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Windows Security Help

Over the years viruses have made it more difficult to be able to keep a Microsoft Windows system running smoothly. Since about 2003, so-called malware, trojans and keyloggers have become more of a problem than the old-style viruses which have been with us for many years. Combined with security exploits of the various Windows Operating Systems, MS Internet Explorer exploits, and self-replicating viruses spread by them secretly sending email to your MS Outlook Express contact list - the situation has become close to intolerable and can eventually bring a system to its knees. The advice is provided here as a best effort to help you contain these threats. Toronto Free-Net does not assume responsibility for any more problems you may think you are encountering because of installing the recommended software below. Viruses and Malware can be to some extent malicious programs - however usually they are only interested in your shopping preferences or to put pop-up ads in your way. Often they do not welcome attempts to get rid of them. Installing the programs below will likely help you in containing these new and eveloving threats. It may take multiple reboots and retries to get them all installed. We welcome contributions of our members to keeping this page updated with current quality information.

See the bottom of this page for instructions on installing these programs. You should probably download them all and install them one at a time in the order listed below. If your connection is not working at all due to malware, see if someone can "burn to CD" the programs listed below along with any update files listed with them so that you can install them from your CD-ROM while offline.

Spyware Protection

Spyware, Malware, Keyloggers and Dialers are relatively new exploits primarily aimed at MS Windows. According to, "as of 2004, spyware infection causes more visits to professional computer repairers than any other single cause." Of these types of exploits "Dialers" can be the most expensive to deal with as a program can call a 1-900 number without your knowledge and charge your phone bill by the minute. Complaining to the CRTC may be the only avenue to appeal the sometimes extreme charges. In the meantime your phone company could cut your service.

One of the most popular programs to stop spyware and malware is with Spybot Search and Destroy. You can download this at no cost, but the author asks that you donate if possible. Once you install the software, you will need to get into the habit of downloading and loading the latest updates every few days or so. It requires clicking on the "Update" button, "Search for Updates", Download Updates and checking off (all) the choices of available updates, and then clicking on "Download Updates". Once that is complete you can You can also "immunize" your system by clicking on the "Immunize" button and then on the green cross icon. Much of the above can be automated using the "Advanced" interface under "Settings", but you should use the manual method until you understand what you are doing.

Activex Exploit Protection

Believe it or not, clicking on the wrong web page can cause problems. The author of Spybot Search and Destroy recommends that you install another program called Spywareblaster to prevent exploits of browser-based Activex components. This requires a periodic manual update unless you wish to pay for the auto-updating service.

Anti-virus Software

AVG is a free for personal use, auto-updating anti-virus software which seems to be competitive with most of the commercial systems available.

Browser and Email Client

Since Aug 2004, CERT has advised that Internet Explorer is subject to multiple exploits. For at least the time being Toronto Free-Net recommends installing Firefox available at It is a medium sized file of 4.7 MB which should be downloadable with a 28K modem in less than 10 minutes. If your connection time is not allowing the download, email the office with subject "TFN - time for mozilla downloads". Since Outlook is used by most people for an offline "POP3" email program, it is the main target of email worms that capture your contacts' email addresses and sends the same virus on to your contacts to spread further. We recommend the Thunderbird POP3 email program to download and use as your default email client. It makes the transition from Outlook quite easy and it has been reveiwed by many to be superior to Internet Explorer. As with all Windows software it is necessary to keep up with the latest versions.

Software Firewall

ZoneAlarm is a free for personal use software "firewall". A firewall detects when programs are asking for access to the internet or access to your computer from the internet. Sometimes it is a friendly program you want to use such as a web browser or email program. Sometimes it is malware or spyware reporting on your browsing habits. In general when using a software firewall you should answer "No" to requests to access the internet until it blocks your ability to do what you want. Once you are sure that you either want to block the request or allow the request, you can check the box that says "remember my answer". Even so, ZoneAlarm seems to often be popping up for the same request for access even after you have checked the box "remember my answer". Once you have protected from with spybot, spywareblaster, and AVG, the benefit from the software firewall may actually be marginal. It is at least though educational to find our how often the internet is being accessed without your knowledge.

Users may very well want to disable Windows' XP built-in Firewall, substituting ZoneAlarm or a hardware firewall that's built-in to most routers, due to recent reports of surreptitious communications between MS servers and users' PC's. ZoneAlarm will notify you of any such communication, allowing you to choose whether or not to allow it, while XP's Firewall will not because it considers all MS requests for information - into or out of your PC - as legitimate. Some knowledgeable users disagree, and even MS fans were upset at the Spring/Summer 2007 WGA-Notify scandal. The debate on whether or not WGA is spyware still rages today.

Installing Software on Windows

If you have never installed software on Windows before, take heart. It is quite easy. Open up Windows Explorer (Click "Start", Program Files, Windows Explorer" It is the icon that looks like a yellow file folder with a small magnifying glass. On the top menu click "File", "New" (or the double arrows at the bottom of the drop down list and then "New"). For most people this will open up into the "My Documents" folder by default. In any case, make a note of where the default folder is located in the file heirarchy and type in a folder name, for example "downloads". This is where you will save the programs you need to install. To download,click on the links below, for Spybot, Spywareblaster, AVG, Firefox, Thunderbird and if you wish, Sygate. You may need a few more clicks to get to the actual download site for each program (check the name of the file you are actually downloading.) Once you have downloaded and then navigated using Windows Explorer to each downloaded file, click on the default answers to the questions that are presented to you. Eventually after about 5 or six clicks you will see a button "Finish". Click that and you are done. You can now open up these by clicking on Start, Program Files and tehn going to the bottom of the list where you should see the new program to click on.

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