27 April 2011

Simple online security for non-techies - If your PC can't find the bad guy site, it can't download bad guy software

On the internet the Domain Name System (DNS) translates web site names like www.facebook.com to a string of numbers that is the website's location on the Internet. For example, without DNS translating computer names to IP addresses you would have to type in your web browser to get to Facebook instead of www.facebook.com.

Normally you get DNS name translation from your Internet service provider, but DNS is a standardized service and you can use anyone's DNS services to provide DNS name translations.

There are several companies on the web that offer free DNS services for users which keep track of bad guy sites and intentionally do not translate bad guy web site DNS names to IP addresses. If you use their services you have what is essentially a firewall preventing you from accessing the bad guy sites. Both Google and a company called OpenDNS offer these services.

In order to keep this article short I'll just say that I would recommand you try out OpenDNS's Familyshield DNS services. They have straightforward instructions on how to set yourself up to use their DNS service.

Here's the link:


26 April 2011

Simple online security for non-techies - know the threat

Windows PC Security isn't simple, but here is a simple explanation of the threat.

The bad buys have changed their tactics in the arena of viruses/malware/spyware over the years. No longer is it something that you notice right away as they delete your files and mess with your PC. Today when the bad guys get control of your PC they try hard not to be noticed. Because control of your computer is worth money to them and they can get control of thousands of computers a day with automated programs called malware, virus, whatever label you want to call the bad guy programs.

Once they've got control they have programs that comb through the PC to find logins and passwords or just have a program wait for you to login to a site and steal your passwords as you type them in.

It's important to realize this is not something they do personally, PC by PC, they run this on hundreds of computers at once. Probably while they are out partying, spending the money made from renting ten of thousands of compromised PCs to other bad guys.

They need to continue compromising other PC's as people get smarter and defensive software gets better. So they will use your mother or sisters Yahoo email account to send a link, which installs malware for Windows PCs, to everyone in her address book. And the cycle continues...

Not taking steps to protect your computer leaves your friends and relatives exposed to the bad guys.

You might not consider your computer access significant, but your identity online can be used to hurt those you know.

25 April 2011

Simple online security for non-techies - three simple steps to better online security; for Windows PC users

1. Think before you click on email links or attachments.

Don't click on links in emails from people you don't know, and Don't click on links from people you do know that you aren't expecting or have an odd sounding text in the message. Read that again, it's very important to follow.

Why? Because this is the #1 way for bad guys to own your computer.

2. Keep Adobe PDF reader up to date. If it's been a week since you've updated, check for updates right now.

Go here for Adobe Reader updates: http://get.adobe.com/reader/

Why? The PDF document format includes active content and that means bad guys can hide their programs in pdf documents.

3. Don't use Internet Explorer (IE). Use a widely used web browser alternative like Firefox.

Find it here: https://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/new/

Why? IE is highly targeted by the bad guys and it has a long and continuing history of serious software vulnerablities that allow the bad guys to use your computer in any way they want, that's a bad thing.