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 »  Articles Overview  »  Technology  »  Software and the Internet  »  Keeping your PC clean and safe

Keeping your PC clean and safe

By Konstantin Kisin | Published  06/27/2005 | Software and the Internet | Recommendation:
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Quicklink: http://www.proz.com/doc/448
Author:
Konstantin Kisin
United Kingdom
Russian to English translator
Became a member: Sep 26, 2004.
 

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Unless you use a typewriter it’s likely that your main translation tool is your PC. This article aims to give an overview of various threats to your PC and its performance, their origins and advisable countermeasures.

The Internet & E-Mail

Fact: The vast majority of all malicious software on the average user’s PC comes from the Internet.

The Internet is a huge source of information, simultaneously accessed by millions of people around the globe with varying intentions. While most people make use of this resource for work or entertainment purposes there are some who specialise in designing and spreading software aimed at intruding on our privacy, collecting information about us that we would not choose to disclose, using our PCs without our knowledge and simply damaging our software and sometimes even hardware.

These days Internet users simply cannot afford to ignore such threats with the famous last words “It won’t happen to me!” For people who use their PCs on a professional basis awareness of these issues is of paramount importance.

Below is a brief and by no means extensive description of the types of threat faced by users:

• Viruses and Trojans – programs aimed at doing damage, deleting files, causing instability and sometimes even damage to hardware. These programs can be contracted on websites or sent by e-mail.
• Spyware & Adware – programs which track your browsing activities, collect other information about you (age, name, address, credit card numbers, usernames, passwords), redirect your browser to various websites filled with advertising content (and more spyware/viruses), install other similar programs, toolbars etc. These programs can be contracted on websites or sent by e-mail.
• Programs installed by the user – there are a number of “legit” programs that create a threat. Instant messengers such as MSN messenger and Yahoo Messenger are notorious for installing all kinds of unwanted software on your computer (even if you choose not to) and later not allowing you to uninstall it as well as simply opening up your computer’s defence with their numerous vulnerabilities.
• Direct hacking – sometimes hackers may attempt to jack into your computer in order to gain control over it. “Well, there is nothing worthwhile on my computer anyway” I hear you say. That may well be true, however the hackers aren’t after your diary or Wordfast license key - what they want is control over your computer’s internet activity. Once the hackers control a large group of such computers they will force them to simultaneously start sending information to a target website, causing it to become overloaded and go offline. Hackers sell such groups of controlled PCs for money to interested parties.

The Microsoft Factor

Fact: Over 95% of the world’s internet security threats either target Microsoft products directly or exploit weaknesses in their defence systems.

Microsoft, or Microshaft as it is less than affectionately called by advanced users and administrators alike, has won few admirers during its reign. The company’s monopoly has meant that the end-user is regularly forced to fork out significant amounts of cash on sub-standard products full of security holes simply because almost all competition has been squeezed out of the market. The result is that 9 out of 10 readers will be using some version of Windows.

While Windows itself takes some escaping, you can avoid using Microsoft software for accessing the internet and protecting your PC. You may find that other programs provide not only greater security but better functionality as well.

The Countermeasures

It follows from the previous section that an effective defence must be based on a conscious and purposeful attempt to minimise your use of Microsoft products. While for most it is hard to go without Windows and Office, programs like MSN Messenger, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express and Windows Firewall must be avoided at all costs. Ever wonder why you can’t log into MSN Messenger? Here is your answer http://informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=60400352

However, “at all costs” is just a figure of speech, since alternative programs are free.

There are a number of things that you absolutely must have in order to protect your PC:

1. An effective, updated software firewall (I personally use ZoneAlarm which is free). A firewall allows you to control which programs send and receive information, encrypts passwords and lets you manage a number of other important security features. Windows Firewall is not only annoying but ineffective and regularly targeted by hackers and virus makers. Once your new firewall is installed you can disable Windows Firewall by going to Start>Control Panel>Windows Firewall and choosing Off. You can check how robust your firewall is here: https://grc.com/x/ne.dll?bh0bkyd2

2. A high-quality anti-virus program (I use Norton Antivirus 2005 but there are free ones around as well). This should have active monitoring and regular scheduled virus scans.

3. A few good anti- spyware and adware programs. I would personally recommend Spybot, Ad-Aware and Spy Sweeper by Webroot which all have free versions. Spy Subtract and Trojan Hunter free trials have proved very useful to me in the past. These should be used to regularly sweep your PC and some even have active monitoring. Regular updates are essential.

4. If you currently use MSN Messenger or Yahoo Messenger you should remove them immediately. An alternative all-in-one program called Miranda is available without the vulnerabilities and is described in more detail here: http://www.proz.com/translation-articles/articles/122/1/How-to-unite-all-your-Instant-Messengers

5. If you currently use Internet Explorer you should choose a different browser and install it on your computer. (I personally recommend Mozilla Firefox and Netscape) All your bookmarks and preferences can be easily transferred to a different browser. This single step will reduce your computer’s vulnerability by up to 80%.

6. If you currently use Outlook Express or another Microsoft e-mail program you should choose a different one (for example theBat or Mozilla Thunderbird) and install it on your computer. Your address books, e-mails and other preferences can be easily exported to your new e-mail client.

7. Updated Windows. You should regularly download critical updates from Microsoft’s website. Be sure to check that you only download what you need.

Avoiding the issue of PC security will not help. Viruses, spyware, adware and other malicious programs will continue to accumulate on your computer unless you take active steps to protect it. These programs not only slow down your computer’s performance, they can also lead to you losing the file you’ve been working on for the last 3 weeks, as well as destroying the hard drive it was stored on. Protect your PC and happy translating!

If you have any feedback on this article or a question about something I would like to hear from you!




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