Re: IE vs. Netscape in security

From: Shenan Stanley (
Date: 03/06/05

  • Next message: Lanwench [MVP - Exchange]: "Re: There's no reason to forget (or remember) most passwords!"
    Date: Sat, 5 Mar 2005 21:51:21 -0600

    Richard Fangnail wrote:
    > I've been downloading the patches for a year and have Norton AV. Is
    > Netscape still safer than IE? I prefer to use IE because I'm used to
    > it.
    > I read the Wired cover story on the Firefox creator and he said he got
    > a nasty virus thing (through IE) that made his computer send tons of
    > spam but it didn't mention the details and it didn't say if Netscape
    > wouldn't have done the same thing.

    Use which ever one you like best wisely.

    Keep your PC clean and secure.

    Microsoft has these suggestions for Protecting your computer from the
    various "bad things" that could happen to you/it:

     Protect your PC

    Although those tips are fantastic, there are many things you should
    know above and beyond what is there as well as other methods and
    applications you can use to protect yourself. Below I have detailed
    out many steps that can not only help you cleanup a problem PC but
    keep it clean and secure as well as running at its top performance mark.

    I know this list can seem intimidating - it is quite long and a lot
    to take in for a novice - but I assure you that one trip through this
    list and you will understand your computer and the options available
    to you for protecting your data much better and that the next time
    you review these steps, the time it takes will be greatly reduced.

    Let's take the cleanup of your computer step-by-step. Yes, it will take
    up some of your time - but consider what you use your computer
    for and how much you would dislike it if all of your stuff on your
    computer went away because you did not "feel like" performing some
    simple maintenance tasks - think of it like changing the oil in your car,
    changing the air filter on your home A/C unit, paying your bills on time,

    Let's go through some maintenance first that should only have to be done
    once (mostly):

    Tip (1):
    Locate all of the software (the installation media - CDs, etc) that you
    have installed on your computer. Collect these CDs into a single pile
    and locate the original installation media (CDs, disks) in a central and
    safe place along with their CD keys and such. Make backups of these
    installation media sets using your favorite copying method (CD Burner and
    application, Disk copier, etc.) You'll be glad to know that if you have
    a CD burner, you may be able to use a free application to make a
    duplicate copy of your CDs. One such application is ISORecorder:

     ISORecorder home page (with general instructions on use):

     Pre-SP2 version:

     Post-SP2 beta version:

    More full function applications (free) for CD/DVD burning would be:

    DeepBurner Free

     CDBurnerXP Pro

    Another Option would be to search the web with or and find deals like these:

     Roxio Easy CD 7.0 Basic-DVD Edition

     Nero Suite 6.3

    Tip (2):
    Empty your Internet Explorer Temporary Internet Files and make sure the
    maximum size for this is small enough not to cause trouble in the future.
    Empty your Temporary Internet Files and shrink the size it stores to a
    size between 128MB and 512MB..

    - Open ONE copy of Internet Explorer.
    - Select TOOLS -> Internet Options.
    - Under the General tab in the "Temporary Internet Files" section, do the
     - Click on "Delete Cookies" (click OK)
     - Click on "Settings" and change the "Amount of disk space to use:" to
       something between 128MB and 512MB. (Betting it is MUCH larger right
     - Click OK.
     - Click on "Delete Files" and select to "Delete all offline contents"
       (the checkbox) and click OK. (If you had a LOT, this could take 2-10
       minutes or more.)
    - Once it is done, click OK, close Internet Explorer, re-open Internet

    Tip (3):
    If things are running a bit slow or you have an older system
    (1.5GHz or less and 256MB RAM or less) then you may want to look into
    tweaking the performance a bit by turning off some of the memory
    using Windows XP "prettifications". The fastest method is:

    Control Panel --> System --> Advanced tab --> Performance section,
    Settings button. Then choose "adjust for best performance" and you
    now have a Windows 2000/98 look which turned off many of the annoying
    "prettifications" in one swift action. You can play with the last
    three checkboxes to get more of an XP look without many of the
    other annoyances. You could also grab and install/mess with one
    (or more) of the Microsoft Powertoys - TweakUI in particular:

    Tip (4):
    Understanding what a good password might be is vital to your
    personal and system security. You may not need to password your home
    computer, as you may have it in a locked area (your home) where no
    one else has access to it. Remember, however, that locked area is
    unlocked when you access the Internet unless you are taking proper
    precautions. Also, you aren't always "in that locked area" when using
    your computer online - meaning you likely have usernames and passwords
    associated with web sites and the likes that you would prefer other
    people do not discover/use. This is why you should understand and
    utilize good passwords.

    Good passwords are those that meet these general rules
    (mileage may vary):

     Passwords should contain at least six characters, and the character
     string should contain at least three of these four character types:
        - uppercase letters
        - lowercase letters
        - numerals
        - nonalphanumeric characters (e.g., *, %, &, !)

     Passwords should not contain your name/logon name. Passwords should
     be unique to you and easy to remember. One method many people are
     using today is to make up a phrase that describes a point in their
     life and then turning that phrase into their password by using only
     certain letters out of each word in that phrase. It's much better
     than using your birthday month/year or your anniversary in a pure
     sense. For example, let's say my phrase is:
     "Moved to new home in 2004"
     I could come up with this password from that:

    The password tip is in the "one time" section, but I highly
    recommend you periodically change your passwords. The suggested time
    varies, but I will throw out a "once in every 3 to 6 months for
    every account you have."

    Tip (5):
    This tip is also "questionable" in the "one time" section. However,
    if properly setup, this one can be pretty well ignored for most people
    after the initial "fiddle-with" time.

     Why you should use a computer firewall..

    You should, in some way, use a firewall. Hardware (like a nice
    Cable Modem/DSL router) or software is up to you. Many use both of
    these. The simplest one to use is the hardware one, as most people
    don't do anything they need to configure their NAT device for and
    those who do certainly will not mind fiddling with the equipment to
    make things work for them. Next in the line of "simplicity" would
    have to be the built-in Windows Firewall of Windows XP. In SP2 it
    is turned on by default. It is not difficult to turn on in any
    case, however:

     Enable/Disable the Internet Connection Firewall (Pre-SP2):

     More information on the Internet Connection Firewall (Pre-SP2):

     Post-SP2 Windows Firewall Information/guidance:

    The trouble with the Windows Firewall is that it only keeps things
    out. Truthfully, for most people who maintain their system in other
    ways, this is MORE than sufficient. However, you may feel otherwise.
    If you want to know when one of your applications is trying to obtain
    access to the outside world so you can stop it, then you will have to
    install a third-party application and configure/maintain it. I have
    compiles a list with links of some of the better known/free firewalls
    you can choose from:

     ZoneAlarm (Free and up)

     Kerio Personal Firewall (KPF) (Free and up)

     Outpost Firewall from Agnitum (Free and up)

     Sygate Personal Firewall (Free and up)

     Symantec's Norton Personal Firewall (~$25 and up)

     BlackICE PC Protection ($39.95 and up)

    Perhaps you can find the right firewall for your situation in that
    list and set it up/configure it. Every firewall MAY require some
    maintenance. Essentially checking for patches or upgrades (this
    goes for hardware and software solutions) is the extent of this
    maintenance - but you may also have to configure your firewall to
    allow some traffic depending on your needs. Also, don't stack these
    things. Running more than one firewall will not make you safer
    - it would likely (in fact) negate some protection you gleamed
    from one or the other firewalls you run.

    Now that you have some of the more basic (one-time) things down..
    Let's go through some of the steps you should take periodically to
    maintain a healthy and stable windows computer. If you have not
    done some of these things in the past, they may seem tedious at
    first - however, they will become routine and some can even be
    automatically scheduled.

    Tip (6):
    The system restore feature is a new one - first appearing in Windows
    ME and then sticking around for Windows XP. It is a VERY useful
    feature - if you keep it maintained and use it to your advantage.
    However, remember that the system restore pretty much tells you in
    the name what it protects - "system" files. Your documents, your
    pictures, your stuff is NOT system files - so you should also look
    into some backup solution.

    I'll mainly work around Windows XP, as that is what the bulk of this
    document is about. I will, however, point out a single place for you
    poor souls still stuck in Windows ME where you can get information on
    maintaining your system right now:

     Windows ME Computer Health:

     Pay close attention to the sections:
      (in order)
       - Clean up your hard disk
       - Check for errors by running ScanDisk
       - Defragment your hard disk
       - Roll back the clock with System Restore

    Now back to the point at hand - maintaining your system restore in
    Windows XP SHOULD be automatic - but I have seen the automatic go wrong
    too many times not to suggest the following.. Whenever you think about
    it (after doing a once-over on your machine once a month or so would
    be optimal) - clear out your System Restore and create a manual
    restoration point. Why? Too many times have I seen the system restore
    files go corrupt or get a virus in them, meaning you could not or
    did not want to restore from them. By clearing it out periodically
    you help prevent any corruption from happening and you make sure you
    have at least one good "snapshot".
    (This, of course, will erase any previous restore point you have.)

     - Turn off System Restore.
     - Reboot.
     - Turn on System Restore.
     - Make a Manual Restoration Point.

    That covers your system files, but doesn't do anything for the files
    that you are REALLY worried about - yours! For that you need to look
    into backups. You can either manually copy your important files, folders,
    documents, spreadsheets, emails, contacts, pictures, drawings and so on
    to an external location (CD/DV - any disk of some sort, etc) or you can
    use the backup tool that comes with Windows XP:

     How To Use Backup to Back Up Files and Folders on Your Computer

    Yes - you still need some sort of external media to store the results
    on, but you could schedule the backup to occur when you are not around,
    then burn the resultant data onto CD or DVD or something when you are
    (while you do other things!)

    Tip (7):
    You should sometimes look through the list of applications that are
    installed on your computer. The list MIGHT surprise you. There are more
    than likely things in there you KNOW you never use - so why have them
    there? There may even be things you KNOW you did not install and
    certainly do not use (maybe don't WANT to use.)

    This web site should help you get started at looking through this list:

     How to Uninstall Programs

    A word of warning - Do NOT uninstall anything you think you MIGHT need
    in the future unless you have completed Tip (1) and have the installation
    media and proper keys for use backed up somewhere safe!

    Tip (8):
    Patches and Updates!

    This one cannot be stressed enough. It is SO simple, yet so neglected
    by many people. It is especially simple for the critical Windows patches!
    Microsoft put in an AUTOMATED feature for you to utilize so that you do
    NOT have to worry yourself about the patching of the Operating System:

     How to configure and use Automatic Updates in Windows XP

    However, not everyone wants to be a slave to "automation", and that is
    fine - as long as you are willing to do things manually. Admittedly, I
    prefer this method on some of my more critical systems.

     Windows Update

    Go there and scan your machine for updates. Always get the critical ones
    as you see them. Write down the KB###### or Q###### you see when
    selecting the updates and if you have trouble over the next few days,
    go into your control panel (Add/Remove Programs), match up the latest
    numbers you downloaded recently (since you started noticing an issue) and
    uninstall them. If there was more than one (usually is), uninstall them
    one by one - with a few hours of use in between, to see if the problem
    returns. Yes - the process is not perfect (updating) and can cause trouble
    like I mentioned - but as you can see, the solution isn't that bad - and is
    MUCH better than the alternatives.

    Windows is not the only product you likely have on your PC. The
    manufacturers of the other products usually have updates as well. New
    versions of almost everything come out all the time - some are free, some
    are pay - some you can only download if you are registered - but it is best
    to check. Just go to their web pages and look under their support and
    download sections. For example, for Microsoft Office update, you should

     Microsoft Office Updates
     (and select "downloads")

    You also have hardware on your machine that requires drivers to interface
    with the operating system. You have a video card that allows you to see on
    your screen, a sound card that allows you to hear your PCs sound output and
    so on. Visit those manufacturer web sites for the latest downloadable
    drivers for your hardware/operating system. Always (IMO) get the
    manufacturers' hardware driver over any Microsoft offers. On the Windows
    Update site I mentioned earlier, I suggest NOT getting their hardware
    drivers - no matter how tempting. First - how do you know what hardware
    you have in your computer? Invoice or if it is up and working now - take

     Belarc Advisor

     EVEREST Home Edition

    Once you know what you have, what next? Go get the latest driver for your
    hardware/OS from the manufacturer's web page. For example, let's say you
    have an NVidia chipset video card or ATI video card, perhaps a Creative
    Labs sound card or C-Media chipset sound card...

     NVidia Video Card Drivers

     ATI Video Card Drivers

     Creative Labs Sound Device

     C-Media Sound Device

    Then install these drivers. Updated drivers are usually more stable and
    may provide extra benefits/features that you really wished you had before.

    As for Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Windows XP, Microsoft has made this
    particular patch available in a number of ways. First, there is the
    Windows Update web page above. Then there is a direct download site
    and finally, you can order the FREE CD from Microsoft.

     Direct Download of Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Windows XP

     Order the Free Windows XP SP2 CD

    Tip (9):
    What about the dreaded word in the computer world, VIRUS?

    Well, there are many products to choose from that will help you prevent
    infections from these horrid little applications. Many are FREE to the
    home user. Which one you choose is a matter of taste, really. I wouldn't
    list one here I had not personally used - and they all work. Many people
    have emotional attachments or performance issues with one or another
    AntiVirus software. Try some out, read reviews and decide for yourself
    which you like more:

     avast! (Free and up)

     AVG Anti-Virus System (Free and up)

     AntiVir (Free and up)

     RAV AntiVirus Online Virus Scan (Free!)

     Symantec (Norton) AntiVirus (~$11 and up)

     Kaspersky Anti-Virus (~$49.95 and up)

     Panda Antivirus Titanium (~$39.95 and up)
     (Free Online Scanner:

     McAfee VirusScan (~$11 and up)

     Trend Micro (~$49.95 and up)
     (Free Online Scanner:

    Untested (by me):
     eTrust EZ Antivirus ($29.95 and up)

    Most of them have automatic update capabilities. You will have to
    look into the features of the one you choose. Whatever one you finally
    settle with - be SURE to keep it updated (I recommend at least daily) and
    perform a full scan periodically (yes, it protects you actively, but a
    full scan once a month at 4AM probably won't bother you.)

    Tip (10):
    The most rampant infestation at the current time concerns SPYWARE/ADWARE.
    I hate this stuff. It has no purpose. I have seen people try to justify
    it over and over - it's worthless. It slows down your PC, it can send
    your private information to people you'll never meet and did I mention,
    it's worthless. You need to eliminate it from your machine.

    If you use P2P software, this COULD make that stop working. Find some
    decent software to do the same thing - what you are currently using is

    Anyway - there is no one software that cleans and immunizes you against
    everything. Antivirus software - you only needed one. Firewall, you
    only needed one. AntiSpyware - you may need several. I have a list and
    I recommend you use at least the first 5. I know that sounds like a lot,
    and you may be saying "But you said earlier that I should clean my system,
    now you are telling me to install more software - 5 pieces in fact!" Okay,
    I get your point, but please consider that this stuff has prevented the
    install of the latest service pack for some people, it has the potential
    to slow and crater your PC, it can send your private information around
    the world to people you do not know - it is all around BAD.

    First - make sure you have NOT installed "Rogue AntiSpyware". There are
    people out there who created AntiSpyware products that actually install
    spyware of their own! You need to avoid these:

     Rogue/Suspect Anti-Spyware Products & Web Sites

    Also, you can always visit this site..
    For more updated information.

    Then, my suggestion again is that you at least install the first five of
    these: (Install, Run, Update, Scan with..)

     Lavasoft AdAware (Free and up)
     (How-to: )

     Spybot Search and Destroy (Free!)
     (How-to: )

     Bazooka Adware and Spyware Scanner (Free!)
     (How-to: )

     SpywareBlaster (Free!)
     (How-to: )

     IE-SPYAD (Free!)
     (How-to: )

     CWShredder (Free!)

     Hijack This! (Free)
     ( Tutorial: )

     ToolbarCop (Free!)

     Browser Security Tests

     Popup Tester

     The Cleaner (49.95 and up)

    If used properly, you should have a malware free system now. The last
    two of the first five I suggest you install are immunization applications.
    None of these programs (in these editions) run in the background unless you
    TELL them to. The space they take up and how easy they are to use greatly
    makes up for any inconvenience you may be feeling.

    Unfortunately, although that will lessen your popups on the Internet/while
    you are online, it won't eliminate them. I have looked at a lot of options,
    seen a lot of them used in production with people who seem to attract popups
    like a plague, and I only have a few other suggestions that should help.
    one ends up serving double duty (search engine and popup stopper in one):

     The Google Toolbar (Free!)

    Yeah - it adds a bar to your Internet Explorer - but it's a useful one. You
    can search from there anytime with one of the best search engines on the
    planet (IMO.) And the fact it stops most popups - wow - BONUS! If you
    don't like that suggestion, then I am just going to say you go to and search for other options.

    Please notice that Windows XP SP2 does help stop popups as well.

    Another option is to use an alternative Web browser. I suggest
    "Mozilla Firefox", as it has some great features and is very easy to use:

     Mozilla Firefox

    One more suggestion is to disable your Windows Messenger service. This
    service is not used frequently (if at all) by the normal home user and
    in cooperation with a good firewall, is generally unnecessary. Microsoft
    has instructions on how to do this for Windows XP here:

    So your machine is pretty clean and up to date now. If you use the sections
    above as a guide, it should stay that way as well! There are still a few
    little things you can do to keep your machine running in top shape.

    Tip (11):
    You should periodically check your hard drive(s) for errors and defragment
    them. Only defragment after you have cleaned up your machine of
    outside parasites and never defragment as a solution to a quirkiness in
    your system. It may help speed up your system, but it should be clean
    before you do this.

     How to use Disk Cleanup

     How to scan your disks for errors

     How to Defragment your hard drives

    I would personally perform the above steps at least once every three months.
    For most people this should be sufficient, but if the difference you notice
    afterwards is greater than you think it should be, lessen the time in
    its schedule.. If the difference you notice is negligible, you can increase
     the time.

    Tip (12):
    This one can get annoying, just like the rest. You get 50 emails in one
    sitting and 2 of them you wanted. NICE! (Not.) What can you do? Well,
    although there are services out there to help you, some email
    servers/services that actually do lower your spam with features built into
    their servers - I still like the methods that let you be the end-decision
    maker on what is spam and what is not. I have two products to suggest to
    you, look at them and see if either of them suite your needs. Again, if
    they don't, Google is free and available for your perusal.

     SpamBayes (Free!)

     Spamihilator (Free!)

    As I said, those are not your only options, but are reliable ones I have
    seen function for hundreds+ people.

    Tip (13):
    ADVANCED TIP! Only do this once you are comfortable under the hood of your

    There are lots of services on your PC that are probably turned on by default
    you don't use. Why have them on? Check out these web pages to see what all
    of the services you might find on your computer are and set them according
    your personal needs. Be CAREFUL what you set to manual, and take heed and
    write down as you change things! Also, don't expect a large performance
    increase or anything - especially on today's 2+ GHz machines, however - I
    at each service you set to manual as one less service you have to worry
    someone exploiting. A year ago, I would have thought the Windows Messenger
    service to be pretty safe, now I recommend (with addition of a firewall)
    that most home users disable it! Yeah - this is another one you have to
    work for, but your computer may speed up and/or be more secure because you
    took the time. And if you document what you do as you do it, next time, it
    goes MUCH faster! (or if you have to go back and re-enable things..)

     Task List Programs

     Black Viper's Service List and Opinions (XP)

     Processes in Windows NT/2000/XP

    There are also applications that AREN'T services that startup when you start
    up the computer/logon. One of the better description on how to handle these
    I have found here:


    If you follow the advice laid out above (and do some of your own research as
    well, so you understand what you are doing) - your computer will stay fairly
    stable and secure and you will have a more trouble-free system.

    <- Shenan ->
    The information is provided "as is", it is suggested you research for
    yourself before you take any advice - you are the one ultimately
    responsible for your actions/problems/solutions.   Know what you are
    getting into before you jump in with both feet. 

  • Next message: Lanwench [MVP - Exchange]: "Re: There's no reason to forget (or remember) most passwords!"

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