Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Safe Computing, for real!

I cringe when I read articles about safe computing in the popular press, mostly because they are so off the mark that it's embarrassing...especially when it's so easy to do it right.

First, all the usual disclaimers apply.  I am NOT a computer professional.  I only impersonate one on the Web.  I assume no responsibility if thing go wrong...and at some point they will (if not today, then some other day) if only because one of us makes a typo.  However, I don't speculate.  Usually what I'm writing about are things I've done myself.  I'm happy to be your guinea pig. Maybe, just to be safe, I'll write in the first person.  That is, I won't tell anyone what to do.  I'll write about what I do, with the implication that anyone who feels so inclined should feel free to do likewise.  ("And if everyone walked off the roof, you'd do it, too?" "Thanks, mom.")

Oh, yes.  This is all about computers running Windows.  I don't have any experience with iOS or Linux.

That said, Norton and McAfee do not reside on any of my computers.  If someone asks for help and either program is installed, the first thing I ask is if it's okay to remove it.  If the answer is no, I respectfully decline.  Norton and McAfee take over a computer and make it very difficult, if not impossible, to do things.  I suppose that's the idea.  If you can't do anything, then neither can a virus. Except what often happens is that a computer gets infected and Norton and McAfee make it almost impossible to sort things out.

Instead, install Microsoft Security Essentials. It's free, stays out of the way, and generally does a great job.

But, here's the real secret.  There are three main ways people get viruses: (1) Installing infected software. (2) Email attachments. (3) Surfing the web. Contrary to popular belief, it's not porn and file sharing sites that are the cause of most infections from surfing the web, or so I've read.  They are caused largely by apparently benign sites, especially fan sites.  People who write these things want them infecting computers and what better way to get them out there than by creating your own Justin Bieber site?

The solution is trivial. Software that allows surfing from within a virtual computer, also known as a sandbox. Wait!  Don't let your eyes glaze over, because we're done.  You install the software and then instead of clicking on an icon to start your browser, you now have a different icon to click on which runs the same browser, but within a virtual computer or sandbox.  Every so often (days, weeks, or whenever your computer starts acting flaky), you press on a different icon to empty the sandbox and start over.  That's all there is to it!

So, I'm out there checking on the latest exploits of the Bieb at haha-gotcha dot com and the next thing I know my screen is filled with a picture of Cthulhu claiming my computer will not be freed until I send a large payment to an off-shore account.  I laugh, empty the sandbox, and...bye-bye, all gone!

Microsoft has some free software, but I've never used it.  I've used Sandboxie for years and am thrilled with it. I find myself traveling all over the Web in search of adventure and every so often all hell breaks out. No problem.  I empty the Sandbox and don't do that again!

More later...

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