Security -An Ongoing Process Keeping Up With The Virus Writers Sometimes we can be fooled into thinking that, because we have an antivirus program and a firewall, our computer is completely invulnerable to malicious inteference. Unfortunately this is far from the truth. Just having an antivirus program for example is not sufficient to protect you if the regular updates are not applied. New virus threats are being produced all the time and it is important to apply the updates regularly so that you are protected against the latest threats. We have had a number of incidents where updates were not applied or Anti-Virus subscriptions were allowed to expire for a week or so (thus new updates were unable to be downloaded) and in that period of time a new virus appeared which the program was thus unable to recognise, consequently the PC became infected. In one case the infection was unable to be removed, necessitating a disk wipe and an expensive reload, all because the program was not regularly updated. Most AntiVirus programs are equipped with an autoupdate facility, so if you have Broadband you are continually connected and it should require no manual intervention. If you are unfortunate enough to still be on a dial-up connection and only connect for a very short period of time (just to collect the odd E-Mail for instance) then this may be insufficient time for the update to occur, you may well have to deliberately connect and manually run the update function in order to stay protected. Don't be deceived into skipping on your updates, it only takes one virus laden E-mail to cause the damage to an unprotected system. Or even something even more sinister, many viruses are not designed to damage your system but rather to extract valuable data that criminals may use for fraud, identity theft or other malicious ends. An undetected Trojan-horse virus could be sending your personal data, E-banking passwords or other confidential items out to who knows where. The only time you may find out about it is when your credit card statement comes in. 1. Keep your Antivirus signatures up to date and don't let your subscription expire. 2. Any files received by E-Mail or downloaded from the Internet should be saved to disk and scanned before opening. 3. Even if your Antivirus is set to “auto-protect” make sure that you run a full system scan at least once a week. Spyware, Adware and Malware (S.A.M.), The New Internet Scourge. To be honest if you asked us what is the difference between the above and a virus – we would have to say, very little if any, except that some but not all Adware and Spyware is not written with malicious intent but is intended to advertise or collect usage data for commercial rather than criminal purposes. Whatever the motive, for most of us it is an unwanted pest, an unnecessary nuisance that interferes with our use of, and enjoyment of the Internet. In fact S.A.M has become far more of a prevalent nuisance than viruses. A number of programs have been written to help combat this annoyance which we recommend to our customers, namely Adaware, Spybot and SpySweeper, (the last named you have to pay for the first 2 are free). All are excellent programs which do a good clean up job. Any 2 of the above should keep your system free and clean of S.A.M. As with viruses make sure you keep these programs up to date and run checks regularly ideally every night after Internet use. Beware that there are some “Anti-Spyware” programs out there that are not such at all but Malware masquerading as the good guys and some are just poorly written rubbish intended to fleece you. The 3 which we recommend are known to be the best and are genuine programs. with a proven track record. Stick with these and your PC should stay clean and free. Another step you can take to guard against spyware infection is to change your Internet browser. Internet Explorer (I.E.) the default Web Browser supplied with Microsoft Windows is a notorious magnet for S.A.M. because the security model that Windows is based upon is fundamentally flawed with some very large security holes. Now different operating systems are available (e.g. Linux) which do not have these vulnerabilities. But they are not an option for everyone, so what can be done? One thing to do straight away is change your default browser to the excellent Mozilla Firefox. Apart from being technically superior to I.E. (for example tabbed browsing support -a useful tool if you like to research mulitple sites at once) Firefox is more secure in every aspect and using the options menu can be locked down even further. If you start using Firefox exclusively almost straightaway you will see a massive downturn in the number of pop-ups and spyware collected by your machine. There are a few sites that Firefox cannot display correctly (some banks and other sites that do not conform to strict WWW standards), for these sites and these alone use I.E. and use Firefox for everything else and your PC will thank you for it. Keeping Your Firewall Running Hot For the most part your Firewall (If you are connected to the Internet in any way you MUST have one, either, hardware in the form of a router or a software firewall on your PC) while quietly work away in the background and you should not have to do anything. However there are some viruses that if caught try to disable software firewalls. If you want to make sure that your firewall is working properly log on to www.grc.com and run the Shields Up! test. If it fails, it may indicate a problem, if this happens and you are not sure what to do give us a call, and maybe we can advise you. Another thing to watch for is if your software firewall says it needs to grant permission to a new program and you know you have not installed any such or it is an unrecognised program. This can sometimes be a virus or Trojan wanting to “phone home”. In this case make sure your Antivirus is up to date and run a scan before granting permission. Once again if you are unsure and need advice, feel free to call us. The whole arena of spyware, viruses and firewalls is a complete nightmare for most people, but we hope that by following the advice above and applying a little common sense, much heartache and expense can be avoided.