An Idiot’s A Drew's Guide to Computer Security

Greetings from the inner sanctum of my bedroom! After two and a half days I have finally connected the broadband and removed most of the worms and Trojan horse thingumys out of my computer. You see, when I bought this PC second-hand I also inherited a plethora of spyware, viruses and annoying ad pop-ups which lay dormant until I logged online for the first time Friday night. Weird things began to happen. The computer ran ve-ry slow-ly, it kept shutting down for no reason and vindictive programs seemed to have installed themselves.

My computer was ill. Sure, I’d made a back-up of all my book documents, but I didn’t like the prospect of writing on a sick machine. I kept imagining centipede-like gremlins wriggling around in my hard drive.

At 10pm I rolled up my sleeves and began a journey of self-discovery that I like to call “the weekend I shouted at the computer a lot”.

Two and a half days it took me. Two and a half days of downloading and scanning and re-scanning and quarantining and deleting. Now my computer is healthy, even its hum seems more cheery. I have the firewalls and virus killers in place and have destroyed all the spyware and malware. I feel happier too (although if one of those virus software writers walks past me in the street I will slap him hard in the side of the face).

As I am a reasonably illiterate computer type-person, I thought I would pass on what I learnt to you, the unsuspecting public. Enjoy!

1. Get yourself some virus software
When it comes to buying stuff for the computer I’m in the “ask around at work and see if anyone has it on disc so I can borrow it for free” school of thought.
On this occasion, I downloaded some free software from AVG and although it did a great job at identifying my viruses (a Trojan.Elitebar and a Backdoor.Ranky no less), it had only limited success of getting rid of them.

I decided to call in the big guns. I bought Norton Anti Virus 2005 (Home Version) online and downloaded it right there and then. I just hoped to God the Trojan Horse wasn’t stealing my card details. Hoped. To. God.

After a thorough scan, Norton tried its hardest to delete the nasties. Again, it seemed unable to remove them completely. After a steep learning curve I gleaned the following which helped in removing the viruses once and for all:

Turn off System Restore. Because I have stupid Windows XP I had to turn off a restore setting on my computer. You see, this restore setting duplicates files if they get damaged, including the virus. So while I was deleting the virus with Norton, my computer was repairing it at the same time. Read more about disabling System Restore on Windows XP here.
Make sure your virus definitions are up to date. If you haven’t done this manually for a while, do it right now.
If you use windows, do the virus scan in safe mode. Safe mode lets you turn off unnecessary computer programs so that you can more easily pinpoint the virus. Read more about safe mode here.
Manually remove the virus. The Anti Virus software can only do so much – sometimes you have to go into the registry and manually delete the virus code yourself. Once you’ve identified the name of the virus, search online to find the instructions on how to do it (like this). The process was very scary - like defusing a bomb. At one point, I actually thought I was going to delete the wrong bit and the computer screen would explode.

2. Install Firewalls
Firewalls block intruders trying to access your computer and stop unauthorized programs on your computer from accessing the internet. We use Zone Alarm at work and there’s a free version here. Once it’s set up, Zone Alarm gives a warning when a program tries to access the computer. Tip: if you don’t recognize the program, deny it access. You can always change the setting later when you identify what it is.

3. Use some anti-spyware software
Do you have pop-ups that seem to jump out from no where? So did I. Download the nifty (and free) Ad-Aware to clean them up real good.

4. Use Firefox
Firefox is way way better than Explorer. And it’s like a zillion times more secure, especially when it comes to spyware. Ask anyone.

5. Be careful what you install
I would never be so stupid as to download a naked wallpaper of Freddy Prince Jr from some dodgy website. Nosireebob. Not me.

So go on, imprison those viruses!

(Virus portrayed by my nephew Harri. No children were imprisoned during the creation of this image. Virus here shown much cuter than in real life).

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