General Internet Safety!

Created: 02/03/2014; Updated: 08/02/2014


 

VinjaTech’s Security Helmet 1.2

Hey there, one of my own buddies was attacked by internet pixies—prompting me to come here with word on how to prepare, as ‘Winter is Coming’TM. In other words, just a few things I do to feel a little more secure on my computer. Note that this is more-or-less a guide I am throwing together that is based on my own uses of my Windows PCs. By no means is this all inclusive, super-secure, or guaranteed—but it is more than a typical user. If someone wants your information/passwords/whatever, then you’ll need more than this to stop them.

PeerBlock:

An IP blocker that has four default lists to use to block unwanted access to and from your computer. It can be used in tandem with other solutions to reduce the ability for you to be traced when using Peer-to-peer sharing networks (Torrents), adware services, etc. I use it just as added protection from spyware and adware.

1

To use:

  1. Download and install the software: http://www.peerblock.com/releases
  2. Run the program for the first time and select the lists you want to use.I personally just use the Spyware and Advertising lists.
    1. Note: You’ll need to ‘add’ exceptions to the list, as this will block certain operations, such as iTunes Genius, or certain streaming websites. Why does it block these? Because they are not utilizing https, or secure, connections—or they are included in the block lists.
    2. Also, the program defaults to only let in https IPs and therefore blocks all http traffic. This is generally good, but will block some websites you likely use that have yet to make their sites secured. Change the “Allow HTTP” at your own discretion. I turn it off and on from time to time depending on my usage.
  3. There is a “startup with windows” option, but it tends not to work. You’ll want it on all the time, so to solve this you’ll have to make a task (Windows).2
    1. Use Windows search to find the task scheduler (Win > ‘Task Scheduler’)
      1. General: Run only when user is logged on
      2. General: Run with highest privileges
  • General: Configure for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2
  1. Triggers: New Trigger > Begin ‘At log on’
  2. Actions: New Action > Start a program
    1. Find your PeerBlock.exe application executable. It is likely somewhere about “C:\Program Files\PeerBlock”
  3. Conditions: Deselect ‘Start the task only if the computer is on AC power.’
  • Conditions: Nothing else should be checked.
  • Settings: Allow task to be run on demand. Make sure the last setting is set to ‘Do not start a new instance.’
  1. You’re done, but you’ll need to put in a password (same as computer login password) to finish the task.
  1. This program became super popular (relatively) in the last couple years—naturally, due to recent privacy concerns—so the hosts of the update servers have limited updates to once a week unless you subscribe to their services for $9.99/year. Just be sure to update every now and then for full usage of the default lists. You can also search online and find your own lists.

 

Antivirus:

3

This one is more varied and personal. There are many solutions, some paid and some free. Some are definitely better at protecting your system than others, and some are resource hogs that slow down your computer. Take your time to research the effectiveness of different programs and make a decision based on your research and budget.

Personally, I just use Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Defender, as they are integrated into Windows 8.0 and beyond. For earlier versions of Windows (7 and earlier) there are downloads available here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/security-essentials-download

MSE and Defender are free and do a decent job of protecting your machine from viruses, malware, and the like. In recent years, it has competed with the big dogs of Norton, McAffee, etc. in effectiveness, but has recently taken a dip in performance.

Other favorites include Avast and AVG, which both have solid free options.

 

HTTPS Everywhere:

4

This is a Chrome/Firefox extension that aims to make all your browsing secured via HTTPS despite sites not always having such set up. It’s another install-and-forget programs for the most part. Go to the Chrome Webstore (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/extensions?hl=en-US), or the Firefox counterpart, and search for the extension > Install > Profit.

 

NoScript:

[NoScript Image]

              One way to cut out a huge chunk of malicious activity vectors, this extension that I use in FireFox stops all scripts from automatically running on websites, including Java apps, Flash, and others. It can be a pain to work with at first, having to enable things left and right, but better safe than sorry!

DoNotTrackMe: Online Privacy Protection:

Another extension. This one has a lot of features. Go into the settings before/after/during the configuration and make sure to enable/disable whatever you want.

5

 AdBlock:

6

I cannot use the internet without gagging unless I use an AdBlocker. There is also an entirely separate ad blocker called AdBlock Plus, which I currently have installed but disabled, as AdBlock is the most efficient for me currently. Google keeps changing how their ads work to try to sneak text ads in to circumvent these blockers, so sometimes one is ahead of the other.

 Malware:

7              While most antivirus programs also make an effort to prevent malware, there are some programs dedicated solely to stopping your computer from being infested with ad bots and the like. I do not have as much knowledge or previous research done on solutions, but an online favorite (and my current program in use) is MalwareBytes Anti-Malware. The free version offers up to date definitions for malware and quick/full system scans. To get real-time protection you will need to pay up, however.

 

Other [free] useful things:

  • PDF XChange Viewer/Editor is my favorite pdf viewer. It allows you to do some nice quick highlighting and annotating that can be saved to the pdf with ease and intuitiveness. Great for sharing information. It also opens multiple pdfs with tabs, including some tab keyboard shortcuts you are used to using in an internet browser. Tabs are great.
  • lux: This utility will make your screen warmer as the day turns to night. The screen you are looking at is generating artificial light which is straining on the eyes. This utility reduces the blue in and increases warmer tones which are much easier on the eyes. I have the difference set to max, and my eyes have adjusted and all colors look pretty normal to me (especially when you set the transition to 1 hour in length). I tend to work at late hours, so this is a solid program for me.
  • Notepad ++: Another doc program that is my basic text editing substitute. It offers multiple tab viewing, like modern internet browsers and PDF XChange Viewer/Editor. If you are programming in almost any language, the conditional formatting will be shown as well, making this great for coding outside of an IDE. Just save/open a file with the appropriate file extension and Notepad ++ will do the rest.
  • (Almost) Everything else you could need: Ninite (https://ninite.com/) is a quick way to install most commonly used applications with minimal effort and user interaction. Select several programs (including some I listed above) and there will be a single installer that will do it all for you. Note this does the default configuration for all things (for those who like to do ‘Custom Installations’).
  • WinDirStat is a beauty of a program for those of us particular with what is on our hard drives or those of you who fill up hard drives before you know it and have no clue what is taking up so much space. This will give you a nice graphical representation of all the data on your hard drive(s), with sortable file types and other features.

Note: This was copied and pasted from a pdf document I previously created. Formatting and the original/latest pdf will be updated and posted here eventually.

All Rights Reserved | Copyright 2014

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