How to Best Protect Your Computer From Spam, Viruses, and Spyware
Breaking and Entering On the Internet !
I like to make analogies between the Online world and our Physical world. They are valid and the similarities are becoming more recognized every day. Here's my favorite...
"If you are not taking the security of your home or business computer seriously, it is like leaving the front door of your home open all day and all night whether you are home or not."
This is literally true. The Internet is a big place with every imaginable character out there, many of whom are happy to intrude on your private domain and use it to their benefit. In addition to that, there is a constant battle for your desktop from many of the seemingly trusted software companies including Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and others, large and small. When you start up your computer, they want you to see their stuff and they are constantly fighting over what you see. This creates software conflicts that, over time, can bog down the performance of your computer and slow your productivity. Be an active participant in the management of your computer workspace by taking the time to install these essential protections and following the best practices shown below.
You must lock down your computers or you will become a victim. After years of working online, we have put together a set of programs and practices that have allowed us to use the Internet in relative safety and with minimal intrusion from evil doers.
It's reasonably inexpensive and will allow you to build your online business in a relatively safe environment. By the way, these are our favorite picks. Our objective is to save you the time of analyzing several various solutions on your own.
1. Basic Computer Security To Protect You From Viruses.
McAfee Virus Scan - We like this solution the best. It simply has worked best for us with the least intrusion on our workspace and time. Virus protection, by its very nature is somewhat intrusive. It must update itself every so often to keep up with spammers and virus writers. This one does it in a way that has not gotten in the way of our own work. Go for this. Its an essential.
By the way, we've tried Norton. We felt that it is a little overpowering and more intrusive in how it kind of wants to take over your computer. We consider McAfee an absolute must. Cost = About $60.00 per year (subscription).
2. Basic Spam Protection
CloudMark Spam Filter - CloudMark stands out to us as the best method of keeping up with spammers. You can't stop them, but you can control what you are willing to view. This very successful method uses the collective, real-time knowledge of millions of email subscribers to manage an ever changing database of spammers so it can filter them out before they get a chance to invade your mailbox.
The program creates a spam folder in your Outlook or Outlook Express so you can look through the junk in case a good email message gets caught, but then once you've browsed it, you can dump them all in one fell swoop. Very easy.
In addition, if you receive a spam that was not caught by the filter, you can report to the database with one click which will block it forever more from your good email box and alert the millions of others in the community of this spammer. We consider this a must. Get CloudMark here.
Cost - $39.95 per year subscription (per user).
3. Basic Spyware and Adware Protection
Ad and Spyware are programs that are (often without your knowledge, unless you like reading lots of fine print) automatically installed on your computer. These programs change the way your computer sees advertisements on the web and often are the reason that you get uncontrollable popups.
There are two programs that we've used successfully to protect our computers from Adware and Spyware. The good news is that they are free. They also offer paid upgrades, but we've gotten by pretty well using both of these free versions.
Spybot Search & Destroy - This is a free program that we've used and it seems to have worked well for us. Get it here. (donations optional)
Ad-Aware Personal - Catches some of the adware and spyware programs that others don't. Get it here.
4. Update Your Windows Software
It's our opinion that MS Windows has become easier to use and more secure over the years. If you're not running Windows XP or above you are missing out on much easier computing. It's not that expensive to upgrade and the benefits are real.
More important however is that you must update your version and install the latest patches when they come out from time to time. The good news is that the latest MS Windows software does much of this automatically for you.
Remember, there are virus writers out there every day trying to invade your computer. Fortunately, there are just as many good guys fighting them and keeping up with them. By keeping your software updated, you are reducing your chance of being exploited. The crooks have plenty of easy pickings to take advantage of. You don't have to be one of those easy pickings. Just update regularly. Microsoft Windows XP Professional - license
Important Personal & Procedural Policies to Follow
5. Never, Never, Never Believe or Accept Unsolicited Email Offers
If you buy something from an email that was sent to you out of the blue, you are a.) encouraging spam, b.) putting yourself at risk for viruses or bad software, and c.) putting yourself at risk of getting ripped off. Just say no to all Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE).
In many states, it is illegal. If you don't have a problem with spam now, the surest way to get started having problems is to begin buying from those that send it. You only have to get on one list for your email to sold and traded all over spam circles and I assure you that it will become a problem for you once you get started.
Also, don't believe it when you get offers from spammers that "you can buy a list of x million email addresses" to send your offers to. This is a completely unprofessional way to do business online. Lastly, don't reply to or click on messages that you receive from Paypal or any financial institutions. Many crooks make a good living by scaring people into entering their online bank passwords into fake web sites that mimic the real ones. This scam is called Phishing and usually starts when an unsuspecting person receives a (fake but real looking) email stating that someone has compromised their password in their bank or stock brokerage account. They usually ask you to log in to "your" account, but then the link takes you to a fake web site that looks just like yours.
People actually rush to enter their passwords and other personal information, thinking that something is awry at their bank. What they end up doing is giving their passwords to crooks who then promptly use them to transfer funds and empty bank accounts.
This deserves repeating, Never, Never, Never answer an email ad that you didn't ask for. And the only way you should ever go to a financial web site is by typing in the web site name in the address bar of your browser or by clicking your own personal favorites or bookmarks. Be suspicious of everyone online.
Other Tools We Like That You Might Want to Consider
More Spam Protection
- FireTrust MailWasher Program - This is another inexpensive program that we've used for years to protect our computers and speed up our spam management. MailWasher allows you to view a snippet and delete your email on the email server before you even choose to download it.
If you are at a point where your spam level is quite high, this can save you time and add an extra level of protection. We like it. Get MailWasher Pro here
Finally, If You Just Can't Take It Anymore!...
Watch the demo below to see how this works. This is called a "Challenge-Response" spam fighting system and these types of tools are considered the most aggressive of spam protectors, however if you are trying to make it easy for people to contact you, they can get in the way. You decide...
Good luck and remember that although there are lots of promises, there is no perfect cure or tool yet. Whoever figures out the solution to spam will be a rich person some day and I'll be quite happy to contribute to their wealth if they really come up with the answer.