Why the best antivirus is you – Part 2: Learning how to protect yourself.

In part 1, I talked about the ways that antivirus companies try to manipulate you with misinformation and fear tactics. In this part, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and help you help yourselves. The internet is a fun playground but people often want to jump from the top of the slide, stick their tongue on the cold pipe, eat sand and yet still be protected. Sorry but it doesn’t work that way. There are some things you need to do to be safe out there especially since we’re now kicking our antivirus software habit:

Java

Uninstall java from your computer. No don't stop drinking coffee but it's called JAVA..it's a program that you probably have installed on your computer. Check for it...bet it's there.

Uninstall Java

If your reaction to this first one is “I have a cup of coffee installed on my computer?” than chances are you’ve never used it. You wouldn’t be alone. Java is typically installed from the manufacturer when you buy a new computer. From Sun Microsystem’s website, the maker of Java: “It is the underlying technology that powers state-of-the-art programs including utilities, games, and business applications.” That makes it sound more necessary than it really is. The majority of websites today do not require java to render properly. Surfing the web with an outdated version of Java is like walking through a minefield. Sites can exploit known flaws in Java and install software without your knowledge. The software these sites install isn’t Dora the Explorer’s party game.

If you’re still insistent that you need Java or you run applications on your computer that require it, then I recommend disabling it in your web browser. Here are links with instructions on how to do that:

Disable Java in Internet Explorer.
Disable Java in Firefox
Disable Java in Chrome
Disable Java in Opera
Need instructions for Safari? You’re lame.

Keep Adobe Flash updated.

Flash sucks. Flash is buggy and a nuisance but if you want to watch a rollerblader fall from the roof and land on a metal pole using his crotch on YouTube you have no choice. Just keep it updated. It’s security holes open up more frequently then…oohh..I’d better leave that joke alone. Go here to see if you have the latest version.

To close exploits, make sure your operating system is updated.

Microsoft releases their patches on the second Tuesday of every month. Apple doesn’t follow a set schedule so make sure you check periodically. Instructions on how to check are here. If that annoying shield or blue square with the yellow circle thingy on Windows starts blaring away in your toolbar telling you that you “New updates are available”, stop surfing porn and run them. Reboot and then resume your previous porn surfing.

Revealing the URL

Careful because Uniform Resource Locators can be used against you.

Learn how to identify correct url’s.

One of the ways that hackers or spammers can trick you is to mislead you about a site you think you’re going to. Here’s a case in point – mouse over these links and look at the address it says you’d go to. It will show you in the bottom left corner of your browser:

http://www.bsitko.com
http://www.bsitko.com

At first glance those links look identical but they aren’t. One takes you to this finely crafted award winning blog and the other takes you to your maker. Before you click, pay attention to where you’re going to first.

You don’t need to open every email from a friend.

Just because a friend sent you a link to a video doesn’t mean you always need to view it. If their email account has been hijacked then you’re receiving something you probably don’t want. Spam links can typically have crazy domain extensions. Domain extensions are .com or .net. and can also contain a country of origin. Here’s a list. If your buddy Jim sent you a link which has .ru as its domain, I’m guessing they haven’t learned Russian since you saw them last. These links can take you to sites with really bad stuff on them, like the “Congratulations you’ve won!” popup ad on permanent repeat and viruses.

Turn on file name extensions.

If a file you found is named YoMomma, how does your computer know how to open it? It does because of the part most computers by default aren’t configured to show you, the file extension. If YoMomma was a word document, it is probably stored as YoMomma.doc. If a file you downloaded from the internet says beautifulsky.jpg, you would probably open it wouldn’t you? If you had show file extensions turned on, you might discover that the file is really called beautifulsky.jpg.exe and that exe means executable which if opened will probably install something really bad. Not all exe files are bad, of course, just ones named beautifulsky. Know what kind of file you’re really opening by showing all file extensions:

Turn on file extensions for an Apple computer
Turn on file extensions for Windows Vista/7

CRAP DETECTED!

This is always crap so please do not fall for it. Get out of this window pronto!

A website cannot scan your computer for viruses without you telling it to first.

Please don’t fall for this crap. If a website pops up and starts blaring that “You have 144 viruses and 69 Trojans. Please download our software today!” do NOT…I repeat do NOT do anything but try to close that website out. Run your task manager and stop your web browser’s process or as a last resort, hold the power button in for up to 10 seconds on your machine so it shuts off. I’ve had people fall for this, install the software and then pay the $70 bucks. Please don’t do it.

Switch to Linux.

Linux is the safest operating system out there. Virtually virus proof. It’s geeky but if you’re willing to try it, it’s willing to have you. Here’s one of the easiest Linux distros to start with… Ubuntu.

Be smart.

If something looks funny, it probably is. Don’t open it. If that site doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Don’t be afraid though. Being in control of your computer is empowering. You own it, don’t let it own you.

About the author

bsitko
  • Great stuff, Bill, and a great primer.

    I didn’t know about the Java thing – so, as they say, learn something new every day.

    • Thanks Dave. I have experienced personally the damage that a non-current version of Java can create. I find it mostly useless so tend to uninstall it when I find it. Thanks for sharing and stopping by today. 

  • It was a good article right up until you got to “Switch to Linux.”  No operating system is “virtually virus-proof.”  Linux won’t be infected by Windows-based viruses, no.  Linux is only a kernel.  The OS around it is GNU-based, generally, and that is unix-derived/based software.  Viruses and trojans and all of the malware rot was invented on Unix machines back in the 70s and 80s.

    *nix-based platforms today, like Linux and FreeBSD and MacOSX are less subject to viruses in general because those platforms have had decades more experience preventing them.

    Microsoft is still 30 years behind in this knowledge, and they continue to have issues because Microsoft has always put its own profits and marketing ahead of the security and  privacy of its customers.  

    And I really don’t put Apple much ahead of Microsoft, either.

    I run Linux exclusively, and I have had anti-virus protections on my hardware since it became available.  I paid for Sophos on my machines for a while, then I switched to open-source protection when it became viable.

    I trust Open-source platforms far more than I trust closed, for-profit platforms.  There are thousands more educated and experienced eyes looking over open source for security holes and providing patches.  Ubuntu provides a continuous stream of security patches and software upgrades, and I apply them almost daily.  How often do Microsoft and Apple provide security fixes to their customers, by comparison?

    • I agree that I over exaggerated Linux as being virus proof. Maybe it’s more correctly said as “virtually virus proof when compared to their Apple and MS counterparts” I have not tried a Linux distro in a while but did run Ubuntu for a short time. I’m uncertain as to what Linux can do for me that I cannot do in Windows. You’ll probably laugh at that comment and I’m good with that.

      I do find it interesting that you choose to run antivirus software yourself. Why?

      • Because only a fool doesn’t protect themselves, no matter what OS they use.  I spend a lot of time browsing the web, i’m not about to assume that I’ll never run across something malicious that could attack a linux-based system.  If nothing else, I don’t want to unwittingly spread a windows payload to my family’s computers, which are both Windows and MacOSX. 

         I also inspected and tweaked the firewall built into the scruffy little DSL router my ISP provided.  

Copyright © 2015. Created by Bill Szczytko.

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