Secure Your Computer!
Cyberspace malefactors are enslaving millions of unsecured computers into zombie networks that are responsible for spewing out mountains of spam and attacking legitimate websites that oppose the spammers. Is your PC part of the problem? Find out now...
Are You a Spammer?
You might be a spammer, and never know it. Every day, ordinary computers, owned by ordinary people like you, are being used to send spam. Because so many people have failed to take just a few easy steps to secure their computers, they have become zombies, caught up in botnets.
Botnets are groups of PCs on the Internet that can have been compromised by spammers and hackers. Adware, spyware, computer viruses and other rogue programs have allowed these computers to be remotely controlled by a single entity. By using these zombie computer networks, they can send spam that's virtually untraceable, because it originates from YOUR PC, not the spammer's.
Are You a Hacker?
But that's not all... a compromised computer can also be used to attack other users and websites. A distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack uses thousands of zombie computers to flood the intended victim's computer or website with millions of incoming data packets, which can cause it to crash or become inaccessible. And again, the attacker remains anonymous because they can hide behind the zombie network. All they do is press a button which sends the "attack signal" to the zombies, which do the bidding of their master.
DDOS attacks have been used by spammers to attack individuals and the websites of anti-spam organizations. In one recent case, the Blue Frog anti-spam service was forced to shut down due to unrelenting botnet attacks.
If you have failed to secure your computer, and as a result it has been compromised, the consequences could go far beyond unwitting participation in spamming and denial of service attacks. Until you fix this problem, your privacy, the integrity of your files, and the safety of your personal information are all figments of your imagination. Any program, any file, any email on your computer is accessible to the person who controls it. Once the zombie master has tapped into your PC, he or she can install new programs, browse your documents and emails, delete files at random, or use your identity to commit crimes. And of course, you could be oblivious to all of this.
Take Back Your Computer - Take Back the Net
But that doesn't have to be the case. By securing your computer, you take back your personal privacy, and you help to shut down spammers. The good news is that it doesn't take a lot of time, money or computer skills. To make sure your computer is free of rogue software and secured for the future, the first thing you need to do is make sure your PC has the latest Microsoft security fixes. If configure your system to run Windows Update in automatic mode, you'll always be up to date, without another keystroke. Open Internet Explorer, click on Tools, then Windows Update. Follow the instructions to download the required fixes, then choose the Automatic mode.
Next, you absolutely need anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, and a firewall. The two articles below will show you my recommendations for the best anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and the facts on both hardware & software firewalls. This is the solution I've used myself for several years and I know it works. Best of all, everything you need is free!
More Internet Security Resources
Do you use a wireless connection at home or on the road? If so, you should read these next two articles to make sure your computer is not vulnerable to wireless networking exploits.
Got comments on this article? Post them below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 22 May 2006
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Secure Your Computer! (Posted: 22 May 2006)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Most recent comments on "Secure Your Computer!"
25 May 2006
I use a free program called AntiVir for virus protection, Windows Defender for spyware, and X-Ray PC for diagnostics. I've got Windows firewall turned on and also the critical auto-updates and so far my machine's been running pretty smoothly.
I believe practicing "safe-surfing" really helps in keeping your PC secured. By the way, I stopped using IE. Mozilla Firefox is my browser of choice. Sorry Bill.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I still use IE and sleep well at night! Every few months I try Firefox for a day but so far it doesn't meet my everyday browser needs.
25 May 2006
I manually update my Norton Internet Security software every time when I log onto the internet. I think I messed up my machine by configuring my system to run Windows Update in automatic mode.
I use a dial-up modem (the horror). What I think happened is while running Norton Online Update the Windows Update starts in automatic mode. The 2 installation processes run a-foul of each other and I end up with a compromised operating system.
Comments? (I choose to run Windows Update manually and before I do that I use Ghost to back up my hard-drive. Do you think I could get away with System Restore on my XP-Pro machine?)
EDITOR'S NOTE: If you can do a System Restore to a recent date when Windows Update and Norton were both working correctly, do so. Then remove Norton from your system and go with Etrust Anti-virus or AVG. Norton is so bloated and gets its hooks in everywhere, which as you've seen can cause trouble.
26 May 2006
What I want is something that PREVENTS anything, not something I have to scan for in order to remove. Is that possible? Is it possible to have all this protection AUTOMATIC so I don't have to answer/approve cryptic alerts??
EDITOR'S NOTE: YES... the anti-virus and anti-spyware products I mentioned will prevent malware from entering your PC, as well as doing regular scans.
28 May 2006
If I have a simple telephone connection that I use very seldom is my risk of spammers,etc. correspondingly low? I have no extra protection.
EDITOR'S NOTE: It's lower (because your PC is not always online) but not nil. I would still recommend an occasional anti-virus and spyware scan.
31 May 2006
I have a Mac (OS 10.4.6) - am I immune from these situations? My firewall is a password protected router and I use Safari as my browser.
EDITOR'S NOTE: No, Mac users are not immune. But because Windows is 90% of the market, malware writers focus their attention there. For now, the router should be adequate protection.
08 Jun 2006
Dear Mr. Rankin,
As a computer "pioneer" ( I started in 1958) I wish to thank you for sharing your information and for the "free" resources.
Sincerely, MJ Wolff
14 Sep 2006
Isn't it annoying that so many people still mix up hackers and crackers? If you are "attacking" other computers, you're a cracker. If you write software and consider coding an art form, you are a hacker.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I think that's because "hacker" was in common parlance long before "cracker" became popular. And people still use terms like "hacking into a government computer". I suggest that your quest to educate the masses on this point is futile.