What’s a Blog?
A blog is a website comprised of a collection of entries made in a diary or journal style. The entries are called “posts” and are displayed in reverse chronological order. Blogs often feature opinions on subjects such as politics, entertainment, sports, hobbies, or other commentary. Blogs usually include text, images, and links to other blogs and web pages. Blogging is about not only about expressing your opinions, but also about hearing from and connecting with other people with similar interests or opinions.
The term “blog” is short for “web log”. “Blog” and “blogging” are also terms for adding content to a blog. Software exists to make “blogging” easier. Blogs can be hosted on the web by blog hosting services, or they can be run using free blogging websites such as WordPress, TypePad, or Blogger.
All you need for a WordPress blog is an email address and a name. You can blog as much as you want for using their software on your own website (using your own domain name) or on their website (with a “WordPress” domain name). Either way it’s free!
Blogger, owned by Google, is completely free and is available only in a web based format.
You can start with one of TypePad’s professional designs and customize it. You have complete control of your design. TypePad has three levels of pricing ranging from $8.95 to $29.95 a month.
So start you own blog about your life, job, hobbies, political opinions, or any topic you like!
How Can I Stay Safe Online?
Staying safe while using the Internet requires a little effort and some additional software. If you browse the web without some kind of firewall or anti-virus protection, you’re guaranteed to get infected with multiple bad guys within seconds! It is much easier to protect yourself from being infected than it is to remove the bugs once they are in your system. In fact, today’s viruses, etc. can only be completely removed by erasing and reformatting your hard drive – and that is not fun!
A computer virus is a computer program that spreads by inserting copies of itself into other executable code or documents. Viruses are one of the several types of malicious software. The term “virus” often refers to worms, Trojan horses and other sorts of malware. Viruses can be intentionally destructive or can be fairly benign or merely annoying (like insurance salesmen). The major effect of viruses is their uncontrolled self-reproduction, which wastes computer resources.
Malware is short for “malicious software”. It is computer code that attacks a computer system by spreading viruses, stealing or corrupting data, distributing false information, or disrupting computer networks.
A Trojan horse is a computer program that pretends to do one thing (like look like a photo) but actually does damage when one starts it (completely erase your files). Trojan horses cannot replicate automatically.
A worm is software that uses computer networks and security flaws to create copies of itself. It replicates itself to new computers using the flaws and then begins scanning and replicating again.
Anti-virus software is necessary to help keep your system secure. All anti-virus software provides two types of protection:
1. Real-time protection that monitors all computer traffic on your system and attempts to stop virus attacks as they happen. You should not run more than one anti-virus program for real-time protection at a time.
2. Runs complete scans of your system to find and remove any virus activity you may already have. These scans can be started manually but the best option is to set the anti-virus software to run the scans automatically at specified intervals. I recommend at least one complete scan per week. You can run as many anti-virus scans as you wish using various programs.
Norton Anti-Virus/Norton Internet Security
I do not recommend any of the Norton products. Norton uses a lot of your system resources, bogs down your RAM (memory) and can cause your system to run slower. In addition, since Norton is the most widely used anti-virus, hackers tend to target PCs with that software installed.
McAfee Internet Security
Like Norton, McAfee also uses a lot of your system resources and can cause your system to run slower.
BitDefender Internet Security is a full security suite with anti-spyware, anti-virus protection and a firewall. It scans all or part of a system on demand and can run multiple scheduled scans. I recommend this product.
This is the anti-virus program I use at the moment and recommend it highly. NOD32 is a very effective anti-virus system that handles file scanning, email scanning and real-time protection. It is very successful at preventing installation of spyware and it doesn’t slow your system down.
AVG Free Version
The old saying that “you get what you pay for” might apply to the free AVG anti-virus program. I have used AVG and it was very effective. However, it is slower than most of the other anti-virus programs in automatically updating its virus signature database. This is a major flaw because it leaves your computer vulnerable to the latest viruses.
Free Online Virus Scans
The following web sites offer free online virus scans. This could come in handy if a nasty bug renders your own anti-virus software useless. These online scanners must be run on the Internet Explorer browser.
BitDefender Online Scanner
F-Secure Online Scanner
Trend Micro Housecall
Spyware is software that performs actions such as advertising, collecting personal data, or changing the configuration of your computer, without obtaining your consent. Spyware that displays advertisements and tracks your personal information is also known as adware. This does not mean that all software which provides ads or tracks your online activities is bad. For example, you might sign up for free online email but agree to receive targeted ads in exchange for the service. You may have decided that it is a fair tradeoff. You might also agree to let the company track your online activities to determine which ads to show you.
Other kinds of spyware make changes to your system that can be annoying and can cause your computer to slow down or crash. Programs known as browser hijackers can change your web browser’s home page or search page, or add components to your browser you don’t need or want. These programs also make it very difficult for you to change your settings back to the way you originally had them.
There are a number of ways spyware can get on your system. A common trick is to covertly install the software during the installation of other software. Many times misleading pop-up ads trick you into clicking on them and then spyware is installed. Whenever you are installing something on your computer, make sure you carefully read all disclosures, including the license agreement and privacy statement. Sometimes the inclusion of unwanted software in a given software installation is documented, but it may appear at the end of a license agreement or privacy statement.
Spyware also includes such nasties as:
Key loggers – Sometimes called a keystroke logger. It is a hardware device or small program that monitors each keystroke a user types on a specific computer’s keyboard. It’s good for capturing passwords, bank account numbers, social security numbers, etc.
Root kit – A root kit is a collection of programs that enable access to a computer or computer network. Once the root kit is installed, it allows the attacker to gain privileged access to the computer and, possibly, other machines on the network.
Anti-spyware software is necessary to help keep your system clean. Some anti-spyware programs provide two types of protection:
1. Real-time protection that monitors all computer traffic on your system and attempts to stop spyware attacks as they happen. You should not run more than one anti-spyware program for real-time protection at a time.
2. Runs complete scans of your system to find and remove any spyware programs you may already have. These scans can be started manually but the best option is to set the anti-spyware software to run the scans automatically at specified intervals. I recommend at least one complete scan per week. You can run as many anti-spyware scans as you wish using various programs.
Many anti-spyware programs perform scans only and do not offer real-time protection. Some perform both functions. Many of the scan-only types of anti-spyware software are available free of charge. Examples of both types are described below.
Anti-Spyware software that provide system scans and real-time protection:
Spyware Doctor pops up a warning any time you’re about to surf to a site known to host bad stuff. You can still proceed, but at least you’ve been warned. It also blocks malware that tries to launch at start-up and keeps malicious add-ons out of Internet Explorer. Keylogger Guard blocks keystroke logging. Possibly the most potent protection is Process Guard, which kills spyware processes and prevents them from launching.
It’s a coin toss between SpySweeper and Spyware Doctor. You can’t go wrong with either of them. Spy Sweeper’s various shields provide active protection to keep spyware from invading your system including the Keylogger Shield, which detects programs that monitor and record your passwords and other keystrokes. Automated scanning is also included.
It’s free and you just can’t beat the price. You can schedule automatic scans and choose whether to have Defender automatically apply the default action for each threat found. It’s not as thorough as Spyware Doctor or SpySweeper but it will protect you from the majority of spyware. Windows Defender is included with Windows 7 and is turned on by default.
Anti-spyware software that performs system scans only:
1. Spybot – Search and Destroy
Spybot is a free program that thoroughly scans your computer and removes spyware. Here’s how it works:
a. Start program.
b. Click on “Search for Updates”.
c. If it finds updates, check all of them and then click on “Download Updates”.
d. Click on “Immunize” on the left menu.
e. If a message says “Please immunize” then click on “Immunize” on the top left (next to green plus sign).
f. Click on “Search & Destroy” on the left menu.
g. Click on “Search for Problems”.
h. When it’s done, click on “Fix selected problems”.
2. Spyware Blaster
Spyware Blaster is a free program that prevents known websites with malware from opening on your web browser. Here’s how it works:
a. Start program.
b. Click on “Download latest protection updates” at the bottom.
c. Click on the “Check for updates” button at the bottom.
d. If it says no updates are available, you’re done.
e. If updates are available, download them.
f. Click on “Enable All Protection” after updates are downloaded.
Free Online Spyware Scans
The following web sites offer free online spyware scans. This could come in handy if a nasty bug renders your system unusable. These online scanners must be run on the Internet Explorer browser.
Microsoft Security Essentials
If you don’t wish to deal with all of these options for bug protection, have no fear. There is a free, all-in-one solution that requires little or no brain cells from humans. If you are careful about web browsing and downloading then Microsoft offers a free alternative – Microsoft Security Essentials. Microsoft Security Essentials is perfect for individuals, and is based on the same technology that Microsoft uses to protect large businesses. Downloading and installing Microsoft Security Essentials is free. Once installed, the software updates itself automatically every day and runs quietly in the background. You’ll only be alerted when there are specific actions to take. The software scans and updates are scheduled to run when the PC is idle.
A firewall is designed to prevent unauthorized users from accessing your computer. Firewalls can be hardware or software, or a combination of both. This section is concerned with software firewalls. Hardware firewalls, such as routers, are covered in the “How Do I Connect to the Internet?” section elsewhere in this guide.
All data entering your computer from the Internet pass through the firewall which examines the data. The firewall blocks any message that was not specifically requested by your system. For example, when you click on a link in your web browser, you are requesting that page and the firewall will let it pass through. If a hacker attempts to gain access to your pc from the Internet, the firewall will identify this message as not being requested and will block it.
Windows 7 comes with the Windows Firewall included and it is on by default. Do not turn it off. You can access the Windows Firewall via the Control Panel.
Microsoft’s Windows Update is a service that provides updates for the Windows operating system and its components such as Internet Explorer. It is included in Windows 7. There are several kinds of updates. Security or Critical updates protect against attacks from malware and other security exploits. Other updates correct errors unrelated to security, or enhance functionality.
A security exploit is software or a sequence of commands that takes advantage of a vulnerability or weakness and causes unintended behavior in a computer system. It could include gaining control of a computer system.
Windows security updates are routinely provided on the second Tuesday of each month, otherwise known as “Patch Tuesday”, but can be activated whenever a new update is needed to guard against a newly discovered exploit. Windows Update can be configured to install critical updates automatically so long as the computer is connected to the Internet, without the user needing to install them manually. In the Control Panel, there is a Windows Update button. Clicking this button will take you to the settings for Windows Update. I strongly suggest setting your system for Automatic Updates with automatic installation. Automatic Updates includes the ability to download and install updates without using a web browser.
The first thing you need to do as soon as your computer is connected to the Internet is run Windows Update. During the time the operating system was installed on your computer at the factory to the time you connect to the Internet for the first time, there literally could be hundreds of security updates and patches that need to be installed. If you do not run Windows Update immediately, the first time you connect to the Internet your system will almost definitely be compromised. Once your computer is infected in this manner, the only solution is to wipe your hard drive clean and reinstall the operating system.
What are Cookies?
A cookie, also known as an HTTP cookie, is used for a website to send information to a user’s browser and for the browser to return information to the site. The information can be used for authentication, identification, user’s preferences, shopping cart contents, or anything else that can be stored as text on the user’s computer. Cookies are not software. They can’t carry programs, viruses, or malware on your computer.
Can cookies spy on you?
No. Cookies can not disclose anything truly about you because they do not actually have the ability to spy on users.
Do cookies invade your privacy without your consent?
Cookies can contain private information only if you intentionally enter your private information into a web form. No other website is going to be able to get to that information other than the site you submitted that information to. Web browsers do not allow other sites to read cookies that don’t belong to them.
Can viruses read my cookies?
If you’re infected with a virus, then you have much bigger problems than cookies. The virus or spyware has access to your whole hard drive.
Are cookies useful?
Cookies are very useful. They allow you to have automatic login to various online forums. They help you recall user names and passwords for logging into various other places that utilize user names and passwords.
Allow cookies onto your computer. They are your friend-not your enemy.
The World Wide Web is a place where you can shop, bank, travel, learn, teach, hear, see, talk, print, and much, much more. All you need is a computer, a web browser, and some kind of connection to the Internet.
In order to browse the web safely, you should minimally have some kind of firewall. It could be a hardware and/or a software firewall. A hardware firewall is preferable. Windows 7 comes with a software firewall already installed.
You should also have an anti-virus program. There are many good commercial programs. In addition, Microsoft offers a free solution called Microsoft Security Essentials.
So go forth and experience all the wonder that is the World Wide Web.
Surf safely! Surf often!