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Technology Tips and Hints

An email newsletter to improve your PC productivity and security

 07/09/2005                                                          Volume 1, Number 1

In This Issue

    Premiere Issue

    The Cornerstones of a Secure PC

o        Virus Protection

o        Operating System Updates

o        Spyware/Adware

o        Intrusion Protection

 

    Whatís Coming in the Next Issue?

o        Dealing with SPAM

o        Dealing with Pop-Ups

o        Have you been Pfished?

o        Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer

 

Contact Us

Premiere Issue                  

After working as a Real Estate Sales professional and as a Technologist currently supplying Technology Support Services to Prudential Connecticut Realty offices in Newtown, Danbury, Ridgefield, Trumbull and Southbury, Iíve had the opportunity to draw some conclusions about many of the issues that Sales Executives face in their daily use of technology.  I have seen significant frustrations with incorrectly configured network settings, virus infections, spam, pfishing, spyware, email, digital imaging (scanning & photography) and cellular. It is my hope that through Technology Tips & Hints youíre computing experience will be enriched and be more productive.

I ask that you contact me at daf@datainc.com if you any questions or suggestions for the newsletter.

I am not sure what the frequency of release of the newsletter will ultimately be but I am shooting for a monthly release now and possibly more often in the future.

Thanks for reading this far. Ė Dennis Friedman

 

The Cornerstones of a Secure PC

Virus Protection is a must, not a luxury

If you donít have it or if it isnít up to date or if itís not running, your computer operating system, your applications and data are susceptible to infection from very malicious viruses, Trojan Horses and Worms. In many cases no data is destroyed but your machine has slowed to a snailís-pace or is just too slow to be usable.

 

The consequences of a virus infection are costly and time-consuming. Restoration of full operational capability after a serious virus infection takes significant time, time that is now not available to you to do your work.

 

The best advice here is to prevent infection. This starts with the installation and activation of an anti-virus program. (my personal and professional favorite is CA EZ-trust Antivirus)

 

Your anti-virus program will provide real-time protection for incoming viruses via email, web activities or file transfers.

Your Virus Signature Files must be updated often and automatically

But its protection is only as good as the last time you updated the virus protection software. The critical component of the software is the virus signature file which is updated almost daily by all of the major vendors of anti-virus programs. It is used to tell your anti-virus software what virus forms it should look for. If your signature file is not current, you are susceptible to infection from new virus forms.

 

Most anti-virus software producers provide an automated way for updating your software and its signature files. With the purchase of your software you typically get one (1) years worth of updates and signature downloads. There after you need to purchase additional subscription time.

 

This is one of the main problems our agents are encountering. They are getting infections because their subscriptions have lapsed (in many instances by many, many months) and the automatic downloads are failing.

 

In other instances most agents I know never bother to check their anti-virus automated download log files to see if automated updating is actually taking place. A simple check of the date of your anti-virus software signature file will also tell the tale. If itís more than a few days old itís probably out of date and not being updated.

 

 

Set-up an automated full scan schedule

Even if your signature files are up to date there is potential that a new virus may have made it to your system in between signature file updates. This is why you should schedule a full virus scan of your system at least once a month if not more often. The anti-virus programs provide a facility for establishing and running an automated schedule. All that is required after setting it up is that periodically you again check results logs to see if everything is okay

 

Operating System Updates

Let Windows do the automated updates of the operating system and major MS Office applications

Because the Omni-presence of Microsoftís Windows Operating System in todayís world, it has become a favorite target for hackers, both good and bad. These hackers find inconsistencies and vulnerabilities in the way Internet Explorer and other web-facing applications work in a Windows environment and then develop attacks to exploit vulnerabilities. These exploits could be harmless but most often they are malicious and destructive. Microsoft Corporationís security staff issues Operating System updates to close these vulnerabilities and/or negate the exploits ability to execute

 

With the advent of Windows 2000 and now Win XP the process of automatically obtaining and installing Operating System updates is super easy and something everyone should know about and do.

 

Just go to your start menu, select control panel, select the automatic updates Icon. Do select automatic download daily. Select a time when you know your machine will typically be on and you may not be actively using it. Downloads may require a reboot. But you are under control as to when these take place.

 

By doing this simple task you can significantly enhance your systemís ability to defend against these exploits.

SPYWARE

Whoís Watching?

Oiye, if computing wasnít difficult enough with viruses and spam and other good stuff, along comes SPYWARE. Spyware items are typically some type of tracking mechanism that allows the issuer of the spyware to gain access to information on your system. This can take the form of information capturing cookies. Keystroke capture and worse. They sometimes present themselves in the form of pop-up advertising. But in all cases they have planted themselves in your system, most times without ever letting you know they have.

 

Unfortunately there is no one good all-inclusive solution to spyware or Adware. There is no single product that is 100% effective against all spyware. Our solution to this is to use two or more products which provide overlapping protection. Yes it is tedious and a little time consuming but once set-up the solution provides a very high degree of protection from these intrusions.

 Install Spy Sweeper by Webroot

There is a one month no-cost trial version you can use to see if it is for you. According to recent PC Mag testing it provides the highest state of protection against most spyware products.

 

Install Spybot, Search and Destroy

This free download (donations are solicited) provides the secondary level of protection, finding items that may have been missed Spy Sweeper.

 

Please bear in mind that as in the anti-virus and operating system, updates are required to these programs to ensure that the latest exploits are being looked for. Both these programs support automated updating of software and signature files

 

Intrusion Protection

Whoís knocking at my PCís front door?

If your pc is connected to the internet, there is high potential that someone out there will discover this fact and come knocking at your PCís front door. It will be an automated knock from some distant remote computer (maybe someone just like you who had his machine infiltrated.)  And if they do come a knocking and you unsuspectingly open the door to them and you are not protected by some personal or other type of Intrusion Protection then you machine faces the prospect of being attacked, penetrated and taken-over. Oh did I tell you, you might not even know its happening.

 

Any time you connect to the internet there will be both legitimate and many illegitimate attempts to identify open channels of communication used between conversing systems. They usually called ports. All too often initial security and system set-ups leave many of these ports open to intrusion. If access to your system is gained thru these ports significant damage can be done. In many cases your system, unbeknownst to you, is now being used as a relay for other machines or is being used to detect other systems that might be vulnerable.

 

There are only two viable ways to protect your system from these intrusions.

Never hook up to the internet. No way of getting taken over then, I guess this might not work for you.

Use a Firewall Product

There are many excellent personal firewall products on the market. Windows XP Service Pack 2 offers a basic one which will provide modest levels of protection. But if you have a broadband connection and spend significant time online then you need something stronger.  Zone Labs offer a free firewall product (as well as higher level products) called Zone Alarm. This free download provides excellent levels of intrusion protection at a price that cannot be beat. And it provides an update path to its higher level products such as ZoneAlarm Pro and their new product Zone Alarm Security Suite.

Iíd check them all out before deciding upon one.

 

 

 


 

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