No. More. Excuses.

June 12, 2004

Reports last week suggested that 80% of spam was coming from zombied Windows boxes—boxes taken over by viruses and other malware that are acting as spam senders, probably without their owners having a clue that it’s happening.

Now granted, no fine folks reading this are liable to be part of the problem, but damn betcha somebody you know is.  It’s time to hit ‘em over the head with a clue…

Slate has up a good article on how to virus-proof your PC in 20 minutes, for free.

It’s a good article, but maybe not a great one.  Here are some additional suggestions, which while perhaps not entirely free are still cheap enough, and should probably be pursued before proceeding to Slate’s suggestions (which still need to be done).

First—If you are running Windows XP, go here and follow the instructions to turn on the Internet Connection Firewall.  If you’re doing things like local file sharing you’ll need to follow the instructions at the bottom to re-enable these after you’ve turned it on.  If you’re running Windows 2000, you can find some instructions here to do the same thing.

If you’re running an earlier version of Windows (Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME), do yourself and the rest of us a giant favor, and go buy a copy of Windows XP, and then follow the instructions above.  This may also mean that it’s time to upgrade your hardware.  The cost of upgrading a machine to run XP (or replacing it) is extraordinarily cheap right now, and you’ll be rewarded by increased productivity and decreased frustration.

Second—If you are on a broadband connection and are NOT using a “Cable Router” or “DSL Router”, it’s time to go get one.  Check the weekend specials at TechBargains or similar sites, and you should be able to get one for under $30 after rebates.  These things are really less “router” and more “network address translator”, and they have probably saved more misconfigured machines from virus attacks and other malware than most other things combined, by the simple expedient of making your machine harder to attack from the outside.  It’s just another layer of defense, and often a damn good one.  As a bonus, you’ll now be poised to add additional machines on your broadband connection; for only a few dollars more, you can get one that also does Wi-Fi.  (Or even a few dollars less—this weekend one of the local store deals from TechBargains has a Wireless Router for $9.99 after rebate. Sheesh.  They’re giving this stuff away.)

If you do these two things, and follow the instructions at Slate, you’re likely to be a lot happier with your computer, have a lot fewer mysterious and frustrating problems, and make the ‘net a lot more pleasant place for all of us.

Caveat—Everybody’s circumstances and skill levels vary; follow these (and any such) instructions at your own risk, and only with a bit of research as to the consequences. If you’re out of your depth, find a local computer tech to give you a hand.


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