How to safely surf the net.

For the purpose of this article, trojans, downloaders, worms et. al. will be referred to by the generic term virus. Spyware and malware will be referred to as spyware.

If you have a constant connection to the net such as cable or dsl, simply make sure that your anti-virus software is set to automatically update daily. At least once a day check your spyware removal software for updates and scan when you are finished with your surfing.

As a dial-up user, your life is a little more complicated. Since you cannot guarantee a connection at any particular time of day, your safest bet is to get in the habit of updating your anti-virus software each time you connect to the internet. Do this before opening a browser or your email program. Most anti-virus has a fairly simple method for update. AVG can be updated by double left clicking on the AVG icon near the clock in the system tray. Left click the “Check for Updates” button on the left. Left click the “Internet” button. If there are updates they will be downloaded onto your system and AVG will be launched when you click “OK” after the download completes so that the program can be updated. If updates were received, you might want to go off-line and run a complete scan before surfing.

You should also download the latest updates for all your spyware prevention tools before surfing. This is a pretty quick process and can be done without actually running a full system scan. Downloading them first merely assures that after you're done surfing you can begin scanning with the latest information. If you're running spywareblaster, be sure to enable all protections before surfing.

Windows 95, 98 and ME users might want to make their first stop on the net to Microsoft's Update center. This will make sure that you have the latest security patches installed. If your system allows for automatic updates you should have this feature enabled.

Now that you have the latest virus definitions loaded on your computer you can surf with relative safety. Your safety is only relative because viruses are always one step ahead of anti-virus software. A virus must somehow get into the hands of the anti-virus people before anti-virus software can detect its presence on your system.

Due to the fact that most viruses and spyware are brought into your computer through Internet Explorer (IE, the blue E icon) and through Outlook/Outlook Express, I recommend using alternatives. Mozilla has a nice replacement for both ( that can be downloaded and installed for free.

Surf to your hearts content. When you are finished surfing, always run the scan in your spyware removal software. Spyware is as big of a problem as viruses. Removal of them is essential to keeping a computer running at it's peak performance.

One thing to beware of is anything that is promised by a popup. If a popup promises to remove spyware from your computer or to improve your internet performance or to enhance your computing experience in any way, beware, it's most likely going to install spyware on your computer.

Anytime that you notice a significant slowdown of your system and your antivirus software and spyware removal software come up with nothing, please contact your favorite geek. It is possible that you have contracted a new virus or new spyware. That person can assist you in locating the deviant program and getting it submitted to the appropriate place so that it can be detected for everyone.

Recommended programs:

AVG – antivirus by Grisoft

Ad-Aware – Lavasoft Spyware removal tool

Spybot Search & Destroy – Spyware removal tool

SpywareBlaster – Spyware blocking program

Very important!!! Always make sure that the utilities you use are up to date. Even if they are supposed to update automatically, it never hurts to run a manual update occasionally. The spyware removal tools do not scan automatically they MUST be run manually. I recommend they be run after every surfing session.

To make these scans go quicker, every once in awhile (at least weekly and probably more often if you surf a lot) be sure to go to Start/Settings/Control Panel and double left click on Internet Options. Then left click Delete Files. Left click the box in front of “Delete all offline content” then left click Ok. After the hourglass goes back to a regular pointer all the temporary internet files have been deleted.

Something else that can make Window ME and XP scan faster is to remove all System Restore points. I worked on a Windows ME machine once that the System Restore had chewed up well over 2G of hard drive space and left only 830M of free drive space even though the settings forbid this. You might want to turn on system restore as soon as you are sure that it has cleared the previous saves. Also do not turn off system restore if your system is unstable. You might lose your last good restore point.