Bits & P.C.s: Internet security

Over the past few months, I have spent many hours removing viruses, Trojans, and spyware from clients’ computers. Even with a variety of cleaners, detectors, and other software utilities, it still takes more than two hours to remove the infection.

While it is important to keep your anti-virus program updated and for you to enable the autoscan function to minimize the chance that your computer will be infected, it is also important for you to install other software to reduce the risk.

Every computer that is connected to the Internet should have a firewall. The firewall may be built into your router, or it may be Zone Alarm, Norton Internet Security or other commercially available firewall program. Windows XP has a firewall built into it, so if you aren’t using anything else, be sure to turn it on.

One of the major problems is the hijack program. These programs can be installed onto your computer just by visiting a bad Web site or even by just being online.

What these little pests do is to change your Internet home page to that of a Web search site. When you attempt to change the home page back to what you want it to be, it changes it back to the search page.

Along with this, the hijacker will usually install other programs that will cause your computer to run at a snail’s pace. This will prevent you from getting on the Internet or using your e-mail program.

Even worse, there is a good chance that the program will allow other infections into your computer. It may send messages to the person who created the program that contains your logins and passwords, or it may even contain bank account information.

Many of the security issues in Windows XP have been corrected with the release of XP Service Pack 2. After the pack is installed, you will have a Security Center that will allow you to have more control over the built-in firewall and anti-virus features. It will probably take some “tweaking” by you to get things to work the way you want them to.

By default, SP2 will block you from downloading e-mail attachments so you will have to enable attachments if you wish to receive them. Also, if you play online games you may need to configure the firewall for the game to run.

There may be other settings that will have to be adjusted in the Security Center for programs and hardware devices to function correctly. Microsoft has chosen the position that it is better to block everything by default and to let the user configure how much security that they need.

The problem is that many users will be confused on how to adjust the settings. Since the Service Pack is free, and it does make the computer safer from attackers, I guess that the temporary confusion is justified. You should contact Microsoft for a free upgrade CD.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail, or call 243-1162.

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