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Sunday, March 28, 2010

On a Berserking PC, and Cautions

I run a Mac. My family runs a PC. They just got ripped to shreds by a pretty bad infection (infarction), and the fellows over at BleepingComputer are helping me (the de facto familial IT manager, for some reason) clean it up.

Save yourself the pain, the anxiety, the resetting of passwords and back account numbers:

Three Tips
(with Regards to Security)
for anyone who uses

1) Keep that firewall up, damnit! This is the 2010's, and firewalls aren't just for uptight techies and CIA agents anymore. You need one. If you don't have a firewall or don't trust the strength of the one you have, Comodo and Zone Alarm are both excellent and free of charge. Important: if you use Zone Alarm, be sure to deactivate the debugging feature, else you'll get a snowballing file called tvdebug.log that takes up space on your machine. If you use Comodo, I suggest installing only the firewall portion... there's better anti-virus freeware to be had elsewhere.

2) Don't buy McAfee. I cannot rightly speak for Norton, as I have not used it in years, but word on the forums is that neither are even half as good as some freeware out there. McAfee, besides being a subscription service (i.e. it costs money every year), is also a major culprit in slowing down the overall performance of a PC -- sloppy programming means it takes up too much of your machine's memory and processing resources. Also, it's not very good at what it's supposed to do; namely, catching bad stuff and keeping it off your computer. Case in point, the family computer that I am now trying to save from a complete flush-and-reinstall-everything scenario has had a subscription to McAfee Security Center (the full line of McAfee's anti-everything + extra firewall and privacy protection) for three years running, and it STILL has been badly screwed by a rootkit, viral rogue, and more trojans than there ever were in the historic Trojan army.

3) Be really, really careful about what you do on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. If the file size is to small (or too big) to be the thing you intend to download, don't touch it. If the file name reflects exactly the same search terms you put in to find it and nothing more, don't touch it. If you don't recognize the file type, don't touch it. And for torrent files... try to choose from torrents that are rated positively and/or have worthwhile comments on them. I trust the ratings on isoHunt.

Thanks to the the guys behind the name schrauber over on BleepingComputer.com, especially Thomas, who has been patiently giving me clear instructions to save the family machine. I owe you, seriously.

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