Stay in­fec­tion and clut­ter-free

You’ve dis­in­fected your PC and cleared off a load of junk – now it’s time to strengthen your se­cu­rity and keep the clut­ter from your ma­chine

Windows 7 Help & Advice - - WINDOWS 10 -

You’ve re­claimed con­trol of your PC and ban­ished mal­ware along with un­wanted soft­ware and other use­less files. How can you pro­tect your­self – and keep your PC clut­ter-free – go­ing for­ward? Let’s start with se­cu­rity. Th­ese days, threats to your com­puter come in many shapes and forms. In spite of the best ef­forts of se­cu­rity ven­dors, there’s no one-size-fits-all-ap­proach to pro­tect­ing your PC, so ex­am­ine what threats are out there and – cru­cially – how to pro­tect your­self against them.

The threats

Mal­ware is a con­stantly evolv­ing beast, from its hum­ble begin­nings as a virus – a piece of code that repli­cated it­self to spread havoc. The virus be­came a worm – a stand­alone pro­gram that can cause dam­age as well as spread, which in turn be­came a Tro­jan, which ap­pears le­git but in fact car­ries a nasty pay­load.

The pay­loads have changed too, from sim­ply down­load­ing more soft­ware to delet­ing files on your stor­age drive to now lock­ing you out of your PC or your files through en­cryp­tion in the form of ran­somware. Then there’s spy­ware, back­door in­fec­tions, rootk­its, zero-day ex­ploits… Need we go on?

The key thing is to pro­tect your­self against them. How you pro­tect your PC is up to you, but if you’re se­ri­ous about se­cu­rity, don’t rely on Win­dows De­fender and the built-in Win­dows Fire­wall. Ei­ther splash out on a fea­turepacked, but re­source-friendly suite, such as Nor­ton, or mix and match a se­lec­tion of free anti-mal­ware tools.

Start with Bit­de­fender An­tivirus Free (www.bit­de­fender.co.uk/so­lu­tions/free. html) and ZoneAlarm Free Fire­wall (www.zonealarm.com/soft­ware/ free-fire­wall/). ZoneAlarm lets you block threats from com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the out­side world – some­thing the Win­dows Fire­wall doesn’t do by de­fault. It’s per­nick­ety about which anti-virus apps it’ll work with, but Bit­de­fender is fine.

Af­ter in­stalling ZoneAlarm, go into your fire­wall set­tings and select View Zones. You should see your home net­work has been added and placed in the Pub­lic zone, which re­stricts ac­cess to shared files and other re­sources. If you trust your net­work, click Edit and switch its zone to Trusted.

Add Mal­ware­bytes Anti-Mal­ware (www.mal­ware­bytes.com) – the free ver­sion will de­tect and re­move threats missed by other tools, but if you can af­ford the pre­mium ver­sion you’ll get real-time pro­tec­tion along­side your main tool as well, block­ing a wider

range of threats, in­clud­ing ma­li­cious web­sites and PUPs at source. We run MBAM Pre­mium along­side Nor­ton to cover all the threats men­tioned above.

Ran­somware is a nasty type of virus that locks your PC or en­crypts your files, de­mand­ing a ran­som to get the un­lock key. Inoc­u­late your PC against many of th­ese threats by in­stalling Bit­de­fender Anti-Ran­somware (www.bit­de­fender. com/so­lu­tions/anti-ran­somware-tool. html) if your anti-mal­ware soft­ware doesn’t ex­plic­itly of­fer pro­tec­tion.

Many of th­ese threats orig­i­nate from dodgy web­sites – pop-up win­dows or mis­lead­ing links. Most browsers now have built-in site-screen­ing tools for the worst of­fend­ers, but arm your­self with some form of site vet­ting plugin, prefer­ably one that rates web­sites for se­cu­rity and pri­vacy. Sadly, a tool we used to rec­om­mend – Web of Trust – has seen its rep­u­ta­tion bashed when it was dis­cov­ered to be sell­ing per­sonal in­for­ma­tion about its users. The prac­tice has al­legedly been stopped, but con­sider an al­ter­na­tive, such as Nor­ton Safe Web (https://safeweb.nor­ton.com/), if you want to vet both web­sites and search engine re­sults.

Also add Unchecky (www.unchecky. com), a free tool that helps pro­tect against in­ad­ver­tently in­stalling PUPs, and Bit­de­fender Traf­fic Light (www. bit­de­fender.co.uk/tool­box/freeapps/ desk­top/). Traf­fic Light of­fers some pro­tec­tion against ma­li­cious web­sites.

Fi­nally, strengthen pro­tec­tion against phish­ing web­sites and fil­ter in­ter­net con­tent for your chil­dren by ap­ply­ing se­cu­rity at a net­work level us­ing the OpenDNS Home ser­vice (www.opendns. com), which has the added ben­e­fit of de­liv­er­ing faster web­site load­ing as well.

Be­havioural threats

Most threats make their way on to your PC through trick­ery and de­ceit. It be­gan with phish­ing – fake emails that tried to trick peo­ple into click­ing a link to visit a fac­sim­ile of a gen­uine web­site in or­der to cap­ture their lo­gin de­tails. Po­ten­tially Un­wanted Pro­grams (PUPs) are bun­dled with gen­uine pro­grams – op­tions to add th­ese gen­er­ally pop up dur­ing the in­stal­la­tion process and they’re usu­ally ticked by de­fault.

Scare­ware is a kind of pro­gram that ex­ag­ger­ates or makes false claims – typ­i­cally about se­cu­rity (‘Your PC is in­fected!’, ‘10,000 Reg­istry en­tries are slow­ing your com­puter down!’) – to con peo­ple into pay­ing for the full ver­sion. It can also be de­liv­ered by mal­ware.

Long story short – be wary about click­ing links on web­sites and in emails. Add a mail-screen­ing tool, such as Mail­washer (www.mail­washer.net) or PopTrayU (http://poptrayu.source­forge. net/) to vet your mail be­fore open­ing it in your email pro­gram, delet­ing sus­pi­cious emails. And dig out your copy of is­sue 133 for more tips and tricks on se­cur­ing your PC and net­work.

“In spite of the best ef­forts of se­cu­rity ven­dors, there’s no one-size-fits-all ap­proach to pro­tect­ing your PC”

ZoneAlarm en­ables you to con­trol net­work and in­ter­net traf­fic to and from your com­puter.

Good anti-mal­ware tools block in­fec­tions at their source.

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