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Internet Tips for Windows Users

Note that nearly all of the links on this page take you to an offsite page.

Contents:

  1. Better Browsers
  2. Email Clients
  3. News Readers
  4. CoolWebSearch Shredder
  5. Spyware Remedies
  6. Anti-Virus Applications
  7. Firewalls
  8. HOSTS file

Better Browsers:

Internet Explorer 6 is quite old now as the life of browsers goes (about 6 years old!), and won't be Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer
updated until probably early 2007 with the tentative release of "Vista" - the XP replacement - according to Microsoft. Check secunia.org for a list of unpatched exploits. [There is the SP2 patch for Windows XP which supposedly updates some security holes, but was reported to not get them all. And cause others.]

Update October 2006: Internet Explorer 7 has now been released as a separate update. It will work with XP SP2, and no Windows versions earlier than that. Reports are mixed. One caveat I read is to be sure to back up all Outlook Express email before installing IE7. Consider this: it is still Internet Explorer. XP users, be aware that Microsoft is planning to push IE7 along with regular Windows updates.

Try one of these modern, superior browsers, all of which have much better security, are not subject to hijacking, have built-in popup window stoppers, tabbed browsing, easy cookie management, lots of other features, and are in a constant state of development. All are free, and all may be installed without interfering with your operating system. Get as many as you like.

Some articles about Internet Explorer:
http://www.thechannelinsider.com/article2/0,1759,1619762,00.asp
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/06/28/cert_ditch_explorer/

If you get Firefox or Mozilla/SeaMonkey, try this toolbar. Trust Firefox http://prefbar.mozdev.org/. Here is a picture with the Customize dialog open.

A quote from an ex die-hard Internet Explorer user:

I've been using Mozilla this week, after losing yet another battle with MSIE. Mozilla is, to use the over-quoted expression, awesome. The difference is like night and day.

— Ernie, an AT&T Worldnet subscriber

From the Seattle Times, 19 July, 2004:

Time to dump Internet Explorer
The recent disclosure of a security hole in Internet Explorer that enables hackers to steal passwords and credit-card numbers seemed to cross a threshold in Windows' error-marred legacy. [ more... ↗ ]

— Paul Andrews

From comp.infosystems.www.authoring.stylesheets on 18 May 2004:

The sad thing is that because most people still use this "stone age" browser [Internet Explorer], Microsoft is now responsible for preventing the development of the WWW.

— Arne from Sweden

From alt.privacy.spyware on 20 July 2004:

I live in a Microsoft house. When the meter reader wants in my house he just walks in. When the cable installer wants in my house he just walks in. When the furnace repairman wants in my house he just walks in. If I lived in a Mozilla house, I would have to be there and let these people into my house. So don't tell me I should get that hard to live in the Mozilla house, tell me how to keep burglars out of my Microsoft house.

— Raldall Bart

From rec.motorcycles on 6 December 2004:

[in response to "Firefox is free..."] As someone who worked on IE from V.4 till 6.0SP2 in the WINNT4-WINSRV2003 OS's , I can say that Firefox is a vastly superior product to IE.

— Andrew

Email Clients:

Please do consider freeing yourself from the grasp of Outlook Express as an email client. It is completely intertwined with Internet Explorer and just as insecure.

There are other mail clients, but these are the most common. Netscape is not listed for the same reason as noted in the Browser section above.

Usenet News Readers:

The following were recommended for inclusion by others:

CoolWebSearch Spyware:

Homepage hijacks to an odd search page are usually the CoolWebSearch malware. It is very hard to get rid of. Try the solution - the CWShredder. Read about it here:
http://cwshredder.net/cwshredder/cwschronicles.html.

Update October 2004: The original author, Merijn Bellekom, has sold CWShredder to Intermute, owners of Spysubtract Pro, a non-free program. Intermute said they would continue to offer the shredder as a free stand-alone product. Download it here:
http://www.intermute.com/spysubtract/cwshredder_download.html

Since most of the latest morphed versions of the CoolWebSearch browser hijacker seem to block the victim's ability to go to the site where the fix program resides, I had placed a copy of the latest file here in my web spaces. However, since the Intermute takeover, I have removed it from this web site.

One of the newest variant of CWS: This one is really difficult. The shredder will not fix it. If your home page is hijacked to some variant of
res://<randomletters>.dll/index.html#<randomnumber>
then see this page: http://www.pchell.com/support/onlythebest.shtml

Google for numerous references to this bad boy.


Spyware Remedies:

(spyware/adware/malware/junkware/scumware/foistware/crapware...)

If you were infected by CoolWebSearch, you may have other problems as well. Peruse this list:

Anti-Spyware Products. These are all free.

Be aware of scams and such, masquerading as spyware removal programs. Some unscrupulous "vendors" are attempting to ride the coattails of good products by selling useless programs with similar names. Spyhunter is one of these to avoid.

  1. Be sure to get the latest updates after installation and before scanning.
  2. Recommended by others, but I personally don't use it.

I would recommend you run the first four on a regular basis, perhaps weekly, if you don't practice Safe Hex.


Anti Virus Applications:

Free applications:

Make sure you get the latest updates to each after installing. Avast! will scan incoming email in applications other than Outlook Express. However, read this first: Scanning Email

You may also make use of online scans. If you do not have an a-v application on your computer, try these:

From a Usenet anti-virus group. A person posted a message complaining of a problem with her a-v software. It wasn't doing its automatic timed scan. I'm paraphrasing here, as it was difficult to comprehend the exact message from the four paragraphs in the post. No cite so I don't embarrass the poster:

What's wrong with my anti-virus program? I have it set to scan for viruses every night at 1:00AM. Around 8 or 9 o'clock I shut down the computer and go to bed. The next morning I start it up, check the anti-virus program, and it doesn't indicate it did a scan!


Firewalls:

Free applications:

Since there are millions of infected computers pinging for new victims, the use of a firewall is highly recommended, even for users on dialup accounts.

What is a firewall? http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=define%3Afirewall

[Some people have reported compatibility problems with Windows XP and ZoneAlarm version 5. I have no further details.]


Your HOSTS file:

What is it?

Note that the use of a HOSTS file is not Windows-specific. All major operating systems will make use of the file. For example, in Linux you will find the file at /etc/hosts

Do not be offended or surprised by "The Page Cannot Be Found..." liberally sprinkled throughout commercial web pages! Do not mind that banner ads are missing, that there is white space in your view port!

Simply, the HOSTS file redirects your browser requests for domains listed in it to the "loopback" address of 127.0.0.1 [or maybe 0.0.0.0 - YMMV]. Rather than re-invent descriptions, how about if you read this:
MVPS.org HOSTS
..to see what the HOSTS file is and what it does. Every Windows computer should have a HOSTS file [filename is actually HOSTS and with no extension] and the location varies with the version of the OS. In my Windows 2000 Professional, the file is in C:\WINNT\system32\drivers\etc This would be C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc for XP.

Note that some browser hijackers and malware can also hijack your HOSTS file. They implant the domain names for anti-virus and anti-spyware web sites so you can't go to those sites for the fixes. If you feel this may be the case, find your HOSTS file and open it with a text editor and check it out. If you find any strange entries, delete them from the file.

What if I use the ancient Netscape 4.x to browse?

It has been said that users of Netscape 4.x cannot use this HOSTS file method for chomping the ads. Seems that browser keeps trying to connect to the ad pages and won't gracefully move on, therefore effectively hanging up. My suggestion is to let that browser die, and move on to a modern unit. You will probably like SeaMonkey.

My own HOSTS file

See this copy of my HOSTS file, which you may copy and paste into your file if you wish. Press your Back button after copying the text to your clipboard. You may choose to use the very large, covers everything file from the MVPS.org site, but I have found that [at least at this writing] most of the major ad servers are in my file [where I surf].

What if I can't find my HOSTS file?

This quote from news:grc.spyware describes the location for Win9x:

> DJ, where is the 'hosts' file? I found all the other files mentioned
> but no hosts' file. I use Opera 6.01 build 1041 with no java installed.
> Thanks.

C:\WINDOWS\HOSTS does not exist on default installations of Win9x. You will find a file called C:\WINDOWS\HOSTS.SAM - the Sample file. Open it in Notepad (or other text editor), and add the lines as shown. Then, do File>Save As... and save it as HOSTS (no extension) in the proper Windows directory - more accurately, save the file in your system's %WINDIR%. [With Notepad, you should surround the file name with double-quotes, since it has no extension.]

On my old Windows 2000 computer, the HOSTS file is located in the folder:

C:\WINNT\system32\drivers\etc

Thanks for reading. Hope it all helped.

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