plausive: A sketch of The Doctor holding an umbrella. (The Doctor)
[personal profile] plausive
I used to make this post once a year, I just realized I haven't done this since 2008 though, so here is a shiny new updated version with new links. :)

After spending the better part of my day saving a friend's PC from a nasty Trojan, I feel as if I need to make this post. I'm sure most of you already know all about firewalls and the like, but just in case one or two of you don't, here are the basics you should know if you want to surf the net safely.

1. Install A Firewall

I don't want to hear how expensive they are, you can get perfectly decent firewalls for free these days, and they are a MUST HAVE. I don't care what OS you're running, firewalls are a must. A great free firewall you can download is ZoneAlarm. It's clean, it's easy and it learns from you rather than making you learn from it. Install it, run it, and that's it. It's so easy, there is no reason not to have this on your PC.

2. Install Anti-virus Software

No, really, if you don't have one, stop reading this and install this right now.

There are a 1001 anti-virus programs out there, but my top pick is still AVG Anti-Virus. It's free, and It has saved my ass once or twice in the past when I was using a lesser firewall. AVG updates itself daily and will scan your PC when you first boot up (or at an ungodly hour in the morning if you leave your PC on 24-7 as I sometimes do. It's not a huge memory hog (though older machines may feel the lag while it scans the PC), but really, 15 min of slow PC performance a day is a small price to pay for clean and safe files.

You should always have an anti-virus on your PC. ALWAYS. No exceptions. You wouldn't believe how many people look at me like I'm mad when I say this, but it's true.

3. Learn About Malicious Pop-Ups And Learn How To Deal With Them

CNET has a great piece on them over here.

While most pop-ups are harmless (and annoying), and most web browsers do a good job of blocking the majority anyway, this is still something I feel people should know and understand.

4. Use Common Sense

If it looks fishy, it probably is. Do not go giving your personal info out to anyone who asks. Look at web addresses carefully before entering passwords or personal information. Are you on a secure page (firefox and most browsers will tell you that you are up in the navigation toolbar)? Do you trust this site? Does it make sense that this page/company is requesting this information? Do they have a privacy policy posted that you can read?

5. Be Aware Of What Your Downloading And How Different Types Of Downloads Work

Before you go snag that new Torrent of Tangled, make sure you understand how torrents work. You are NOT anonymous when you download a torrent and you CAN be tracked down by the MPAA the RIAA if you are not careful. Hell, you can be tracked by them even if you are. There is no 100% safe way to snag a torrent, but if you'd like to be at least a little safer, here are a few things you can do.

Stick to private torrent communities that require registration, or better yet, an invitation.

Use slightly safer (and easier to customize) torrent downloaders such as utorrent.

Learn about IP blocking and torrent filters such as ipfilter.dat

On a related note, do not just download things from where-the-fuck-ever. If you want freeware go somewhere like, not some random site. Do not right click and save every file on the planet. Download from trusted sites only, or, at the very least, take the time to scan what you've downloaded before you open it (Firefox does this for you, though I'm not sure how powerful their scanner is).

6. Always Read The TOS and the Privacy Policies

No, you don't have to pour over it or hire a lawyer before agreeing, but do use some common sense. Make sure you understand what you're agreeing to when you click 'yes'.

And I'm not just talking about shady sites either. Just have a look at Google's Chrome TOS. Harmless, sure, but a bit shady in places.

This doesn't just apply to web sites anymore either. Those social networking phone apps? Yeah, you might want to see just how much you're sharing there. Even games these days are spying on you. The newest EA releases ask you if you're willing to share your game play with them. Yep, they want to watch you play video games. I imagine you'll find the same in a few console titles. Thankfully most still let you opt out of that sort of thing.

7. Learn How TO Opt Out

You have the right to privacy, don't let companies tell you otherwise.

--- --- ---

Some of this stuff is overkill, and honestly, for the most part all you need is common sense and a good firewall/anti-virus combo. You'll notice I left off anti-spywear, that's simply because I find all the free anti-spywear programs currently out there sub-par. Also, with a good firewall and some brains, you should be able to avoid the stuff. Also, AVG Free removes it and treats it like a virus if it's malicious.
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