Ever wonder why people live in areas prone to fire, floods, tornadoes, etc. !? I just can't figure it out. I guess it's not so simple in their minds either. How much do you endure before you move on to a safer environment. Lets look at the cyber world. With the popularity of cell phones and PDA's, do you practice safe text? Or is your cellphone camera an agent of voyeurism or cyber smut, but you think it is innocent play or just fun? Is your computer platform a disaster zone, but you endure it because it is the popular standard product or you just like it? I'm not here to judge but many times we open ourselves to things simply because they exist, are available and make poor choices regardless of consequences (ya know, the heat of the moment).
Now lets look at why I am in this mode of thought. My daughter has this computer, plus 1 teenage son and 1 even younger son. Like all kids they are into media, games, sports, other kids and the list is endless. The big three are social web sites, gaming web sites and music download sites. These are notorious for unwanted additions to your computer. If you don't have firewalls, anti-virus and spyware/malware protection, the range and amount of compromising files installed on your computer is incredible. The worst part is even with all the precautions in play the threats still come and they are not so easily removed. I really don't want to knock Microsoft XP or Vista, but they seem to be the targets of disaster, scams and mischief to abuse the user and the user's computer.
So, what can you do to cover yourself in spite of all the precautions you've already taken?
1. Get a USB hard drive big enough to backup your stuff. If you got a new computer with no stuff on it, that is the best time to make an image of your "untarnished system". Or burn that image to a DVD. The idea is to put your backup somewhere safe away from your computer. Get advice on the kind of backup. A backup program that has a propriety file format is useless if your operating system or that backup program is kaput. I prefer a direct disk image, a one for one copy. But get advice, that is important.
2. Don't misplace or discard your original software CD's, they are as vital as your keyboard. Tape them to the inside or outside of your PC case, put them in your wall safe. If you didn't get MS XP or Vista disks, look into getting them. This alone will save you from much agony. I have each computer's pamphlets and disks in large Ziplock bags.
3. After you saved your disks, docs and original installation, check your programs that have internet access. This is email programs, web browsers, media players and especially anti-virus and spyware/malware programs. There are bogus programs that are frontends to third party backdoor software. They have legit sounding names. Make sure the software meant to protect you is the real thing, do some research. Computer groups are a big resource. Think plug security holes, control outside access!
4. Either take the time to learn about your computer and/or have a PC Tech handy. Catch things when they are infant problems. Grown up problems are so messy and time consuming to fix. I am looking over at my daughters machine while I am typing this. The XP machine is doing an AVG Antivirus scan. So far there are 13 Trojan horse files found after 1 hour and 3 minutes of scanning.
5. You know that doctors warn about taking too much medicine. You don't want to take 3 aspirins for a headache. It will not work faster. There was 2 versions of one antivirus and 1 of another on this computer. Whether by zeal or unintentional mistake, multiples of software that scan your hard drive and your internet ports is not good, they can conflict with each other. Delete that trail-ware after it has expired, either buy the service or get freeware protection. I myself like AVG Antivirus free edition.
6. If you are curious or fed up with living in the MS Bermuda Triangle, move to Linuxville. Try Ubuntu, Kubuntu or Xubuntu (my favorite). If you insist on paying money, get a Mac. If you really, really must stay with Microsoft, do all you can to lessen intrusions to your system. Being careless will cost you more money and time. I am not saying that Linux is safer but it is less of a target. I am sure if everybody moves to Linux those cyber baddies will move there too. Yes, there are anti-virus, ad blockers, anti-spyware and such for Linux (just in case). So far, my 4 years of continuous Linux use has not had any attacks. I am still a little bit cautious.
7. Use open source applications and file formats when ever possible. They do not change just because the operating system is upgraded or the application has a new version. These open source formats can cross any platform, Mac, MS or Linux. This is very desirable and practical.
Well, I am going to give back my daughter's computer, the final scan is coming up clean. It is time consuming to clean a computer. Both the hardware and software need attention, sometimes the user needs adjusting also. We users are a habitual lot, not easy to upgrade our software, ya know. Those organic flash ROMs we call brains are buried under the real-time processor. Then our band-width doesn't always allow us to process all the info we deal with. We often resort to a pen and paper cache because our wiring is inadequate to access the resources we were born with. Older folks are hard wired, it takes continual effort to learn new tricks, ask any old dog. Young folks are being wired even as we speak, but hampered by poor choices and inexperience. But each stage of the game requires we use what awareness we have to figure it out. Family is always the key, young folk and old folks looking to each other to compensate for our shortnesses. User groups as a pool of experience and don't forget your local PC Tech. And then there's me, your Linuxville guide.