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August 01, 2003

Attention Windows Users:


If you want to keep all your data this summer then you need to do a few things right now and also change your behavior in the future.

Over the past few weeks several significant holes have been found in all supported versions of the Windows operating system. There are also dozens of unpatched holes that exist in Internet Explorer. Virus writers are reportedly putting the finishing touches on several new super worms that exploit these holes.

It is believed these super worms may lock the system so that it cannot be used, destroy data, and then use the internet connection to continue to spread the worm. At this point its not known for sure what they will do or not as they haven't yet been released to the wild. All news about them comes from their discussion on a few security maillists and newsgroups that are frequented by virus writers and read by script kiddies.

If you want to keep your system safe you need to do the following. (Even without this alleged threat the following advice still applies as it will provide more than adequate security against any type of threat.)
  1. Download and install all the critical patches available at windowsupdate.microsoft.com. Don't forget to check back there often as several critical updates and other patches are released every few weeks!
  2. Download and install all Microsoft Office Service Packs and Security Updates.
  3. Stop using Microsoft Internet Explorer or at the very least disable Active-X scripting or set it to prompt. If you set it to prompt, only grant perssission to run Active-X scripts on web sites you are sure you can fully trust.
  4. Check for updates for your anti-virus on a daily basis. Also re-enable the background scanning if you previously disabled it. If there are options for using heuristics and scanning all file types enable them for the best protection. If you have 256MB of ram or less these features might slow your computer down and you'll need to decide which is the worse option; getting a virus or a slower computer while this is enabled. Don't forget you could always upgrade your memory for under a few hundred dollars.
    If you don't have any anti-virus software, shame on you! I highly recommend McAfee VirusScan Online. (Save $5 with this link)
      I use and recommend VirusScan for the following reasons:
    1. It may be (legally) installed on every computer you use.
    2. It doesn't use a lot of resources and memory when using the all files background scanning and heuristics.
    3. It has been my experience that McAfee is very quick at including new viri and worms in its definitions. Weeks faster than its competitors in some cases!
    4. Most worms that disable anti-virus programs don't seem to target it.
  5. Install/upgrade your firewall software/firmware. A hardware firewall or a firewall router with NAT or VPN support is the preferred method of protection for a home user but software firewalls are better than no firewall at all.
    I recommend using one of the two different Linksys routers on the right. If you only have two computers on your network the top one is good enough. If you'd rather stick with a software firewall I recommend McAfee Personal Firewall Plus (Save $5 with this link.)
    Personally I use a Cisco hardware firewall that I picked up at a dotcombomb auction, along with Personal Firewall Plus on all my machines. This belt and suspenders approach can provide two zones of protection.
    Please keep in mind that all software firewalls are only as secure at the underlying OS.
  6. Download and install Spybot Search and Destroy. Once installed check for problems and carefully select and remove all malicious spyware. Then click on the Immunize button and enable the Permanent Internet Explorer Immunize feature, Bad download blocker for Internet Explorer and lock your host file.
  7. Lastly, but probably most important; Backup all your most important data to CD or a removable drive. If you can create an image of your entire drive this would be the best solution since you can recover from a major problem and get back to work very quickly.
    Need a good backup hard drive? Maxtor's one touch external USB/Firewire drive is a great choice (on right.)




Posted in Computing & Tech News , Microsoft & Windows by usrbingeek at 2003-08-01 13:44 ET (GMT-5) | 0 Comments | Permalink



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