Dwight Watt Internet Article #103

#103 ≠ Viruses and pop-up ads (Watt Thoughts)

#103 ≠ Viruses and pop-up ads

How do I stop viruses from getting on my machine and how do I clean them? How do I stop all the pop-up ads that are appearing on my machine whenever it is connected to the Internet? How do I get rid of spyware? This month I will help you combat these problems to keep your computer as a tool and not as a block around your neck.

Viruses come in lots of varieties known as viruses, worms and Trojan horses, but for our purpose we will classify them as just viruses. Basically a virus is a program which can spread from machine to machine either by itself or with your assistance. Viruses as we view them are any harmful programs that fit the previous that will do some type of harm to your computer. They may be as innocent as just messages or as evil as wiping out parts of your hard drive.

Pop-up ads use a service that has been on computers for years, but now is being abused in the Internet age. They are using the Messenger Service. This was put there so that when network administrators could send messages to all users on-line. For instance if I wanted my network users off at 3 I could us this service to tell them. However the messages are not just limited to just your little network but go to everyone networked to you which means in the Internet age, to essentially everyone. E-mail and IM have basically obsoleted the real need for this.

Spyware is programs that get on your machine and collect information about you from your machine and send it somewhere without your knowledge. If you choose to download programs that you get e-mail ads or pop-up ads on you will run good risk of getting this or viruses. Don't choose no on those boxes, use the corner X as they are sometimes unscrupulous and download anyway.

To protect yourself against viruses get a good anti-virus program. I personally use Norton. McAfee has a good product out there also. You can get a decent free anti-virus program form www.grisoft.com for personal use. Once you install the program then make sure your virus signatures stay up to date. Norton has a Live Update program that does this well. Usually the price you pay to buy (actually license) the program includes a year of updates. When the year runs out either renew the virus subscription or buy a new copy and install. I personally prefer to get a new copy each year. Having definitions a couples of years or months out of date will effectively make your effort mute. Norton caught ILOVEYOU virus several years ago on my machine before it knew about that virus, but warned me it looked like a virus. If you suspect you have a virus and can get on Interent, Norton has a free virus scan at the home/personal side of their website at www.norton.com. However it only scans, the above remove also and warn if one arrives. If you are infected you may have to do a scan and them look up virus and find a download to clean it.

To stop the pop-up ads you need only stop the Messenger Service. This will have no effect on you using Instant Messengers, they work different. In Windows 2000 and XP (any version) go to Control Panel, choose Administrative Tools, choose Services. Then go down the list to find Messenger. Double click Messenger. Change the Startup Type to Disabled which prevents it starting at next boot of machine. Click eh Stop button and Service will be stopped. Then click OK and close your boxes. If you are using Windows 98 or ME I do not know a simple way to disable this. This may be a reason for you to upgrade to Windows XP. You should see an immediate decline in pop-ups. This will not stop 100% of them as you may have programs (usually spyware) generating them also. Disabling this service may prevent you getting messages form your printer if you use those messages.

To get rid of spyware I would recommend you use one of two programs. Adaware made by Lavasoft and SpyBot both do excellent jobs in detecting and removing spyware. They can be downloaded for free from www.zdnet.com or www.tucows.com or other shareware/freeware locations. Run the program and clean as directed. I would suggest you run this once a month or so to keep your machine clean.

If you are using a broadband connection to the Internet such as DSL or cable, I would suggest you get a firewall and install on your machine also. Windows XP comes with one, just make sure it is active. Nortonís firewall and ZoneAlarm are good also.


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