Malware prevention and safe surfing tips.

Sometimes children just can’t resist the “register now for a free ipod” popup that appears while they are surfing the web. Game sites are particularly known for this. A good anti-virus program does help, as will a firewall. Appropriate security policies can be set on some computers too, to prevent a non-administrator from installing software. XP home and earlier versions of Windows do not have this “security policy” feature.

It is a good idea for you to surf the web, and have your children surf the web, from an account that is NOT an administrator account. My kids have non-administrator accounts, PERIOD. Any changes have to be approved and done by an adult. Administrator accounts are by default allowed to install software..and an accidental click can cause major issues.

Another “good practice” while surfing and coming across a pop-up window that claims to have found a virus on your computer is to not click anything at all on the pop-up. Malicious programmers have taken to building programs that respond to a click anywhere (including the cancel button) by downloading their malicious software. If I come across one of these scams designed to get malware onto my computer, the action I take is the safe action. Instead of clicking anything, I simply restart my computer from the Windows “Start” button. Problem solved.

A good overall work around for the “security policy” limitation is to edit your “hosts” file to prevent a connection from being established to the server that downloads this malicious software to your computer. Winhelp2002 has a pretty good explanation of the process and they also have a downloadable hosts file available that is regularly updated and easily installed.

The hosts file download is a .zip format. After you download it, right click on the hosts.zip file and choose “extract” or “unzip”. Make sure you unzip it to a location that you can find after the unzipping completes. Go into the unzipped “hosts” folder and you will see an icon named either MVPS or MVPS.bat (depending on the settings of your computer). Click on the MVPS icon and it will automatically install the hosts file in the correct location in your computer.

It is a simple fix that saves a lot of headaches.

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