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Securing Your PC
Introduction
There are a few steps that I would recommend everybody take to secure their computer from unwanted intrusions, and certainly a few guidelines that need to be followed to reduce your chance of being a victim of cybercrime.

Use legitimate software
While the cost of some software seems monstrous, and there is always "free" software available from torrent sites, warez sites, limewire and other peer-to-peer networks, the only way you are going to 100% guarantee you have a risk free, up-gradeable and up-dateable program running on your computer is to purchase it.
Purchasing a product also entitles you to support and future discounts on upgrades amongst other things.

I am stunned at how often I get to a job and find people are using pirated security software downloaded from the internet. This is the security of their computer and their personal information and they risk that with a program that has been compromised to take the anti-piracy features out of it?

Update, Update and then Update some more
Simple issue if you are using purchased software. Microsoft installed a fantastic auto-update feature in their operating system from Windows 2000 on.
Make sure you use it. This is enabled by default when you install Windows, often people disable it because it annoys them. To turn it back on, click Start select Settings, then Control Panel and double click Automatic Updates. Set it to Automatic and set a time daily for it to update. Make it a time you would normally be on the computer, it doesn't matter if you are not on the computer everyday.

Hopefully you are using some sort of internet security program. If you do, make sure it is also set to update everyday at a time you are normally online. Make sure you enable a full system scan at least once a week. This is critical because you may be unfortunate enough to suffer an infection before an update is released to deal with it. By doing a full system scan regularly, you allow the updated program to double check it has stopped all infections from running on your computer.

If not, you really need to see me about going through your computer and removing all the garbage spyware and trojans that are on your computer if you connect to the internet. Not "might have", if you connect to the internet with no protection, then you will have these things on your computer.

Important Warning on Updates
If you are surfing around and click on a link, and your are presented with a message that a Windows program, like Media Player for example, needs to be updated, DO NOT click any links to update. Instead, go to Microsoft and check for and then download any necessary updates from them. The latest infections I have seen ask people to perform bogus upgrades for Media Player. They instead install some really nasty spyware and trojans.

Keeping your money safe
Most of us do our banking, pay bills and purchase goods online. So how safe are these activities and do you take all necessary precautions when online?

Banking
  • ALWAYS make sure there is a small "locked" padlock symbol in the bottom right corner of your browser window before entering or submitting personal information. No "locked" padlock means the page is not secure.
  • Your bank will NEVER ask you to perform any action regarding your account via email.
  • NEVER respond to an email that asks you to click a link and update your information.
  • Make all dealings with your bank through their online portal. After you have logged into your bank, use their messaging system to ensure your messages are secure.
  • ALWAYS log off before you leave the computer. Just in case, as you never know who might come snooping, and I would say this applies as much at home as it does at work.
  • NEVER use your internet banking if you suspect you might have been infected by malware.


  • Shopping
  • Remember the internet is a global phenomena, and unless it specifically states on the site, or you have the option to change the site pricing to Australian Dollars, assume the prices are in US dollars.
  • As with banking ALWAYS make sure there is a small "locked" padlock symbol in the bottom right corner of your browser window before entering or submitting personal information. No "locked" padlock means the page is not secure.
  • If you shop regularly through eBay, you may notice PayPal as a payment option. PayPal is registered in Australia to operate as a financial institution. The beauty of PayPal is after you register and verify your credit card details with them you can shop at hundreds of thousands of merchants worldwide, and never need to enter your card information again. See the Paypal section further down for tips on staying safe with PayPal.
  • As with banking, NEVER use your credit card account if you suspect you might have been infected by malware.


  • Paypal
  • As mentioned above, PayPal is a registered financial institution in Australia, offering you some consumer protection in dealings with them
  • PayPal requires you register with them by accepting a small charge on your credit card then reporting that transactions details back to them to verify you are the card owner. If you send or receive large sums of money using PayPal you will be asked to formally identify yourself.
  • The benefits of this are enormous. You are now able to shop with hundreds of thousands of merchants worldwide, and never again need to disclose your credit card details. You simply shop, checkout your cart and then you are sent to the secure PayPal website, where you are asked to enter your username and password to complete the transaction.
  • ALWAYS make sure you are entering your details on the PayPal website, the address starts with https://www.paypal.com. Make sure there is a small "locked" padlock symbol in the bottom right corner of your browser window before entering or submitting personal information. No "locked" padlock means the page is not secure.
  • PayPal will NEVER ask you to perform any action regarding your account via email.
  • NEVER respond to an email that asks you to click a link and update your information. Some of the clever emails people send make me check twice it is not legitimate. If you are asked to take some action with your account, open a new browser window and type in the PayPal site address, http://www.paypal.com yourself.
  • As with banking, NEVER use your PayPal account if you suspect you might have been infected by malware.


  • To demonstrate how easy it is to be tricked by people sending you emails asking you to enter banking or PayPal information, run your mouse over this link and look in the bar at the bottom left of the browser window : http://www.yahoo.com. Your browser should be telling you that this link goes to Yahoo.
    Now click it and see where it takes you, I promise it is a nice clean site and I also promise it won't be Yahoo as the status bar tells you. A simple demonstration that links can be manipulated to show something other than what they really are.


    Surfing Websites
    This is going to be a touchy subject for some. I am speaking here from experience, and that means I need to generalise. If you have teenage kids, then it is very likely that they have been downloading pirated music, software or games. Much to the horror of most parents, I usually uncover signs of visits to adult sites as well.
    If you wish to live in denial, that is fine, but be aware that some of the worst malware infections I have had to deal with typically come from these sites.

    There are softwares available that claim to be able to control website access. I have my doubts as to how effective they are, and how much effort would be required to make them effective. If you wish to restrict your kids surfing to research for school projects and so on, in Windows XP you can easily make them their own account, and restrict the account to sites that you have approved.

    If you yourself like to surf for more mature age content, consider making yourself an account that has no permissions to download or install application files, and this will protect you greatly from the stealth downloads that are used to install dialers, trojans and so on.