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Securing Your Windows OS

In this article, I shall be giving tips on how one can secure his Windows PC from virus, worms, trojans, hackers, spyware. I shall first start with a definition of all these terms, proceed to give a list of a few must have software and then suggest some other software to ensure maximum safety.


1. Virus: To keep it simple, a virus is a program which does undesirable activity like deleting files, corrupting them, etc. without the user's knowledge. Virus infects executable files and it needs those files to be accessed in order to spread. In most of the cases, the user unknowingly open infected files thereby helping the virus to spread.

2. Worm: A worm's activity could be considered similar to that of virus but the way it spreads is different from that of a virus. While a virus cannot spread by itself, a worm spreads on its own. It can even get the email address from mail clients and mail a copy of itself to everyone in the list.

3. Trojan: Ever heard of the "The Trojan Hourse" in the story of Troy? The Trojan horse was a huge horse made out of wood and gifted to the enemy. But the enemy was not aware that there were soldiers hiding inside the horse and happily accepted the gift thereby moving it into their kingdom. At night, the soldiers came out of the horse and killed their enemy in their sleep. Eventually they won the battle.
The trojan we talk about here works in a similar fashion. If a trojan gets installed on your system, then it has the potential to give unauthorized access to strangers. And unauthorized access means they can get hold of all the sensitive information on your machine.

4. Hackers: Hackers are those people on Internet who keep looking for opportunities to intrude into another's system so that they can get access to sensitive information. Hackers may use trojans and/or their own hacking techniques by exploiting loop holes in your Operating System in order to gain unauthorized access to your system.

5. Spyware: Originally spyware referred to the programs installed on the PC without the user's knowledge which secretly monitored the user for third party benefit. The unwanted pop-up advertisements which appear all of a sudden or when Internet Explorer is opened is also because of spyware being present on your system.

Securing your PC

Over a period of time, virus, worms, trojans, spyware have come to be used interchangeably. Also now software which can combat all of them together are also available. But it is to be noted that the best solution is got only by installing software for fighting them individually. Next I shall give a list of some of the free software available which shall help us to prevent viurs, trojans, etc. I shall also mention other similar good software used for the same purpose and why I have chosen one over the other.

1. Antivirus: Microsoft recently launched its free antivirus and spyware detection program Microsoft Security Essentials. Reviews of the initial version of this program have claimed that the antivirus detection rate for this is not as good as other antivirus programs. Nevertheless, I personally feel that Microsoft will put in more R&D effort into this product to make it better. Among the other free antivirus vendors, AVG Antivirus Free Edition seems to be a good choice. Besides fighting virus, this also helps in fighting worms and trojans. Fighting not only virus but also worms and trojans is a common feature of many antivirus programs.

Another noteworthy free antivirus program is Antivir. One very interesting feature of Antivir is its enhanced capacity to fight spyware as well. But because AVG has better capacity to detect and remove virus, and also we are going to see some anti-spyware products next, I have preferred it to Antivir.

2. Anti-spyware: Anti-spyware refer to those tools which aid in the removal of spyware installed on your computer. Some of the anti-spyware also come with real time protection (just as in antivirus) which means they have the capactiy to detect and avoid the installation of spyware. The best free anti-spyware software currently is Windows Defender. Besides offering removal of spyware, it also provides real time protection. But one major problem is that this is available for only users who have installed a genuine copy of Microsoft Windows. So for those who use a pirated copy of Windows or are just looking for an alternative, I would suggest Spyware Terminator. Also note that for users running Microsoft Security Essentials, Windows Defender is not needed (and I believe is automatically disabled if it is installed).

Among the other good spyware software Ad-aware SE Personalgets a special mention here because of its better spwyare detection capacity than Spyware Terminator. But because the real-time protection feature is offered in only the purchased version of Ad-aware whereas it is offered free in Spyware Terminator, I suggested Spyware Terminator instead of Ad-aware.

3. Firewall: A firewall helps in preventing hackers from gaining access to your system by blocking unused ports. You can use the inbuilt Windows firewall which comes with certain versions of windows to protect your PC. But if you are looking for a third-party alternative which performs better than the inbuilt Windows firewall, then there is only one choice - ZoneAlarm. But be sure to turn off the inbuilt Windows firewall if you are using ZoneAlaram.

Other Tips

1. Windows Security Center

This can be accessed from "Control Panel"->"Security Center". Use this to manage your Windows Security Settings

2. Update your PC regularly

If you own a genuine version of Windows, then you should visit Microsoft Update to update your PC.

3. Perform anti-virus and anti-spyware scans in safe-mode

It is generally suggested to run anti-virus and anti-spyware scans in safe-mode. Safe-mode can be entered by pressing "F8" key before windows begins to boot. The reason for this being in the normal windows mode, most of the files are in use. Hence if a file which is in use is detected with a virus/spware, it may not be possible to quarantine/delete this file. On the other hand in safe-mode, only the most essential files and drivers are loaded. Hence it becomes feasible to quarantine/delete most of the infected files.

4. Fake Anti-Spyware

There are many fake anti-spyware programs ( You especially come across these when browsing certain websites and a flashing pop-up window appears saying "Your machine has been detected with spyware. Click here to remove it". Please don't fall into this trap and click. Please only install anti-spyware by directly visiting their websites.

5. One antivirus, One firewall

Yeah even I got to know of this recently. It seems having more more than one antivirus or one firewall may cause problem. Hence be sure you don't have more than one antivirus or firewall installed on your PC. Especially if you are using Zonealarm or some third party firewall, make sure you have turned off the default Windows firewall. It should not be a problem though as far as I know in having more than one anti-spyware installed.

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