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New WSC Volume 1: Addons Means AdsOff

Posted on March 19, 2014 at 3:25 PM

I've been continuously online from 2000 up to present, using Windows computers. Over the years, I used a number of different antivirus and antispyware programs. In all that time I never had a virus nor a worm, nor any warnings of them. I have antivirus, antispyware and antitrojan applications that are free to individual home use.

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So, just what am I doing, or not doing that has prevented me from encountering any form of virus online or off? If you want my definitive and formal security practices, please get a copy of "Rootkits For Dummies," published in 2007 by Wiley Publishing Ltd. It's not at all dated, having been picked up by libraries all over the world. The information provided on securing your computer is just as relevant now as it was then.

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I like to keep my security simple and straightforwards. Most of my computers in the past were meager on resources so I couldn't use anything that ate them. I also dislike programs that need a lot of babysitting, constantly crying for attention to make you think they're doing a great job. I prefer to load my own choice of antivirus if I want one. The one I use and trust is Avira AntiVir.

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How I do my security has had an affect on my experience, but it's much more than that. I abhor advertisements on pages I'm trying to read. My eyes will wander when enticed by any movement or flashing. It's very distracting (and totally instinctive btw) when I read in-depth subjects at a post-graduate reading level. I have techniques to completely remove any and ALL advertising from my computer. Naturally, this goes against the grain commercially since unwilling victims of ads are one reason for doing them by websites seeking to make money from their suffering. I'm pretty sure the online search providers that serve up lots of ads aren't going to like this, that the biggest single vector for online malware, viruses and worms is advertising, especially via infected websites. They like to blame all this on the users visiting spurious websites or downloading "free" applications. I have done all that in the past including using P2P (as proof of concept), finding only four trojans and zero viruses along the way in over twelve years. The fact that I have never had a virus is no fluke.

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Malware makers always seek to infect the greatest number of computers. My theory based on my experience is that they do it by intercepting and infecting advertising, and then sending it along the pipelines. This brings infected websites to people's computers without them having to visit. The newest malware may not be detected by most antivirus applications simply because they are unknown. A lot of antivirus programs also scan using something called, "heuristics." Heuristics are not as accurate as detections from signature files, but it is useful. In any event always get a second opinion by checking detected malware files with something like VirusTotal, especially if it's a system file. Personally, if it's a file that's not system, that I can live without, I toss it with the secure shredder included in Spybot Search & Destroy.

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The bigtime online ad providers such as Yahoo, Fox and Google do indeed check their advertisements for malware, but the newest forms often get through simply because they're unknown. I'm a writer so I do a lot of research all over the Web. You can have more control over your Internet experience. Don't let big business try to push you around about what is secure and legitimate. The Internet wasn't started by big business, but by a bunch of scientists exchanging information with each other. They paved the way to make sure that the Web and Internet would be available to EVERYONE, even though their financing came via the military (NORAD). Smart people looking to the future.

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Here's my recipe for no-ads security:

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1.___ Install the MVPS HOSTS (file). It surprises me that they don't even use this basic tool where I work. Our IT has heard of it but since it's not promoted as a bigtime commercial (and pricey) security advantage, they don't use it. It's free for personal use, so please get it. It protects you from malware sites, web bugs and malware before they can ever appear in your browser. Instructions for installation are provided at their website. It's updated every few months, so you'll need to check back now and then after install. It does not automatically update. Register for Updates News.

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***How It Works - Every Windows computer has a HOSTS file. When you click on an address link in your web browser the computer checks the HOSTS first. If it finds nothing there, it then checks with the DNS (Domain Name Server) to find out where to go. The HOSTS is basically a text file with the names of websites on one side and the address of your own computer on the other side, (127.0.0.1). You can open it in Windows Notepad under "All Files" if you wish to see it. The idea is to have a list of bad websites with 127.0.0.1 as their address. Your browser will then display a blank area or page instead of the bad website.

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The HOSTS does have a tendency as it gets larger to impact your browsing speed. If you're spoiled like me with a fast browser, you can speed things up by disabling the DNS Client via Windows Services. They have instructions at the MVPS Hosts site for that as well.

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2.___You can use Internet Explorer, the default web browser that comes with Windows. Although it uses some plugins it's still behind browsers such as Firefox or Opera. I avoid using Google's Chrome, as it's designed to leverage ads and track your movements. Firefox and Opera are free. I use both. After you install it, get the following security extensions for it. These extensions also work in Opera.

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Adblock Plus: Links to the right of the Install button are provided for other browsers.

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Adblock Plus Pop-up Addon: Blocks mouse-click popups, popup windows and tabs.

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Element Hiding Helper for Adblock Plus: Blocks text ads. Simplifies blocking rules.

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Better Privacy: Gets rid of the new super flash cookies, but be sure to keep the ones you need.

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and if you use Facebook, get F.B. Purity: Cleans Up Facebook.

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All of these extensions/addons currently work in Firefox 21 (I tested them on Windows Eight.) You might resist using the latest Firefoxes as they come out because it sometimes takes awhile for the extensions or addons to catch-up to them. I don't care to get a new fangled browser that doesn't support my purposes 100%. You get those extensions/addons by clicking Tools on the Firefox Menu Bar, and then selecting Add-ons, when you're online. Just type them into the search bar, or use the links above. Download, install and restart the browser for each of them.

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3.___ Get Spywareblaster by Javacool. Very simple and easy to use security tool, free for personal use. You can get autoupdates for a donation to the cause. Spywareblaster is a passive security tool. You set it and then forget it. What it does is block the Class ID's of known malware. Every program has a unique Class ID embedded within it, no exceptions. Block the Class ID, and that program cannot even load on your machine. It will set Class IDs and Restricted Sites for all of your browsers, and make a System Snapshot for backup purposes. I've used this since it first came out. Thanks so much Javacool! Spywareblaster ROCKS!

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4.___ Spybot Search and Destroy. I loved this program up until recently. I don't know what the author Patrick Kolla was thinking when he made the latest release (Spybot + AV) into bloatware for babysitting. You can however get the old version of Spybot S&D v 1.6.2, and it still updates. Do NOT use the "Tea-Timer" (nor the bloatware version) unless you LOVE babysitting. Install, and update it. When you've done the update (remember to skip the Tea-Timer update - more babysitting), click on Immunize (shield button on left side). This does a similar action as Spywareblaster for all your browsers and your MVPS Hosts. If this version of Spybot S&D is ever discontinued, then I will no longer be using it. I have used it since it first came out (and donated to it). Please developers - GET A CLUE! The more you overtake the plumbing, the easier it is to plug up the drain.

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As an addition to Spybot S&D, I've started using the freeware version of MalwareBytes AntiMalware or MBAM. It's an excellent on-demand antispyware scanner. Using the right-click menu (added during installation), I use it to scan all the files that I download before opening them. I also run it on quick-scan once a week to ensure general security. I manually update it as needed (they update every day). You can download the free version. You will need to provide them with a valid email address to get it, but it's worth it.

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Since I'm on the subject of scans, you can do a free, on-demand virus scan using online sources. Trend Micro Housecall or Kaspersky have free online scans that are quite good. If dirty files are detected, I run them through VirusTotal for a 2nd opinion before securely deleting them using a file shredder. Most malware files aren't usually dangerous unless you open them. If you run into problems and still cannot figure it out, go to SpywareHammer. The experts there will help you. Do please read their instructions to learn how to post your problems to them.

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5.___If you have trialware from Norton or McAfee that you don't want, go online and search in Google for the Norton or McAfee Removal Tools. WikiHow has good instructions for Norton. PCHell has instructions for both Norton and McAfee. Before applying any of these tools to your computer, make a System Restore Point. It doesn't take long and can save you misery later should anything go horribly wrong. I haven't had any bad experiences using these tools but it's best to be on the safe side. Here's instructions for Windows 7 on creating a System Restore point.

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VERY IMPORTANT!!! Go to Microsoft and get all the updates for your system. Be aware that this will take some time to do, like a couple hours for a new PC. It's a necessary procedure if you want to stay safe online. Just do it. Windows Update

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6.___ Unless you use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), and you're on a modem, get a router. Wireless or wired it's worth the investment as it acts like a hardware firewall between your modem and the Internet. It stops simple hacking attempts cold. If you get one, be sure to set it up properly from the start. Set a username other than admin and a complicated password. Basic instructions can be found here. In addition to using a router, it's important to still use a software firewall as it can stop stuff from inside your computer attempting to "phone home." I'm using the Windows Firewall supplied with the operating system as it's more than adequate for my needs.

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You might consider getting yourself a travel router for use with public access points. Many types are available at reasonable prices.

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7.___ Google Search is okay if you don't care about being tracked and recorded. EVERYTHING done on Google is tracked and recorded, by Google and your ISP. Google keeps its records for up to 18 months worldwide. If you do not wish to be tracked or have your surfing recorded, use a proxy search site such as Ixquick. You can read all about the company at Wikipedia. I used to use Scroogle, but it no longer functions no-thanks to Google.

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Remember to setup your Firefox or Opera to erase all your history whenever you close the browser. If you do use Google for something you can clear the history at anytime from the Tools menu in Firefox. Of course, they will still have a record.

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Well, there it is. Many people have asked me in the past how I do my security, or how they can stay safe online. This will get you started. No security setup is perfect, so do read the Disclaimer section of this site. Some security experts may strongly disagree with how I do my own security or my opinions about it, but it has stood the tests of time and actual use. Viruses are still a burgeoning threat to many on the Internet. If you already have a strong security setup that you have faith in, then you will not likely need my advice. But as some people are fond of saying, never stop learning. I'm no exception in that respect. Thanks for reading.

 

 


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