December 21, 2004


From the "Geeks, what would you do without them?" Department
As this will be my final entry on "A Likely Story", and my sphere of influence will be shortly receeding back to Jeremy-Gilby-dot-com, I thought I would leave you, the kind readership of Raeville with some good ideas for a happy, safe, and virus free holiday season and new year.

If you haven't heard by now, there are some bad people out there on this thing called the Internets. They seem to entertain themselves by causing harm and discomfort to other people. We call these people "Crackers" (not hackers, as one would expect)
You see, a Hacker is anyone who knows how to code, program, and get computers to do operations through commands, scripts, and what-not.
Crackers are Hackers that do this kind of thing maliciously.
They are smart.
They have many advantages.
They are going to always be a problem.

But we, the free people of the World-Wide-Web do not need to hide in fear; no, we have tools at our disposal, and here are two major ones:

  • First, Stop using Microsoft Internet Explorer. Its not safe at all. This browser is a component of your operating system. If it is compromised, your computer is compromised. (And 99.99% of all internet computer nastiness is targeted at security flaws in Microsoft Internet Explorer.)
    Instead, install Mozilla FireFox. It is easy to install, and it has import capability which will take all your IE favorites and stuff, and makes the conversion almost seemless.
    Add to the fact that Mozilla has a nifty pop-up blocker, and ignores the lion's share of scripts which IE is prone to stumble over.
    Best of all, Firefox is an application, so if it is compromised, your Operating System is safe. (IE cannot say that.)

  • Second, stop using Microsoft Outlook Express. Outlook and Outlook Express are two major targets of the variants of Worms and Trojan Horses. (You know, those attachments that you are not supposed to open... and even more subversive nastiness.)
    A great alternative is Mozilla ThunderBird. Thunderbird can read and send in POP3, SMTP and is also a news and RSS Reader. (Though I just use it for POP3).
    It is immune to those Worms and deviant code that Outlook Express is super-vulnerable too; and its easy and fun to use.
    The adaptive Junk Mail filter is hit or miss, but much better than many other out-of-the-box alternatives.

  • Finally, I suggest getting an anti-Spyware software. Spybot or Adaware are two excellent examples. (As Rae notes in her previous adventures, her computer was exploited and pretty much destroied because of Spyware. Its best to have defenses for this in place as soon as possible, and run them often.)
    With FireFox and ThunderBird in place, a lot of Spyware threats are reduced, but not elimnated. This is a good "next line of defense".

Best of all, all these solutions are free. So you have nothing to lose.
Try them out today!

Posted by Rae at December 21, 2004 09:42 AM
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