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Connecting to the Internet


									Beginning Vista Computers, a Special Interest Group of the Prescott Computer Society   Lesson7 by Phil Ball   pg   1

                    Safety and Security on the Internet
The Internet is a wonderful resource and we all like to use it. But just like walking through the streets of
a big city, you have to be careful and take measures for security. Most of the time, there is no problem.
If you stay out of bad neighborhoods and if you have a big dog or a big club, you’ll be safe except in rare
circumstances. The same is true when using the Internet.

The bad guys who create Internet threats to us are mean but not stupid. They can get very creative.
And since the software companies who create the updates to our protection can only react to new
threats after they appear, there is always a period of danger right after the threat appears while the
anti-virus companies react and create a defense for it. During that in-between period between creation
of a new threat and creation of a defense for it, we are vulnerable.

The threats come in many different forms: Viruses, Trojan Horses, and Spyware to name just three.
Since they act upon our computers differently, they must be dealt with differently.

Internet User's Protection Checklist
    1.    Firewall. This is like building a wall around your computer. It keeps the bad guys from seeing
         you. Invisible PCs don’t get invaded. Firewalls come in either hardware (usually installed with a
         network setup) or software. Phil’s personal choice is ZoneAlarm free edition.

    2.     Anti-virus software. These will help defend you against nasty programs that will erase parts of
         your hard drive. Norton and McAfee both work well but are getting too expensive and too
         invasive so I recommend either AVG or AntiVir. Both are free. AVG works well for me.

    3.     Anti-Spam software. This can help keep spam (junk mail) out of your Inbox. Sometimes, your
         ISP will help with this by offering free anti-spam protection. Both CableOne and CommSpeed
         offer this freely to their broadband customers. CableOne’s Spam Patrol works very well for me.
         It doesn’t catch everything but it protects me from most of the spam sent to me.

    4.     Anti-Spyware software. Spyware is what you get when the bad guys try to keep track of where
         you go on the Internet and what you do. While much of it is not dangerous and is merely
         annoying, I still don’t like someone else messing with my computer. Use the free programs
         AdAware and Spybot. Why two? It seems that no version of Anti-Spyware, free or paid-for
         versions alike, can handle all the spyware out there. So when I’ve been visiting strange websites,
         I scan with both; one right after the other. The second one often catches something the first one

    5.     Windows Update Windows must be regularly updated, too. This is just as much a security
         issue as updating your anti-virus. This operating system is not bulletproof and when the bad
         guys find new holes, Microsoft gets wind of it and finds a way to patch them, sooner or later. By
         default, Windows is set up to do this automatically so most people just let it be.

    6.    Office Update If you use Microsoft Office products like Word or Excel, be aware that they can
         be hacked by the bad guys, too so they must be updated frequently. Microsoft seems to be
Beginning Vista Computers, a Special Interest Group of the Prescott Computer Society   Lesson7 by Phil Ball   pg   2

         making an effort to combine Windows update and Office Update in the newer Microsoft Update
         and it seems to work pretty good.

    7.    Optional: Censoring Software, to help you control what the kids can see. This can be as useful
         to grandparents as it is to parents.

There are other helpful programs like pop-up protection so you don’t get bothered by little messages
that popup when you arrive at many legitimate sites. These are often included in browsers like FireFox
or Internet Explorer 7. Mine works quite well. It tells me when there is a popup that goes with a site so I
can decide if I want to see it. Pop-ups can be annoying since they are usually useless advertisements.
But some websites use them for legitimate content so you might check them if you clicked something
and nothing seemed to happen.

With most of these programs such as Anti-Virus and Firewalls, you MUST update them regularly.
Remember that the software manufacturers are trying to keep you up to date by issuing defenses for
new viruses, sometimes on a daily basis. You may either download their updates automatically
(recommended, if available) or remember to do it daily. I do mine manually each time before I start up
my Outlook Express to check my mail. It often happens that there are more than one update per day.

What if, despite all this, you get a virus, anyway? It happens. Then usually a trip to the Internet will
reveal a fix for it. If the problem is so bad that you can’t get your computer to connect you, you might
have to go over to a neighbor or computer buddy’s house to use their machine. I find useful virus-
removal tools at websites like Norton (Symantec) or McAfee. Sometimes, there is a procedure to follow.
But there is usually a cure. Catching a virus is a pain but it is rarely fatal. But having to deal with a virus
is annoying and time-consuming so the best way to handle viruses is to prevent them from getting onto
your machine in the first place. Update, Update, update! Did I mention how important it is to keep
these programs updated? 

There is one other type of danger out there and that is the hacker who wants to invade and use your
computer without your knowledge or permission. The best protection against this person is to have a
strong firewall. The firewall that comes with Windows Vista is the minimum suggested. It only checks
incoming messages. Better firewalls like ZoneAlarm will also stop outgoing messages. This means that if
a suspicious program wants to go online, it has to ask your permission first. Feel free to tell it NO,
especially if you didn’t just do something that requires internet access. However, be aware that this is
sometimes the first clue that you have gotten a virus since viruses often get set up on your computer
and then try to contact the outside world.

How To Surf the Web Safely
The quick answer is to be careful. Use common sense. If you are on the Chevy or the PCS website, you
are pretty safe. But what about Joe’s Custom Software website? Do you know Joe? Did a buddy or
other trusted source recommend him? If not, then you might want to be very careful about giving this
website any personal information. And especially think twice before submitting your credit card info.
Careful users have fewer problems.

If you go to a website that requires your personal
information (email address is usually okay), be sure
that you are on a secure site. You can tell two
Beginning Vista Computers, a Special Interest Group of the Prescott Computer Society   Lesson7 by Phil Ball   pg   3

ways. First, look at the address in the address bar. It will have changed from “http://---” to https://---.
That “s” stands for Secure. The second way is that there will be an icon of a locked padlock on your
browser. If you see either or both of these, you can be assured that you are on a secure website and
may proceed with confidence. If you do not see them and the website is asking for personal
information, leave quickly!

Using a browser
The World Wide Web (the www part of many web addresses) is really just a lot of webpages. They are
stored on someone’s computer and will come visit you when you call for them. So if you want
information about a new Chevy, you just go look at the pages that General Motors maintains so you can
receive the newest and latest news about that model.

To go to and view these pages, you need a browser. Fortunately, good ones are available for free. Two
of the more popular ones are Internet Explorer and FireFox. Internet Explorer (IE) comes with Windows
so it is most used although many users prefer FireFox. It might be a bit safer to use because it is less
commonly used than Internet Explorer and the bad guys most commonly design their viruses and other
nasties for Internet Explorer because it is most-used. They try to maximize the damage they do. Grrr.

Since everyone has it, let’s look at Internet Explorer as an example of how to use a browser.

Starting Internet Explorer
You start it just like any program by going to the start menu and finding it on the list of programs. It
should be easy to spot because its icon is a big blue lower-case letter “e” with a swoosh.

When it opens, IE looks like most any other window with a few differences. At the top is a title bar with
a menu bar just below it and a toolbar just below that. That is all standard stuff. But there is also an
address bar where you type in the URL (the address of a webpage like ).

Some of the buttons on the toolbar are a bit different and need further explanation. Because the
WorldWide Web is a collection of many web pages, a visit to a website may involve looking at several
different pages. Each time you click a link, you go to a different webpage.
     BACK button (a left facing arrow) is to return to the last webpage you were viewing just before
        the current page.
     FORWARD button takes you forward to a webpage you were viewing before you went back. This
        button only works if you have already gone to the page and then clicked BACK to an earlier page.
     STOP button is used to stop a page from loading. This is useful if you find yourself going
        somewhere that you didn’t intend. The Esc (escape) key on your keyboard does the same thing.
     REFRESH button causes your browser to go get the page again. This can be important on web
        pages with frequently changing data such as stock market or weather websites.
     HOME button to take you to your home page.

Home Pages
Your home page is the page that appears every time you open Internet Explorer. You can accept the
choice that was put on your computer by default or you can change it to any page of your choice.
Choose a page that you want to view frequently, or one that you can customize to get quick access to all
Beginning Vista Computers, a Special Interest Group of the Prescott Computer Society   Lesson7 by Phil Ball   pg   4

the information you want, such as or . Then every
time that you open your browser, it will automatically display your chosen page.

To change your home page in IE, open Internet Explorer and navigate to your preferred web page. Once
there, go to the menu bar and click TOOLS and choose INTERNET OPTIONS from the flyout menu. In the
resultant dialog box, at the top of the first tab shown is a section for Home Page. Click the USE CURRENT
button and then click the OK button at the bottom of the dialog box. Now, this current page will be your
new home page and will be the first thing you see when you start IE.

Note that there is also a choice beside the USE CURRENT button that allows you to USE BLANK. Clicking
this button means that you will not have a home page. I like to use this one because I frequently go to
many different websites and I don’t want to have to wait while my browser struggles to open a complex
home page. takes a lot longer to open than or about:blank.

Browsing with Links
Information on the Internet is easy because most web pages have links to other pages and all that you
have to do to go to that page is to click the link. Links are usually underlined and blue so if you see text
in a document that you are reading and it has underlined blue parts, you can click them to go to another
webpage with information on the subject that the text was talking about. Pictures can be links, too. If
you are uncertain if a picture or underlined text is a link, simply hover your mouse cursor over it and see
if the arrow of your cursor turns into a hand with the index finger raised. If it changes to a hand, it is a
clickable link. To return to the previous page, just click the BACK button on the toolbar.

Searching the Internet
Sometimes you know where you are going so you just type in the address and go there. If I’m looking
for info about Chevrolets, for example, it is just easy to type in and autocomplete will finish
the address for you and take you to Chevy’s website which is all about their new cars.

But suppose that you don’t want information about new cars. You won’t find information about 1956
Chevrolets on That won’t be there because is there to sell you a new chevy.
They are not a fan-of-old-cars website.

You can find it with the use of a special type of webpage called a Search Engine. This is simply a website
that has a robot which travels to the billions of webpages and indexes the information found so you can
search for it. The most popular search engine is If you go to, you will find a
nearly blank page with a space that looks a lot like an address bar in a browser. If you type “1956
Chevy”, you’ll be taken to a page that has many, many links to websites that have some content about
1956 Chevys. Just start clicking links that look interesting to you. I often find what I am looking for in
the first few links.

Another way to start a search is to click the SEARCH button on your browser’s toolbar. With IE, you will
usually be taken to Live Search because it is a Microsoft product. Note that you can customize this by
clicking the down-arrow to the right of the search bar and choose a different search engine.
Beginning Vista Computers, a Special Interest Group of the Prescott Computer Society   Lesson7 by Phil Ball   pg   5

When you find a website that you like and know that you will want to return to it at some future time,
you can “bookmark” it so you don’t have to remember the URL or follow links to get to it.

Adding a Website To Your Favorites -- It is easy to add a site to your list of
Favorites in Internet Explorer. At the far left of your IE toolbars, there is a
big gold star that is called the FAVORITES CENTER. Next to it is another
smaller star with a green plus on it. Clicking this +star item adds the
current webpage to the list of favorites. It will suggest a name that you
can change if you prefer.

Going To A Site On Your Favorites List -- By clicking on the Gold Star, you reveal a drop down menu of
all your favorites. Each listing is a link. Simply click it to go to that website. Note that History is here,
too. More about that, later.

Rearranging Your Favorites List -- Click the Add to Favorites button (Green plus on a gold star). At the
bottom of the resulting drop down list is an item called “Organize Favorites.” Clicking this will bring up a
dialog box (small window) where you can create folders and move files as well as renaming or deleting
files. Just start clicking the appropriate buttons and it will lead you through the process.

Using The History List
Your browser keeps track of websites that you have visited recently and keeps a list that you can search.
This is especially handy if you followed a long winding path to get somewhere and you get interrupted.
You can’t remember how you got there but you want to return. Check the history list. It is arranged
alphabetically by date.

After clicking the Favorites button on the toolbar (gold star), choose the History tab at the top of the
dropdown list. The list below will show your recent history by dates. Just click Yesterday to see
everywhere you visited yesterday and click the page you want. If you try a likely looking link and it turns
out to be the wrong one, the History sidebar is still open so you can just click another until you find the
right one. When done using the History sidebar, just click the “X” in the upper right corner of it.

What Can I Do on the Internet?
Someone once said that if you can imagine it, it is on the Web.

You can visit websites looking for information. For instance, I have become very nutrition conscious
lately and have done a lot of research on the web. I just have to be aware that anyone can say anything
on the Web. There are no rules or regulations so be aware of where you are before believing what you
are reading. I give much more credence to an article from Prevention Magazine than I do to someone’s
entry in a blog or chat room.
You can also do research on products, either to read nutrition labels or find out what Celestial
Seasoning’s new flavor of tea is all about.
You can shop online. I just bought a $500 scanner online and saved about a hundred bucks. The best
part was that I placed the order while relaxed at home in my pajamas and the UPS man brought it right
to my door a few days later. How’s that for convenience? Some folks like to worry about credit card
Beginning Vista Computers, a Special Interest Group of the Prescott Computer Society   Lesson7 by Phil Ball   pg   6

problems online but security experts say that it is actually safer to use your credit card online than it is to
give it to your waiter who disappears into the back of the restaurant with it. When you shop online at
reputable sites, they use encryption and a secure website for credit card sales. There are very good
price comparison websites. I use them to find a low price. There are also websites which will review
products so you know what you are buying. I buy many things that I am knowledgeable about when I
have never laid eyes on them!
You can read books online. Libraries are starting to make books available to be read online.
You can find music and games online.
You can find old friends or your old military outfit online.
You can learn how to do things online. You can actually get a legitimate college degree online.
Many manufacturers offer up to date support online. When my computer or one of its parts gets weird,
I go to the manufacturer’s site to find an update or an answer. I frequently fix problems this way. I find
answers for many odd computer problems by doing a Google search.
You can find unusual items or interests online. I found Book 3 of a series online and nowhere else. If
you collect thimbles or old tools, you will find other collectors online.
You can enjoy art online. Galleries and museums usually have photos of their exhibits online. Artists
often have a website. You might be able to locate and contact the artist who was at last year’s Phippen
Show. Or just go see more of their work.
You can find all sorts of free things online. These things range from little clipart pictures to software. It
is truly amazing to think of all the free things available. Be careful, here, though, to be sure of where
you are. Free things when you are visiting an unknown website might have a hidden catch like spyware
or worse.
Many people like to watch the news online. I like the weather forecasts. If I’m traveling, I can get the
10-day forecast for my destination online. You can check your stock prices online.
Have Fun! Surf Safely! (Who ever thought I would grow up to be a surfer?)                             Phil

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