Re: SNAFU

From: Shenan Stanley (news_helper_at_hushmail.com)
Date: 05/15/04

  • Next message: Tim: "Re: Data security question in MCSE 70-270 exam"
    Date: Sat, 15 May 2004 04:45:24 -0500
    
    

    mitquinn wrote:
    > I have run adware and spyware programs, an antivirus, and
    > still have following problems on a Sony VAIO PC (Windows
    > 2000):
    > Windows Media Player cannot open.
    > Cannot copy and paste in any application.
    > IE browswer shuts down if I try to connect with Symantec,
    > Microsoft support, and some spyware sites.
    > Cannot copy files onto a CD to save data.
    > Cannot play audio CD's.
    > Norton Anti-virus cannot open, nor can I access their Live
    > Update.

    Suggestions on what you can do to secure/clean your PC. I'm going to try
    and be general, I will assume a "Windows" operating system is what is
    being secured here.

    UPDATES and PATCHES
    -------------------

    This one is the most obvious. There is no perfect product and any company
    worth their salt will try to meet/exceed the needs of their customers and
    fix any problems they find along the way. I am not going to say Microsoft
    is the best company in the world about this but they do have an option
    available for you to use to keep your machine updated and patched from
    the problems and vulnerabilities (as well as product improvements in some
    cases) - and it's free to you.

     Windows Update
     http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/

    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), install them back 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. (SASSER/BLASTER were SO preventable with just this step!)

    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.

    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.

    Have I mentioned that Microsoft has some stuff to help secure your computer
    available to the end-user for free? This seems as good of a time as any.
    They have a CD you can order (it's free) that contain all of the Windows
    patches through October 2003 and some trial products as well that they
    released in February 2004. Yeah - it's a little behind now, but it's better
    than nothing (and used in coordination with the information in this post,
    well worth the purchase price..)

     Order the Windows Security Update CD
     http://www.microsoft.com/security/protect/cd/order.asp

    They also have a bunch of suggestions, some similar to these, on how to
    better protect your Windows system:

     Protect your PC
     http://www.microsoft.com/security/protect/

    FIREWALL
    --------

    Let's say you are up-to-date on the OS (operating system) and you have
    Windows XP.. You should at least turn on the built in firewall. That will
    do a lot to "hide" you from the random bad things flying around the
    Internet. Things like Sasser/Blaster enjoy just sitting out there in
    Cyberspace looking for an unprotected Windows Operating System and jumping
    on it, doing great damage in the process and then using that Unprotected OS
    to continue its dirty work of infecting others. If you have the Windows XP
    ICF turned on - default configuration - then they cannot see you! Think of
    it as Internet Stealth Mode at this point. It has other advantages, like
    actually locking the doors you didn't even (likely) know you had. Doing
    this is simple, the instructions you need to use your built in Windows XP
    firewall can be found here:

     http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=320855

    If you read through that and look through the pages that are linked from it
    at the bottom of that page - I think you should have a firm grasp on the
    basics of the Windows XP Firewall as it is today. One thing to note RIGHT
    NOW - if you have AOL, you cannot use this nice firewall that came with
    your system. Thank AOL, not Microsoft. You HAVE to configure another
    one.. So we continue with our session on Firewalls...

    But let's say you DON'T have Windows XP - you have some other OS like
    Windows 95, 98, 98SE, ME, NT, 2000. Well, you don't have the nifty built in
    firewall. My suggestion - upgrade. My next suggestion - look through your
    options. There are lots of free and pay firewalls out there for home users.
    Yes - you will have to decide on your own which to get. Yes, you will have
    to learn (oh no!) to use these firewalls and configure them so they don't
    interfere with what you want to do while continuing to provide the security
    you desire. It's just like anything else you want to protect - you have to
    do something to protect it. Here are some suggested applications. A lot of
    people tout "ZoneAlarm" as being the best alternative to just using the
    Windows XP ICF, but truthfully - any of these alternatives are much better
    than the Windows XP ICF at what they do - because that is ALL they do.

     ZoneAlarm (Free and up)
    http://www.zonelabs.com/store/content/company/products/znalm/freeDownload.jsp

     Kerio Personal Firewall (KPF) (Free and up)
     http://www.kerio.com/kpf_download.html

     Outpost Firewall from Agnitum (Free and up)
     http://www.agnitum.com/download/

     Sygate Personal Firewall (Free and up)
     http://smb.sygate.com/buy/download_buy.htm

     Symantec's Norton Personal Firewall (~$25 and up)
     http://www.symantec.com/sabu/nis/npf/

     BlackICE PC Protection ($39.95 and up)
     http://blackice.iss.net/

     Tiny Personal Firewall (~$49.00 and up)
     http://www.tinysoftware.com/

    That list is not complete, but they are good firewall options, every one of
    them. Visit the web pages, read up, ask around if you like - make a
    decision and go with some firewall, any firewall. Also, maintain it.
    Sometimes new holes are discovered in even the best of these products and
    patches are released from the company to remedy this problem. However, if
    you don't get the patches (check the manufacturer web page on occasion),
    then you may never know you have the problem and/or are being used through
    this weakness. 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 ran together.

    ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE
    ------------------

    That's not all. That's one facet of a secure PC, but firewalls don't do
    everything. I saw one idiot posting on a newsgroup that "they had
    never had a virus and they never run any anti-virus software. Yep - I used
    to believe that way too - viruses were something everyone else seemed to
    get, were they just stupid? And for the average joe-user who is careful,
    uses their one-three family computers carefully, never opening unknown
    attachments, always visiting the same family safe web sites, never
    installing anything that did not come with their computer - maybe, just
    maybe they will never witness a virus. I, however, am a Network Systems
    Administrator. I see that AntiVirus software is an absolute necessity. You
    can be as careful as you want - will the next person be as careful? Will
    someone send you unknowingly the email that erases all the pictures of your
    child/childhood? Possibly - why take the chance? ALWAYS RUN ANTIVIRUS
    SOFTWARE and KEEP IT UP TO DATE! Antivirus software comes in so many
    flavors, it's like walking into a Jelly Belly store - which one tastes like
    what?! Well, here are a few choices for you. Some of these are free (isn't
    that nice?) and some are not. Is one better than the other - MAYBE. I
    personally love Symantec AV.

     Symantec (Norton) AntiVirus (~$11 and up)
     http://www.symantec.com/

     Kaspersky Anti-Virus (~$49.95 and up)
     http://www.kaspersky.com/products.html

     Panda Antivirus Titanium (~$39.95 and up)
     http://www.pandasoftware.com/
     (Free Online Scanner: http://www.pandasoftware.com/activescan/)

     AVG 6.0 Anti-Virus System (Free and up)
     http://www.grisoft.com/

     McAfee VirusScan (~$11 and up)
     http://www.mcafee.com/

     AntiVir (Free and up)
     http://www.free-av.com/

     avast! 4 (Free and up)
     http://www.avast.com/

     Trend Micro (~$49.95 and up)
     http://www.trendmicro.com/
     (Free Online Scanner:
      http://housecall.trendmicro.com/housecall/start_corp.asp)

    Did I mention you have to not only install this software, but also keep it
    updated? You do. Some of them (most) have automatic services to help you
    do this - I mean, it's not your job to keep up with the half-dozen or more
    new threats that come out daily, is it? Be sure to keep whichever one you
    choose up to date!

    SPYWARE/ADWARE/POPUPS
    ---------------------

    So you must be thinking that the above two things got your back now - you
    are covered, safe and secure in your little fox hole. Wrong! There are
    more bad guys out there. There are annoyances out there you can get without
    trying. Your normal web surfing, maybe a wrong click on a web page, maybe
    just a momentary lack of judgment by installing some software packages
    without doing the research.. And all of a sudden your screen starts filling
    up with advertisements or your Internet seems much slower or your home page
    won't stay what you set it and goes someplace unfamiliar to you. This is
    spyware. There are a whole SLEW of software packages out there to get rid
    of this crud and help prevent reinfection. Some of the products already
    mentioned might even have branched out into this arena. However, there are
    a few applications that seem to be the best at what they do, which is
    eradicating and immunizing your system from this crap. Strangely, the best
    products I have found in this category ARE generally free. That is a trend
    I like. I make donations to some of them, they deserve it!

     Spybot Search and Destroy (Free!)
     http://www.safer-networking.net/

     Lavasoft AdAware (Free and up)
     http://www.lavasoft.de

     CWSShredder (Free!)
     http://www.spywareinfo.com/~merijn/downloads.html

     Hijack This! (Free)
     http://mjc1.com/mirror/hjt/

     SpywareBlaster (Free!)
     http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/

     ToolbarCop (Free!)
     http://www.mvps.org/sramesh2k/toolbarcop.htm

     Bazooka Adware and Spyware Scanner (Free!)
     http://kephyr.sureshot.xaviermedia.net/spywarescanner/

     Browser Security Tests
     http://www.jasons-toolbox.com/BrowserSecurity/

     The Cleaner (49.95 and up)
     http://www.moosoft.com/

    That will clean up your machine of the spyware, given that you download and
    install several of them, update them regularly and scan with them when you
    update. Some (like SpywareBlaster and SpyBot Search and Destroy) have
    immunization features that will help you prevent your PC from being
    infected. Use these features!

    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 one suggestion that end up serving double
    duty (search engine and popup stopper in one):

     The Google Toolbar (Free!)
     http://toolbar.google.com/

    Yeah - it adds a bar to your Internet Explorer - but its 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
    www.google.com and search for other options.

    One more suggestion, although I will suggest this in a way later, 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:
    http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/pro/using/howto/communicate/stopspam.asp

    SPAM EMAIL/JUNK MAIL
    --------------------

    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 isn't. If these things worked perfectly, we
    wouldn't need people and then there would be no spam anyway - vicious
    circle, eh? Anyway - 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!)
     http://spambayes.sourceforge.net/

     Spamihilator (Free!)
     http://www.spamihilator.com/

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

    DISABLE (Set to Manual) UNUSED SERVICE/STARTUP APPS
    ---------------------------------------------------

    I might get arguments on putting this one here, but it's my spill. 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 to 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 todays 2+ GHz machines, however - I look at each
    service you set to manual as one less service you have to worry about
    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
     http://www.answersthatwork.com/Tasklist_pages/tasklist.htm

     Black Viper's Service List and Opinions (XP)
     http://www.blackviper.com/WinXP/servicecfg.htm

     Processes in Windows NT/2000/XP
     http://www.reger24.de/prozesse/

    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:

     Startups
     http://www.pacs-portal.co.uk/startup_content.php

    That's it. A small booklet on how to keep your computer secure, clean of
    scum and more user friendly. I am SURE I missed something, almost as I am
    sure you won't read all of it (anyone for that matter.) However, I also
    know that someone who followed all of the advice above would also have less
    problems with their PC, less problems with viruses, less problems with spam,
    less problems with spyware and better performance than someone who didn't.

    Hope it helps.

    -- 
    <- Shenan ->
    -- 
    The information is provided "as is", with no guarantees of
    completeness, accuracy or timeliness, and without warranties of any
    kind, express or implied.  In other words, read up before you take any
    advice - you are the one ultimately responsible for your actions.
    

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