Security Check - Have you ever wondered how secure your computer really is? Do you have a virus program including the latest virus definitions? How protected are you from malicious programs and unwanted ads? How about a firewall? Most home users don't even know what a firewall is or what it does. You might be thinking you can't afford all that, but, it is something you really need to learn more about before you say no. There are free alternatives that are much better than having no protection at all. Even with the release of XP sp2 with additional security features, you might want to bypass the built-in firewall for something a little more advanced.
Virus protection is a must-have. It should be your number one concern. You shouldn't even get on the internet without it. I could tell you some stories... Norton anti-virus has been my pick through the years and it's a reasonably priced virus protection software. You can get a free program for personal use called AntiVir with versions that support Win95/98/ME, XP, NT and Win2000. There are other free av programs that you can find that are similar and do an adequate job for personal use.
What's a firewall? A firewall blocks your computer from intrusion and attacks by keeping your personal information safe from hackers and malicious users. If you don't have a firewall, you're probably broadcasting your presence on the internet each time you sign on without even knowing it. Why not surf the web in stealth mode where you are practically invisible? I personally think ZoneAlarm is the best free firewall for personal use (also check out the features of ZoneAlarm Pro).
To get an eye-opening learning experience about security you really need to take advantage of the Gibson Research Corp site. They have a free utility to test your firewall for leaks, among other useful offerings.
And then there's using some common sense for protection. Don't open attachments from sources you don't know when using e-mail. Set your e-mail, virus or firewall to screen/not allow attachments to open automatically. Scan all attachments before you open them from a trusted source. Even people you know may not be aware that they've attached a virus.
It's not hard for the casual user to download a self-executable dialer program on their computer. Certain unscrupulous sites try to confuse you into downloading these programs. Sometimes you get locked into a page with no apparent way out except to click 'yes'. DON'T EVER click 'yes' just because you have no other choice or selection on the screen. You will always have a 'yes/no' option on a legitimate site.
If you ever get stuck on a page that won't let you exit, do not panic! Before you reboot as a last resource, try using the 'Ctrl + Alt + Delete' keys to pull up a menu that you can close out of the page with, using 'end task'. If you accidentally say 'yes' to something you're not sure about, immediately shut down or reboot the computer before the download completes, and don't go back to that site.
If you should find that you (or someone else) accidentally downloaded an unknown dialer-type .exe program to your computer, delete it or run the free versions of SpyBot Search and Destroy, AdAware or other clean up utilities. A preventative measure for dial-up users is to use a separate phone line just for your computer with no long distance (local service only for your ISP) and a 900 blocker on the line. That way a malicious dialer program can't use your modem or phone line to call out.
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