based CD Writing Software

HTech Fireman Windows based CD Writing Software

Driver Genius Pro

Partition Magic

AVG AntiVirus

SpywareBlaster & SpywareGuard

Spybot Search & Destroy

Ad-Aware

IE-SpyAd

ZoneAlarm

HiJackThis & CWShredder

I have intentionally avoided mention of many commercially good and more friendly software’s mention here as I wanted everything to do FREE without any additional costs apart from the usual OS licenses. For your own convenience, you can research Google or Yahoo search engines find further information about such commercial software and their availability / pricing.

1. FORMAT HARD DISK

I know it is painful and surgical type of solution, but sometimes, it is the ONLY solution left after exhausting all of our efforts to revive our computer machine after a virus attack. Follow this procedure;

Booting Up: Try booting your computer normally first and see if you can login easily. If you can’t or your computer hangs up, try holding F8 key when starting Windows and you will get the Safe Mode. Even if you don’t get the Safe Mode, don’t worry.

Power up your computer and press DEL key or F2 key to login your CMOS. In CMOS, go to Boot Preferences and make CD Drive as boot drive as your first boot drive and change the hard disk drive as the second boot drive. If you don’t see your CD Drive in the boot-up options, your CD Drive is not properly installed. Check the connectors or ask your CD Drive provider for instructions to install the CD Drive. Now, when your CD Drive is ready, insert your Windows OS CD in the CD Drive and restart your computer machine. When prompted, select the option “Boot from CD with CD Option”. When you get the prompt, Notice the CD Drive letter that was allocated to your CD Drive when it installed the CD Driver. It is usually D: drive or the last drive letter depending on the number of your partitions. Note it down as it is the actual drive letter where you will have to type a DOS command like d:

You should now be able to run all software utilities such as Format, Scandisk, FDisk or Windows Installation Setup.exe files. Right now, simply make sure they exist by typing a DOS command dir at the CD drive letter. If you don’t find it with this simple directory command, use dir/s filename to search the file. For example, to search fdisk.exe file, type dir/s fdisk.exe.

BACKING UP YOUR DATA: Before formatting your hard disk drive, please make sure you have proper back up of your critical data files such as Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc files on a CD or any other media for backup that you have access to. In this tutorial, we assume you have a CD-Writer installed for taking backups on Writeable CDs. Their capacity is usually 700MB or less. Here, you should seriously consider using Zipping software like WinZip or WinRAR.

VIA WINDOWS: If you can luckily login to your Windows OS, you should run the CD-Writer software such as HTech Fireman to back up all of your data on an empty CD. If you don’t know how to do it, read their user manual for detailed instruction set. If you can’t access your Windows OS, read on.

VIA DOS: Some of the files that you wish to make back-up, may be hidden. To un-hide them, use attrib *.* +r +s +h.

Now, use the software from Golden Hawk file named as copy2cd.exe to backup your data files or directories on a writeable CD. Before using this command, make sure you are in an appropriate path on the computer such as E:/ where the actual file copy2cd.exe file resides;

Copy2cd c:data*.* f:

Here we assumed that f: is a CD Writer drive. Now, repeat the same for all of your files to back up. When finished, run cdtools.exe command i.e. cdtools f: to finish by selecting option “Disc Finalization”.

If you can’t back up your data using the above-mentioned procedure, either ask an outside expert’s help personally or via internet. If all fails, forget your data forever and carry on installing a new OS as mentioned in this tutorial.

Backing up Your Drivers: An interesting tool to mentioned here is a software that automatically backs up all of your drivers of CD, modem, sound card, vga, usb, printer or just about anything that is currently installed on your system. But this software works only in an operational windows OS, and not in DOS. It is a good and time-saving practice to keep a backup of all of your drivers on a CD by using such a software. Its name is Driver Genius Pro and it is commercial software, not a freeware.

USING FDISK: You may skip this option and go straight to Formatting Hard Disk option, if you wish to use other useful partitions that may contain your data. Before going ahead with this option, Make sure there is no useful data left on your computer to be backed up. This option will delete all of the computer partitions and create new ones.

i) Boot up your computer using Windows OS CD.

ii) Run this command fdisk

iii) Press option 3 to delete all current partitions.

iv) To create a new partition, select option 1 and select Y to answer the maximum size question by the program.

v) Next, select option 2

vi) Press Esc key to quit and restart your computer to

See the URL http://www.compguystechweb.com/troubleshooting/fdisk/fdisk_scr.html for detailed instructions alongwith screenshots. Now, that you have created the primary partition, you can continue to format the newly created partition. There is a very user-friendly but commercial software called Partition Magic by PowerQuest to manage your partitions easily after installation of Windows.

FORMATTING HARD DISK: Now that you have created new partitions, It is time to format them so that you can start installing Windows. This is how you make your C: drive usable by your Windows OS for installation. Boot up your computer with Windows CD and type format c: command at the prompt. When prompted for maximum size, press, YES. After complete processing you will be presented with the successful report about the formatting of the C: drive. Select your new drive name and press ENTER to finish.

INSTALLING WINDOWS: Microsoft has made it very easy for a newbie to install a completely new OS on a newly formatted partition. It is all wizard based and you simply have to click NEXT each time whenever asked a question. Boot up your computer from the Windows CD and select Start with CD Option. When on DOS prompt, change to the CD Drive that it just created which is usually d: if you have only one partition C. Now type command setup.exe to start the windows installation process.

During installation, make sure you properly name your PC as per your preferences and select your regions and Time zone. When finished, the computer will re-boot and during next re-boot it may ask some drivers of your Sound Card, VGA, Network, or other devices attached. Provide the requisite driver CDs and locate the paths of the appropriate drivers. If you are not sure, leave it like that and press NEXT to ignore. When your windows installation is complete, you can install Microsoft Office, setup internet connection and start using it as normally as you would. Please make sure you install all the security software such as anti-virus, anti-spyware, adware, and other software as mentioned in the next section.

2. USE SOFTWARE

Installing Anti-Virus: Download free AVG Antivirus software and install it. Make sure you get its free key from their website by registering. This software is not auto-updated for critical viruses and for an auto-update version, you will have to pay. If you wish to pay, we would recommend world’s most popular brands Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micros instead. No matter what Anti-Virus software you install, make sure you enable its Auto-Protect feature for automatic protection of your computer’s resources and in-coming or out-going emails from any virus attack. Some software even allow you to setup silent detection and destruction without any disturbance to your work. Further, they are auto-updated via internet at the regular interval that you setup. Hence, you can rest assured that whenever a security threat is spread all over the world, your software will automatically download the requisite updated version and install its defense on your computer.

BROWSER SECURITY: To setup your browser (Internet Explorer on Windows) for maximum security against the usual threats, follow this procedure;

i) Start up your browser

ii) Go to IE > Tools > Windows Update > Product Updates, and selected Security Updates to be automatically updated. Microsoft releases patches and security patches from time to time to make sure your system's security is up-to-date.

iii) Now, go to Internet Options/Security/Internet, press 'default level', then OK. Now press "Custom Level." In the ActiveX section, set the first two options ("Download signed and unsigned ActiveX controls) to 'prompt', and 'Initialize and Script ActiveX controls not marked as safe" to 'disable'. Now you will be asked whether you want ActiveX objects to be executed and whether you want software to be installed. Sites that you know for sure are above suspicion can be moved to the Trusted Zone in Internet Option/security.

If you use another browser such as Firefox or Netscape, see their documentation on how to securely set it up against any such internet threats.

Installing Anti-Spyware: Spyware, adware, browser hijackers, and dialers are some of the fastest-growing threats on the Internet today. By simply browsing to a web page, your computer may become a victim. You can install SpywareBlaster and SpywareGuard to effectively guard your computer from such internet threats.

It includes Fast Real-Time Scanning engine for known spyware and heuristic/generic detection capabilities to catch new / mutated spyware and Download Protection along with Browser Hijacking Protection in real-time.

Simply download the software (free) from their website and install it on your system. Make sure you download its latest update too or enable its Auto-Update feature to be updated automatically in the background. Now, when you are ready, run the software to check the spyware on your computer. When spyware are found, it reports accordingly. Press "select all", then press option "kill all checked". Although it won't protect you from 100% spyware, But it is a very important extra layer of protection.

Next, install another software that is called Spybot Search & Destroy. It works exactly like SpywareBlaster, but it never hurts to have a double layer of spyware detection alongwith Spybot R&D.

Installing Anti-Adware: Adware is a common term used to describe potentially dangerous websites and scripts that do data-mining, aggressive advertising, Parasites, Scumware, selected traditional Trojans, Dialers, Malware, Browser hijackers, and tracking components. There is a very good software called Ad-Aware available to scan and remove such nuisances from your system.

To start using it, simply visit Lavasoft USA website and download its free non-commercial version of Ad-Aware Personal Edition. Run its setup program and install it. When prompted, ask it to scan your computer. If there are any adware found, it is detected and removed automatically by Ad-Aware. Run this software on a weekly or daily basis, if possible to keep your system clean.

In addition to the Ad-Aware, Internet Explorer comes with a very handy tool that allows you to block specific sites that may carry well-known advertisers, marketers, crapware pushers to the Restricted sites Zone. If you had to input 50000+ of such sites manually yourself, it would takes years. Luckily, there is a software that does it all automatically and it is called IE-SPYAD. Once you merge this list of sites and domains into the Registry, the web sites for these companies will not be able to use cookies, ActiveX controls, Java applets, or scripting to compromise your privacy or your PC while you surf the Net. Nor will they be able to use your browser to push unwanted pop-ups, cookies, or auto-installing programs on your PC. It is not an ad blocker. It will stop top unwanted crapware from being installed behind your back via "drive-by-downloads"; prevent the hijacking of your home page.

This Restricted sites list is based in part on info from: discussions in the SpywareInfo Forums and other forums that specialize in crapware removal major crapware reference sites: doxdesk, cexx.org, Kephyr.com, PestPatrol and SpywareGuide.

To start using it, simply download it from their website and run its install.bat file. Make sure you run its update as well soon after its installation.

INSTALLING FIREWALL: A firewall software acts as a defense shield against hackers, intruders, and blocks access attempts to your computer. ZoneAlarm is a professional firewall software that works in a stealth mode automatically and makes your computer invisible to anyone on the Internet.

Download it from ZoneLabs website and run its setup for installation. I recommend you use its Express Settings which automatically configures your most commonly used software like browser, chat messengers, ftp software to access internet, while blocks every other internet traffic in real-time. If any software or service tries to upload or download any data, it pops up an alert whereby you can allow or disallow such internet traffic.

Computer Slow Down: It is very common to see many complaining about their computer slow-down. The fastest and easiest cure is using Windows’ built-in Defragmenter utitlity that you can find in Startà Programs à Accessories à System Utitlities à Disk Defragmantor and run thorough defragmantation. It will take a while before it ends.

If your system’s performance does not improve after running defragmantation utility, consider scanning your computer via a software utility called HiJackThis which you can download and install on your system. Use this tool carefully as it is intended for advanced users only. HijackThis is a tool, that lists all installed browser add-on, buttons, startup items and allows you to inspect, and optionally remove selected items. The program can create a backup of your original settings and also ignore selected items. Additional features include a simple list of all startup items, default start page, online updates and more.

CWShredder is a utility for removing CoolWebSearch (aka CoolWwwSearch, YouFindAll, White-Pages.ws and a dozen other names). This tool will find and destroy all traces of the CoolWebSearch (CWS) hijacker on your system including redirections, IE slowdowns, start page changes, un-authorized addition of sites in IE Trusted Zone, and blocking access to IE options or setup.

Download CWShredder from their official website only as there is a similar named virus/trojan on the loose at various websites which you may accidently download and install, hence become more infected than being cured instead. When it is installed successfully, run the software to scan your local machine. Select the fix button & it will get rid of everything related to CoolWebSearch. Close ALL other programs & windows, including IE, before running CWShredder. Reboot after doing this.

I know there is still a lot left, but as I wanted to keep this tutorial as brief as possible, hence I covered only the critical elements here. I am sure you will have fewer breakdowns (if not ZERO0 and more productive hours on your computer. I would recommend you to setup all the software’s auto update and auto-check options to free your time for more productive things than just playing hide and seek with spywares, adwares or viruses. Happy and safe computing!

This article is submitted by Kashif Raza http://www.networkingtutorials.net

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