Computer & Internet Security
Simple tips to reduce your exposure to spyware and viruses:
- Stop using Windows as an administrator. Use it as a limited user instead.
- Use Google Chrome as your web browser. It's free and far more secure. Having Adobe Flash built in, it's sandboxed is safer.
- Don't use Java, unless you know you need it.
- Don't click on links in an email.
- Only get software from the original vendors.
- Keep the antivirus software up to date. (I recommend using Windows 10 built-in AV)
- Be careful of what gets installed, and be careful what you click.
These simple tips will reduce your exposure to spyware and viruses:
Update your Operating System regularly! Turn on automatic updates in Apple's OS X and Windows 10. Apply all critical updates immediately. Criminals often create hacks within 24 hours of Microsoft’s patches (these are called zero-day exploits), so you need to protect yourself the day the updates appear.
- Also update these software tools immediately when your offered updates.
- Adobe Acrobat Reader (Don't forget to uncheck the Optional offers)
- Stop using Adobe Acrobat altogether!
- The Microsoft Edge browser pre-installed on Windows 10 has some useful PDF features. You can view documents, draw on PDFs, and do some simple levels of editing. It isn't the most powerful PDF editor, but for many users, Microsoft Edge is more than good enough. Microsoft Edge comes installed on Windows 10. How to use Microsoft Edge as a PDF reader.
- I use the free more powerful PDF-XChange Viewer the smallest, fastest, most feature-rich PDFreader/viewer available, an alternative to the Adobe Reader! On the PDF-XChange Viewer download page at the right side of the green "Download Now" button click the down-pointing triangle and choose the "EXE installer (32/64 bit).
- Stop using Adobe Acrobat altogether!
- Flash Player (Remember to uncheck the Optional offers)
- Java by Sun Microsystems (I recommend uninstalling Java) (Be sure to uncheck the adware checkboxes when running the installer.)
Note: If you don't use Java uninstall it, I remove Java from all of my computers.
- Use Google's Chrome Browser: If you continue to use IE, be sure you have the most current version. Windows 8.1 is now using IE 11, using Windows 7 or Vista upgrade your browser to Internet Explorer 10. Most spyware enters your computer through malicious web pages and IE 8, and IE 7 is less secure. Windows 10's native browser is Microsoft Edge. You can install Firefox or Google Chrome both are superior to Internet Explorer. These browsers are free to download and install. I use all four browsers Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. Glenn
- Don’t open email attachments, even if it’s from someone you know. If you do get something from someone you know, make sure that they sent it to you. Email attachments are the number one way viruses and trojan horses get into computers. Be especially suspicious of those joke of the day email from your friends.
- Don’t click links in an email. That link could lead you to a phishing site, or the link may lead you to install malicious software. Copy and paste links into your browser, or type them in by hand instead. I often do a Google search for the site, Google will return a valid address, and if the site has problems, the search result will usually have many links warning if the problem.
- Don’t download files from places you aren't sure are safe. Stick with the well-known sites. Teenagers who use file-sharing software like Bit Torrent, Azureus, Kazaa, Morpheus, Grokster, and Limewire, often unwittingly download spyware and trojans. If you must, quarantine all downloads then scan them a few days later with an updated anti-virus.
- Use a Standard User account instead of an administrator account for your day-to-day use. Using a standard account can help protect your computer by preventing you from making changes that affect the computer without a second chance to think before installing something new (perhaps malware), or deleting files that are required for the machine to work.
- Create an additional user account named something like "security," give it Administrator rights. Make it's password something you can easily remember (write it down). It does not need to be super secure because it is only used on this one local computer, never online.
- Then downgrade your existing account to "Standard User."
- Now whenever you are logged into your day to day account and want to install software, for example, Windows will pop up a dialog asking for the Administrator password before any new software can be installed.
- Note: This technique makes it almost impossible for malware to get installed without you first entering the Administrators password.
- See How to Set Up and Configure User Accounts in Windows 10 by How-To-Geek for step by step instructions.
- Use a firewall. The best firewall is a hardware router – the kind you use to share an internet connection. Even if they’re not billed as firewalls, they are, and they’re quite useful.
- Use Gmail as your e-mail provider. Just like bank websites, Gmail uses HTTPS encryption to keep your email secure. Gmail – 10 Top Reasons Why You Should Use It – Note: Use either Firefox or Chrome as your browser to access Gmail at the regular web page. Follow steps 1 through 6, and you will have many years or safe e-mailing.
- Google has added (account activity) extra security to Gmail that alerts the user if it suspects suspicious activity. For example, if you always check your email from the same location and it notices events from the other side of the planet, it will let you know the geographic area.
- At the lower right of Gmail's home page look for "Last account activity". You can see your sign-in history, including the dates and times that your Gmail account was used. You can also see the IP addresses which were used to access your account.
- Avoid tech support phone scams – Cybercriminals often use the names of well-known companies, like Microsoft, in their scams. They think it will convince you to give them money or your personal information. While they usually use email to trick you, they sometimes use the telephone, instead. It is a SCAM!!! Microsoft does not call customers nor do they have partners who do that nor do they hire sub-contractors or people or even get volunteers to do that.
- Why should you use Google 2-step verification? – How it works: – Google 2-step verification adds an extra layer of security to your Google Account by requiring you to have access to your phone – as well as your username and password – when you sign in. If someone steals or guesses your password, the potential hijacker still can't sign in to your account because they don't have your phone. Some other email provider also offers 2-step verification. I have a page with additional information on Two-factor authentication.
I use 2-factor authentication on all sites that offer it, using 2-factor is a bit of effort to set up but makes your accounts more secure than most banking sites. Glenn
- These things are not that complicated, and you don't have to be a “security expert” to figure them out. I follow these practices and haven’t been had spyware or viruses in years.
After uninstalling 3rd party antivirus, built in free Microsoft Windows Defender will activate.
Most computer users have one of the highly advertised 3rd party security suites Norton, McAfee, Trend Micro, Kaspersky, or AVG Internet Security. Your new computer may have security software installed by the manufacturer (usually a trial version), or as a subscription from your Internet provider (Verizon or Comcast) or perhaps you bought it in a store. However you came to have one of these products installed on your machine, I recommend you allow the free built-in Windows Defender to activate. You will save money and more importantly let your computer operate faster with less warning messages and pop-ups.
Uninstall 3rd party Anti Virus Programs
- Right-click on the Flag Icon at bottom-left corner and choose the Control Panel from the pop-up menu.
- When the Control Panel appears, choose either:
- Uninstall a Program from the Programs category or
- Programs and Features
- Select the 3rd party Anti Virus program (the most common are Norton, McAfee, Trend Micro, Kaspersky, or AVG Internet Security) to uninstall and then click its Uninstall button.
- Click Yes to confirm the program uninstall.
Windows Defender will automatically activate after you remove the 3rd party Anti-Virus program.
- Check the status of Windows Defender.
- Press the Windows Key (it has the Windows flag symbol).
- At the lower left click Settings.
- Choose Update & Security area.
- Select Windows Defender from the left menu list.
- Real-time and Cloud-based Protection should be ON
Note: If add/remove will not wholly remove McAfee or Norton security try the tools below.
- How to uninstall or reinstall supported McAfee consumer products using the McAfee Consumer Products Removal tool (MCPR.exe)
- The Norton Removal Tool uninstalls all Norton 2003 and later products, Norton 360, and Norton SystemWorks
My recommendation is to uninstall Java.
Java applets used to be reasonably familiar, but they are now used rarely, or not at all, on most of the favorite websites out there. In fact, you probably won't miss much without applet support. Facebook users, for example, report being able to use their favorite ad-dons such as games without Java.
Nevertheless, there have been several recent and widely-abused bugs in the applet part of Java that make your browser insecure.
If after uninstalling you find some game, for example, requires java to run, you can just download and re-install the program form the Free Java Download page. Note: Be sure to uncheck the ad-ware checkboxes when running the installer.
Manual Uninstall Procedure
Be sure to uninstall all versions of Java manually in the same way as you would uninstall any other software from your Windows computer. Older versions of Java may appear in the program list as J2SE, Java 2, Java SE or Java Runtime Environment.
Windows 10 and 8 – Uninstall Programs
- Right-click on the screen at bottom-left corner and choose the Control Panel from the pop-up menu.
- When the Control Panel appears, choose to Uninstall a Program from the Programs category.
- Select the program to uninstall and then click its Uninstall button.
- Click Yes to confirm the program uninstall.
Windows 7 and Vista – Uninstall Programs
- Click Start
- Select Control Panel
- Select Programs
- Click Programs and Features
- Select the program you want to uninstall by clicking on it, and then click the Uninstall button.
You may need administrator privileges to remove programs.
- Give Firefox and Google Chrome browsers a try.
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- Explore the Drop down menu. – Sometimes referred to as a pull-down menu or drop box, a drop-down menu is a menu that appears when clicking on a button or text selection. For example, many programs will have a “File” drop-down menu at the top left of their screen. Clicking on the “File” text generates a new menu with additional options.