Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Some reminders for everybody

Points of interest:

  • Don’t use internet explorer
  • Back up your files
  • Get/update/change your anti-virus.

Microsoft has announced its own little holiday present to the world, (or at least the world of hackers and credit-card fraud). In security advisory 961051 (do they get a prize when they hit 1 million?), Microsoft stated: “Vulnerability in Internet Explorer Could Allow Remote Code Execution” This should be read as: third-parties can use internet explorer to get your login/credit card information from websites, even trusted websites. So use a different browser (Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Safari, etc…)

Back-up your files. Especially if you’re working on anything important, I would keep your most updated copy in at least two locations -- two physical locations, not “My Documents” and the Desktop. A good choice in addition to your hard drive would be a flash drive, or other removable storage, or your web-based email.

If you have an Apple computer and think you’re virus-proof, you might want to read bellow. I have things to say about Macs and viruses but it will have to wait until after finals. If you have a PC and Windows, you probably live in perpetual fear, running anti-virus nightly. If you don’t, you should. (This statement is only true if you believe me, in which case you are the kind of computer user who does actually need anti-virus.) There are a plethora of good, free anti-virus programs available online. There are also a host of viruses passing as anti-viruses because they appreciate irony. If you don’t know what you’re doing, stick to this list:

  • AVG-Free – this was, hands down, the best free anti-virus this time last year. Unfortunately while other programs moved forward towards faster less intrusive virus protection, AVG 8.0 went decidedly backwards. It still works however, for the most part. Download at on the right.
  • Avira, the company that makes the scanner software behind Lava-softs Ad-Aware makes an anti-virus called Free-AV found at
  • Avast makes an effective, if slightly bloated free anti-virus found at
  • Finally, if you used AVG free for a while and think that you have moved into the world of responsible computing -- that is, if you know what a high risk activity looks like and don’t need a program that runs automatically -- Clam-Win is the program for you. It doesn’t run in the background but provides a best-in-class on access scan under the GNU free license.
  • If your looking for a paid solution, see my blog for a retraction of all the nasty things I have said about Norton. Norton 2009 is a viable anti-virus (but not any previous version).

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