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How do I know if my computer is completely secure?

by burgz11 / May 29, 2010 10:51 AM PDT

I have battled with virus protections for years and still puzzled. So may programs, (free downloads, system tool downloads and licensed virus protections)which one will keep me virus/malware/spyware/hacker free? What are the programs that will let me know I got my xp home locked down tight? Are free downloads just as good or better than purchased software?

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Short answer...
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / May 29, 2010 8:35 PM PDT

None. You can't know that your computer is completely secure.

But what you can do is protect it as best you can, and that doesn't mean just security applications, but also the way you use it.

Obviously you do need security software. I use a firewall, an anti-virus scanner and a couple of anti-malware scanners, (For once-weekly manual scans), but there are other things, and the following link to a "Tips for a problem free computer experience" will help;

They're guidelines, but are very useful ones to follow.

I hope that helps.


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Short answer
by burgz11 / May 30, 2010 12:09 PM PDT
In reply to: Short answer...

Thanks for the information Mark!

Lots to learn about computers, since I fell under 9 of 10 of the do not do categories. I have a dell dimension 4600 desktop (windows xp home) and a HP pavilion zv6000 (windows xp pro), both over 5 years old now. I have done just about everything that you should not do to both machines including reinstalling the operating system to fix my issues. I never could get my machines to work properly and I think it is because of viruses and spyware etc. Are my computers able to recover from my abuse or should I just get a Mac? My goal is to be able to bank and shop online without worries of information being hacked!

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Sure it's possible
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / May 30, 2010 8:18 PM PDT
In reply to: Short answer

My old (2004) Dell Dimension XP is still running well after all these years, and trouble free. It's a bit old in the tooth now, and needs a bit of nursing, but I have had no malware infections for a number of years.

Perhaps the biggest option you have is to move away from Internet Explorer, and use a different browser. IE is still the most popular browser used, because Windows had it pre-installed and 'ready to go', and that means that virus and malware writers still tend to concentrate on the vulnerabilities that IE has. All browsers have vulnerabilities and we cannot help that, but we can mitigate the threats, making it difficult for malware writers, by using a different browser. They are often lazy and having to write code for different browsers is often not worth the effort.

I'm using Firefox, but there are others available, Opera, Chrome, Safari, SeaMonkey, and so on, and they all allow us to use the internet in basically the same way.

Windows doesn't care how many browsers are installed, and in fact is quite happy even if more than one browser type is being used at the same time.

About your IE problem you stated to Bob. IE problems are often traced back to bad Add-ons, (IE > Tools > Manage Add-ons). Your task could be to find and eliminate any bad add-on, or you could use IE's "Reset button", (IE > Tools > Internet Options > Advanced tab). This resets IE back to default and removes all add-ons and all 3rd party toolbars, but also deletes all Favorites, cookies, history, and all login/passwords saved in IE. You can export IE's favorites before using the Reset button, then import them back in afterwards, but not the other items.


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Vieusses not your problem.
by mwooge / June 11, 2010 12:01 PM PDT
In reply to: Short answer

You said: ". I never could get my machines to work properly and I think it is because of viruses and spyware etc."

No. Odds are highly against your problems being with malware of any kind. There's any number of things that can cause a computer to not work right, including trying to fix every little thing yourself. Viruses and such do a lot worse things than make your computer not work right. They can be relativly benign and not do anything, or thrun your machjine into a remailer for spam, or wipe your hard drive. But they don't just make your computer run bad: why would the virus writer do something so undramtic?

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great reply Mark
by Dango517 / June 11, 2010 12:36 PM PDT
In reply to: Short answer...
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If it was that locked down tight.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 29, 2010 10:10 PM PDT

It would likely not have an internet connection and nothing but content would go TO the machine but nothing would ever go out.

For most of us that would not be a good thing. No email, net, no nothing.

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by burgz11 / May 30, 2010 12:24 PM PDT

Thanks for your feed back Bob,

I looking for solutions to continuous internet explorer needs to close due to error messages that I get. I also would like to setup my computers with a fresh operating system, right system tools, virus protection, and any other applications/programs/updates to be able to set up a my home network/internet connection and work, bank, surf and shop via, internet without worries of my identity being compromised.

Your time and support is appreciated, take it easy aloha!

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Topic, topic and topic.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 30, 2010 9:05 PM PDT
In reply to: Thanks

"looking for solutions to continuous internet explorer needs to close due to error messages that I get."

If that is your question, be sure when making a post to make that the topic. The topic here is how to (100%?) be sure that a machine is well, see the topic.

I'll watch for a topic about your internet explore issues but leave you with Grif's fine advice from;forum-threads

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Instead of an....
by Papa Echo / June 11, 2010 6:34 PM PDT
In reply to: Thanks

..."air tight" defence, look for rcovery tools. Learn to cure yourself if you are infected. That way, it is more fun using a computer. Like Bob mentioned, if you want real security, do not go on the Internet... do not install any programs.... but then, what are computers for ?

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by stangram / June 11, 2010 11:26 AM PDT

probably no such thing...However, there are products out there that will minimize problems.....Don't go CHEAP. Lot of opinions out there, I pay a littlel more, but I use NORTON 360. The Customer Support (finally) is super...CHAT line available. If it's 'complicated' issue, they will 'take over' your computer, and fix it while you watch.

NOTE: I would stay AWAY from the larger 'Suites' that they offer, as it will slow down your computer. (Note, plain Norton AntiVirus gives you he same kind of support.

There is recent program called NOD (No Open Door) that Leo Leporte says is great...might consider that also. Don't know anything about it.

I have been using Norton for 15 years, and whenever I have a problem, they are always able to fix it....and now with CHAT, its a breeze.
Big improvement from old days, where it WAS difficult contacting them and getting a professional response.

You can go 'cheap' or you can go with the original Anti-Virus company.
Their 'automatic upgrades' and 'instnat advice of a problem' are valuable...

As I say, I don't know about NOD recomended by Leo LePort, 'The Computer Guy' on radio.

Like all these 'options' it's a matter of personal preference....


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dude no-one is ever secure
by Zombladez / June 11, 2010 6:11 PM PDT

First it is just like life,trial and error. you cannot go wrong trusting in the cnet downloads and trust me they have nothing to do with me at all except when i was in tech. school all of my IT instructors trusted Cnet. Avast is a really great FREE program and has not let me down yet!!!!

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Learn to love Linux
by richteral / June 11, 2010 11:34 PM PDT

Security is achieved within a complex framework & there is nothing like a silver bullet that would kill all your problems in one go. In fact, the problems may have quite a bit to do with yourself, not just the OS and software you are using.

Still, starting with OS: XP is now long in the tooth, much longer than your machines are. A good remedy would be switching to the Ubuntu or perhaps Mint varieties of Linux, as long as you are able to handle it. Just ask a friend or someone on Linux to show you how it works. The pay-off would be no more bother with firewall, anti-virus, etc. However, there is a learning curve & you need to be willing to take it.

Firefox should no doubt be your browser of choice, especially when enhanced with the NoScript add-on. Works fine with online banking, etc.

It is hard to see how two good-brand laptops can only be a source of frustration for you. It would be just an extremely hard luck. But with machinery, there is always also the operator ...

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If You Know Your Computer Is Completely Secure
by Flatworm / June 11, 2010 11:51 PM PDT

The only time you can actually know your computer is completely secure is when your computer has just had its hard drive completely wiped, is disconnected from the Internet, turned off, unplugged, and locked in a vault to which only you have the key.

More realistically, if your computer is a more normal computer up and running and connected to the Internet, even the most competent anti-malware applications, hardware and software firewalls, routing schemes, and even encryption are inadequate to ensure that your computer and data is COMPLETELY secure, because there is no such thing as genuinely complete security. This is true whatever kind of computer you may use, whether it's a PC, a MAC, a Linux box, or whatever.

This is why you as the user must remain vigilant and always do your best to monitor your computer's behavior. Understand that merely because you cannot ever achieve the serenity that comes with such complete security does not mean that your computer is or will become compromised or infected. There are a few simple rules that, if you follow them, they will keep your own personal computer reasonably safe in the real world.

1. Use a competent antivirus application and keep it up to date. Norton (the new version) is probably the best, but there are many competent freeware versions around. For years I used AVG; later I used Avast on my older, weaker machines because AVG got a bit bloated. Now I use Norton on my more modern computers and, on my older single-processor machines, Panda Cloud, which is an interesting new cloud-based system that should keep itself updated better than others and, because much of it runs in the cloud, it is particularly clean and tidy on your machine and doesn't slow it down. Of course it needs to be connected to the Internet to operate.

Whenever you notice your computer behaving abnormally you might want to run a full antivirus scan.

2. Periodically run an anti-adware, anti-spyware scan using something like Lavasoft's Ad-Aware and/or Spybot Search and Destroy, both available for free. Note that both find things the other does not.

EVERY computer that ventures out onto the web has some adware and spyware -- there is no reasonable way to avoid it. Don't be alarmed when these programs indicate you've been hit by these, even a LOT of these. They most often consist of such relatively harmless items as tracking cookies that advertising and marketing sites put onto your computer. When these minor "infections" become too numerous, however, they can slow your computer down so it is best to scan for and remove them once a month or so.

3. Get a router, even if you have only a single computer. These protect you from the worst threats from the outside.

4. DO NOT IGNORE ANTI-MALWARE WARNINGS!!! If your antivirus or browser application warns you about some website or application, BELIEVE IT unless you have STRONG reason to do otherwise. DON'T GO THERE!!!

Note that some bad guys will reassure you, warning you in advance that your anti-virus will go off and to just bypass the warnings, because everything's really OK. If you believe that, I've got this property on the banks of the scenic St. John's River in Central Florida that you would LOVE to buy, but don't go look at it right now, OK. Just give me your check. (And if you don't like that, check out this bridge between Brooklyn and Manhattan -- a SURE moneymaker for a discerning investor like yourself!)

5. NEVER, EVER, EVER click on an executable file you have received in an email even if the email appears to have come from a friend. This is the chief way people's PCs get turned into zombies for spammers' botnets, but the damage they can do is not limited only to that sort of thing.

Executable files are those with such extensions as .exe, .bat, and .scr (and too many others to list -- those are just the most common). Other files can also be infected, including .pdf and .doc files, and more frequently now .zip files.

Note that website links can also throw infections onto your machine (or more usually link you to sites that will help the bad guys steal your identity no matter HOW real they look) so be careful there. Most modern email clients warn you when the apparent URL differs from the actual URL of the link. When in doubt, go directly to the company's website and do not do so through the link in the email.

.jpg and .gif can generally be considered safe.

6. (Assuming you have a Windows machine) Install Microsoft updates the second Tuesday of every month. ALWAYS keep your operating system up to date.

Please understand that many people are too paranoid. If you follow those simple rules above it is almost certain you aren't going to get hit. Remember, none of the bad guys, nor the government, really wants to read your email.

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Re.: How do I know if my computer is completely secure?
by BadJamesMurphy / June 20, 2010 6:20 AM PDT

I have found free anti-virus software to be just as good as the paid stuff. Even Microsoft's "Security Essentials" (free for every Windows owner, I think), believe it or not! Happy

I don't think you can ever be 1005 safe though, unless you don't connect to the Internet at all but, then, that kinda defeats the point. Happy

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Avast is good
by vibrantscent / June 23, 2010 1:01 AM PDT

I have been using the free version of Avast for a couple months now and just love it. Very pleased

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by keshavzooms / June 21, 2010 9:03 AM PDT

When your online banking is safe. Lol. To be honest when your online, there is always a threat of virus, malware, spy, etc. Only thing needed is precaution.

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