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Protect yourself from Spyware.


This article is broken down into the following sections:-




Enable a Firewall

Update Windows

Install Microsoft Windows Defender (anti-spyware software)

Use Antivirus software

Use a different Web Browser

Disable System Restore (optional)

Install LavaSoft Ad-Aware

Install HijackThis

Get Spybot Search And Destroy

Get or Enable the Browser popup blocker

Install an Anti-Phishing toolbar.







Windows gets a lot of bad press because alot of it's users are generally clueless about protecting themselves from virus's and trojans (until it's too late). They get infected easily either by clicking on attachments in email or just browsing some lame site.


If you have come here to try and fix your broken Windows then I wish you all the best, do try and consider a web browser other than Internet Explorer, such as Firefox or Mozilla, and do try to follow all of the steps below to make your eXPerience with Windows, a better one. If Windows is running incredibly slow, acting weird or you notice that lots of popup windows are appearing on your desktop advertising stuff, or if Internet Explorer seems to have lots of unwelcome new websites loading, or if you are plagued with millions of Search 'Assistants', then try ALL of the following in the order listed.



Enable the built-in Firewall

A firewall is a computers way of protecting your computer from unwanted attacks via your internet connection. An unpatched Windows XP computer, with no firewall enabled will quickly succumb to worms such as Blaster. Protect yourself now and enable XP's built in FIREWALL if you don't have a hardware or software one running. It's included with Windows XP, but prior to Windows XP SP2, it was NOT enabled by default when you installed Windows. You could of course get one free like ZoneAlarm or even better a dedicated one such as Smoothwall.





Go to http://www.windowsupdate.com and update Windows

Amazingly, there are people out there who are still running Windows XP, as in, not even Windows XP SP1 (service pack 1) let alone Windows XP SP2 (the current latest service pack). Windows update allows your computer to be 'patched' with the latest security updates from Microsoft, if you are not updated, then every second you spend on the internet is a second nearer being 'owned' by the bad guys. Keep updating Windows until it reports 'no updates available'. Reboot when prompted.



Download, install and use Windows Defender

Believe it or not, this piece of software from Microsoft actually does a great job and has got good reviews all over the internet. Check it out right here on Microsoft's download page. Install it, check for updates, and do a full scan to see if you are infected by any Spyware.



Use AntiVirus software, and UPDATE it

There are no excuses nowadays for not having antivirus software installed. AVG is a really good alternative to Norton/Mcaffe, and guess what, its FREE as in beer. Download it yourself from http://free.grisoft.com/doc/5390/lng/us/tpl/v5#avg-free. This antivirus product works very well in Windows XP and is compatible with Service Pack 2. Needless to say, there is no point in having antivirus software if you don't update it regularly, so get updating and scan your hard discs often. In addition to the FREE AVG they offer a FREE antispyware application too.



Use a different Web Browser

Using a web browser other than Microsoft Internet Explorer will probably halt most of the bad stuff you are getting (at least until IE7 proves itself in Vista). Consider excellent alternatives such as Opera or Firefox. Once you start using browsers such as those, you'll notice life in Windows can be much less of a pain than you were used to.



Disable System Restore

This is an optional step. Disable SYSTEM RESTORE if it is running. To do this, right click on My Computer, choose Properties, and click on the 'System Restore' tab. Why disable this ? well because those nasties can hide themselves in your 'restore points' and the same is true for virus's. so, I'd recommend disabling it, it's not necessary anyway and saves on hard disc space.



Download Lavasoft Ad-Aware

Ok, next step is to download and run a few programs to remove the nasties. Download and install Lavasoft Ad-Aware® SE Personal Edition. Once installed, the first thing you need to do is to download the latest updates reference file. once done, Ad-Aware will want to perform a full scan, let it and make sure to quarantine any stuff that it finds. It is also a good idea to look through the list of 'problems' it finds for any real references to files, for example c:\windows\bundles\bundles.exe. If you see something like that, then manually delete the file. Once done, reboot, then run Ad-Aware again, hopefully it shouldnt report anything but if it does, keep going through this list or post your problem on the forums right here.



Download HijackThis

Now download the following program to check Internet Explorer (and the registry RUN commands) for any 'hijack' attempts (very common). Download HijackThis from here. Run the file and see what it reports, please note that not everything it reports is a problem, if in doubt, ask someone who knows or post the results on the forums.



Download Spybot Search And Destroy

Ok we are still not done, now we want to be absolutely sure that all the crap is gone, so lets install and run Spybot Search and Destroy. As above, it will scan your system for any bad stuff and report the results to you, if in doubt, ask an expert !



Download a popup-blocker

Install a popup blocker in Internet Explorer, so in case you end up using Internet Explorer (instead of FireFox or another browser) then at least you'll have some protection from the nasties out there. Thats Easy, either update to Windows XP service pack 2 (a popup blocker is included in Internet Explorer updates from SP2) or, download the popup blocker (toolbar) from MSN or (preferred) get Google's Popup blocker toolbar. These popup blockers are customisable and allow you to block those annoying advertisements and a whole lot more in Internet Explorer. Now that you have your popup-blocker installed, make sure to set it's internal settings to HIGH. In other words, block ALL popups. You can easily 'unblock' certain sites (such as banks) later on a site by site basis.



Install an Anti-phishing toolbar

Phishing spam is becoming very very popular with criminals, and is one of many methods they use to get your private details. You will most likely receive emails in your inbox claiming to be from your Bank, or from PayPal, or Ebay, asking you to 'update your records'. These are 'phishing' emails, and unless you know what to look for (view the source of the email in html to see if the web site URLS really ARE pointing to where they say they are) you might be one of those unlucky enough to get sucked in. This toolbar takes the hard work away from you and tells you when you are being stung before it happens.




By now, if you have followed the steps above, then your Windows box is hopefully a bit more secure than it was when you arrived here. Hopefully your malware, popups, popunders, worms, viruses and what not are now history, and not only that, but hopefully you have learned an important lesson in modern day computing.


Failure to update and/or protect your computer operating system, will leave you vulnerable to attack.




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