PC Troubleshooting Workshops


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Is it safe?

Websites like e-mail can serve as conduits through which computer vermin from Trojan horse to viruses creep into your computer.
You knew that, right? You should.
Such malicious code could range from annoying pop-ups (that advertise bigger and better body parts) to hijacking programs which force you to land on a site you are not interested in.
In the past, such places included porn, gambling and file-sharing sites.
But these days, you are just as likely to visit a dubious website through a link on more innocuous – even common – sites such as search engines.
So a search on Google, Yahoo or MSSN could lead you to these rogue sites.
For instance, you may be looking for “free screensavers” or celebrity photos”. Your search brings up a host of possible websites. But nestled in there could be a cyber merchant of malice.
An example is celebritypictures.duble.com, which was reported by McAfee SiteAdvisor to harbour miscreant programs, McAfee SiteAdvisor (
www.siteadvisor.com) is a site devoted to patrolling the Net to document and alert the rest of us to potentially dangerous sites.
So, how do you minimize the dangers from harmful websites, short of abandoning search engines altogether?
Be guided by these eight dos and don’ts.

  • Boost security on your browser
    On windows XP, you can take care of this simply. Click on the Tools option and select Internet Options.
    Then select the Security tab, and click on Default Level. When the sliding bar appears on the left, move the bar up to Medium or High.
    This is your first line of defense.
  • Avoid questionable sites
    If a site looks untrustworthy, it probably is. Like porn, gambling and hacking sites. Enough said.
  • Do not be downloading happy
    Treat all cute programs or cool utilities as suspect – unless you know for sure they are from a credible source.
  • Close strange windows
    If one pops up in the middle of your screen, close it with the X at the top right corner of the box. Never click on the Close or Cancel or Confirm options within the Window – you may unwittingly invite lethal code to download itself and invade your computer system.
  • Install an anti-spyware program; get up-to-date protection
    When you are assaulted by a series of pop-up windows, you are a likely victim of Spyware or Adware.
    Stop what you are doing and get an anti-spyware program to check on your system. Well-known ones include Spyware Doctor and Webroot Spy Sweeper, anti-virus and anti-spyware programs are current, and that your virus and spyware dictionaries are, likewise, the latest available.
  • Be suspicious of discrepancies
    If the website address displayed on the search engine and the final site you land on are different, get out.
    Beware also of sites that are spelt like real ones. You sometimes find out the hard war when you make typing mistakes.
    For instance, a slight twist in the way the official Disneyland site (
    www.disneyland.com) is spelt takes you to a questionable place.
  • Tell on the baddies
    Sites like McAfee SiteAdvisor are devoted to patrolling the Internet and blowing the whistle on misbehaving websites. If you find a bad site, report it there.
  • Try the program in protected mode first
    If you must run a program you downloaded and you are running Windows XP, you can safely launch an application by using Run As feature.
    When you click on the Start icon (on the bottom left of your screen), go to the program in question and right click on it.
    Choose the Run As option, and in the dialogue box that appears, chose Current User and tick the Protect My Computer option.
    When running in this Protect mode, the suspected program is able to read your system registry readings, but cannot change them.
    Your current profile is also protected together with cookies, temporary internet files, the desktop and My Documents.
    One caveat though – it can also cripple a perfectly legitimate program attempting to make such changes.


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