Paul's guide to defeating computer viruses, ad/spy/mal-ware, and internet fraud:

Note: This is not a discussion of spam or anti-spam solutions. Unfortunately, unless you are very techie, your only defense from this annoyance is with whatever solution your ISP or email program provides.

Always be suspicious:

  • First, understand that the internet is worse than the Wild West. Itís lawless. Itís full of liars, con-men, thieves, vandals, sociopaths, predators, and worse.

  • When web browsing, don't run any programs or installers. When in doubt, click No, Cancel, or Don't Run. If it is unclear how to cancel it, right-click on the titlebar and select Close.
  • If you see windows pop up that say things like "Your computer may be at risk! Click here to clean/scan/protect/etc your computer", this is a trojun virus program trying to fool you into running it.

  • Don't install software from untrusted sources - and a referal from a friend that "This little app is really cool/handy/whatever!" is not trustworthy. Most free applets, tray icon tools, web browser toolbars or extenders, etc. tend to come with hidden spyware and adware. Before installing anything do a quick search with the name of the application and the word spyware and review the results.

  • Always be suspicious of e-mail attachments. If you have any doubts, do not open them. Delete them, or call the sender on the phone and verify that they actually sent it.
  • Never trust the source of an e-mail. Viruses usually come from your most trusted friend, who's computer is infected and e-mailing you.

  • Never believe any e-mail that claims to be from your bank, PayPal, E-bay, Facebook, etc., especially if they look really official and require you to visit the site to update your account information. These e-mails are always frauds. Never ever give out financial or private information to any web site that solicited you this way in an e-mail.

  • Don't propagate e-mail chain letters or hoaxes by forwarding "internet hugs", virus warnings, or shocking news stories that you haven't validated to be true. Be very skeptical. Don't believe any news story that is e-mailed to you. Most of them are hoaxes.

    Protect your computer with software:

  • I currently recommend the following three actions:
  • First, uninstall Norton, McAfee, AVG, or any other non-free anti-virus software.
  • Install Microsoft's free anti-virus software, Security Essentials.
  • Install the free version of Malwarebytes and manually update and scan regularly.

  • Other free anti-virus software options: AVG, Avira, avast, Clamwin
  • Other free anti-malware tools:SpyBot S&D, Ad-Aware
  • Other threat-specific tools: Stinger, CWShredder, and MSRT.
  • If you're techie, some very useful tools include Process Explorer, HijackThis, and Startup Contol Panel.
  • (Vista and Win7 use msconfig.exe or autoruns instead of StartupCPL.)
  • For particularly tenacious infections or unusable systems, try a bootable rescue CD.
  • Uber-geek tools: ComboFix, RKill, and the Computer Hope log tool

  • Make sure Windows Automatic Updates are turned on (not Microsoft Update) and be sure to let it update.
  • Uninstall any third-party firewalls and enable the Windows Firewall
  • Enable the Pop-up Blocker on your web browser.
  • If Firefox is your browser, install AdBlock Plus. It's the best ad-blocker out there. And be sure to subscribe.
  • Disable any IE add-ons with an unknown name or publisher. (Internet Options, Programs, Manage Add-ons)
  • Turn on any e-mail spam-blocking features that your ISP provides or that your email program provides.