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You MUST Protect your PCs

Malware authors up the ante
Malware authors have increased both the volume and sophistication of their attacks over the last six months. In the first half of 2005 anti-virus firm Sophos detected and protected against 7,944 new viruses - up 59 per cent from the first six months of 2004. The number of keylogging Trojans has tripled in the first six months of 2005 compared to the first half of 2004.

More computer viruses and worms mean an unprotected Windows PC (without either firewall or antivirus protection) stands a 50 per cent chance of infection by a worm after just 12 minutes online. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, conceded that Windows PCs no longer ship in this unprotected state. Nonetheless the finding illustrates the need to apply basic defences (consumers can find free products aplenty if they choose to look).
Make sure your PC has anti-virus software, anti-spyware software and a firewall running at all times.

I recommend the free Zone Alarm (  Click here to download.
Click here for a guide on Installing Zone Alarm.
Click here for a guide on configuring Zone Alarm.
If you are using Windows XP, click here for a guide on disabling the built in XP firewall.

Firewalls - what for?
Firewall is a either a hardware based solution or a program, that is meant to limit access to your computer from the network, and on the otherhand from your computer to the network. There are plenty of different firewalls, but the ZoneAlarm firewall described here is simple, reliable and free. If used properly, firewall gives you excellent protection against direct attacks from the network, because computers ports cant be seen in the network if the firewall is setup properly. If there where open ports on the computer, that would basicly mean that there was some service open which is possible to be contacted via net. As there are no ports available, naturally there is nothing to contact with from the net.

With proper firewall, one can also very effectively prevent the computer to be transformed into "zombie" or otherwise became under some hackers command, even if the settings on the computer where insecure or harmfull programs are run in the computer. However, it must be stated clearly that firewall does NOT replace antivirus software or being cautious. It doesnt prevent files on your computer to be corrupted nor spreading of viruses and worms. It does, however, usually prevent harmfull trojan horse programs and other backdoor programs from contacting net and opening your computer to some hacker. It also prevents programs from sending information about you to their manufacturer (like spyware programs) if you dont allow the particular program to go access internet.

At this point, I need to mention about WindowsXP:s "firewall". In short: Avoid it if you can! It only closes inbound ports from connections. It doesnt prevent outbound connections or specify which programs can connect to net. So, dont use it. Get rid of it totally and install ZoneAlarm or similiar instead. Also, you may have heard about "Black Ice Defender" or "BID". Again, forget it too. Its NOT a real firewall, its just an inbound port blocker. It doesnt allow outbound filtering. Some people find it usefull to check who is knocking their ports, but otherwise its pretty much useless. Get rid of it and install REAL firewall like ZoneAlarm.

I prefer Norton, but it doesn't matter, pick one and use it.  Even more important: KEEP IT UP TO DATE.

Click here to read the prior TOTD on why Spyware is such a problem.
I recommend the free Spybot.  Click here to download.
Click here for a guide to installing Spybot.

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