The Computer Security Information on this page is for reference only. For more detailed information please see your "Help" system in your operating system or read the information via the links provided, associated with each security issue.

Computer Security Information

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System Security

It is very important to keep your system secure for both yourself and anyone you email or work with on-line. It is as important as locking and setting your car alarm. Any of the following can cause major problems; spam, viruses, spyware, hackers, worms. Access can be through software and software vulnerabilities and identity theft. As the level of threats to your PC rise, it becomes much more important to keep your PC protected and up to date.

Some computer users have trouble justifying the expense of virus protection programs or similar software. What most users do not know until their computer becomes infected or worse, is the cost of repairing the damage. In some cases the cost of the repairs far exceeds the value of the computer.

Below we have listed some information and resources that may help you to keep your PC "healthy".

Please Note: We are not affiliated with any of the companies or products listed, nor do we receive any kind of compensation from them. We are simply supplying the titles for informational purposes and assume no responsibility for the companies or their products. The programs, software and or patches are supplied only as a helpful suggestion we assume no responsibility as to how they work or their function ability on your computer. The user has the sole responsibility to test and appraise the software, programs or patches.

Keep your operating system up to date

One of the most important concerns is to make sure your operating system is up to date. This can be accomplished simply (for Windows operating systems) by clicking on your "Start" button then click on "Windows Update". Of course you need to be on-line, your computer will synchronize with Microsoft's server and let you know what critical updates are available. We suggest installing all critical patches available.

Keeping your operating system up to date keeps security loop-holes closed. It address most security issues that have been found or reported to Microsoft, as well as system enhancements and usually makes your system more stable.

Windows updates are now automatic and do not require user intervention as a general rule.

If you get e-mail that claims to contain a Microsoft software update, it is probably a virus, trying to trick you into infecting your computer. Microsoft never widely distributes software in e-mail.

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Anti-Virus protection

Anti-virus programs are one of the most important concerns in today's computer world. Viruses come in with email, text messaging, voice messaging, web pages over active-x channels and many more avenues. We can not stress enough how important it is to have and keep updated your antivirus protection.

A common misconception; "I got anti-virus with my new computer two years ago, it still protects me even though I can't update it anymore, right?". (How many times we have heard this one.) You are protected only in the smallest way. If you are not able to update your virus definitions all new viruses that have come out since your last update are potential trouble. Some anti-virus software will not see them even if they are launched.

Anti-virus companies offer yearly subscriptions for a nominal cost. It is a very good idea to continue your definitions update service and every few years re-invest in a new version of your anti-virus software. Most venders such as Norton Anti-Virus® offer discounts to customers for upgrading their software.

PC virus infection is all too prevalent. These, shall we say, spiteful programs cause damage to your computer and corrupt systems. Once you have a virus your computer will email the virus to other computers. To help stay protected from viruses, we strongly recommend purchasing and installing anti-virus software. Also, it's important to keep your virus protection software current and updated with the latest virus definitions.

These two programs are among the best on the market;


Spyware and ad-ware

Spyware and ad-ware are increasingly becoming more prevalent than viruses. According to internet research for AOL over 90% of internet users have spyware installed on their systems. While spyware and ad-ware are usually not as dangerous at first as viruses, they will become just as harmful in time.

Both spyware and ad-ware in time will slow down you computer and re-direct you to browser pages of their choice, usually x-rated sites, but, not always. Have you ever typed a web page address incorrectly and get a "help" page displayed with domain ads and links, if so, you have spyware or ad-ware in your system. Should you mistype a web site address you should get a "Page can not be displayed" error, not a domain ad page or some other "help page".

Free software, such as file-sharing applications, some music downloading software, that are downloaded from the Internet sometimes come with additional software sometimes called "spyware" or "ad-ware". The more frequently you download software, the more often you should scan your system to detect and remove hidden spyware.

What is spyware, ad-ware and what does it do;

The term spyware/ad-ware refers to software that gathers personal information from your computer, mostly without your knowledge. The information is usually used for advertising. Spyware may cause your computer to slow down or encounter unexplained errors. Spyware also causes unwanted pop-up advertisements, an inability to connect to the Internet and sometimes printing or peripheral connection problems.

Spyware applications can be hidden in freeware or shareware programs that are easily downloaded from the Internet. Once you install the programs, spyware will monitor your activity on the Internet and almost always transmit your surfing activities to a third party. Some forms of spyware collect information about; e-mail addresses, passwords, and sometimes credit card numbers.

The most common way to get spyware on your computer is through the downloading and installation of file-swapping programs. These programs are used to download music and movies from the Internet. Though they me be free they come with a high cost, your privacy (or lack thereof). This is not to say all free download software is laden with spyware and ad-ware, be cautious when downloading. If you are unsure, email the contact vendor for the software you want to download. No response to the question, "Does the free downloadable software you offer contain any spyware, ad-wear, tracking or data miners?" probable means it does.

How to delete spyware and ad-ware

There are many software packages available for spyware, ad-ware removal.

We suggest running anti-spyware scan at least once a week, more often if possible.

A more advanced software is MalwareBytes. This software is more precise at removing spyware and costs around $40.

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Firewalls are a bit more tricky. They are great when they working and are configured correctly, but, can be a little tricky to configure. Firewalls for home computers are not so hard to install and configure. Most will install in a few minutes with a default configuration, which in most cases is fine for the average user.

What is a firewall;

The term "fire wall" originally meant, and still means, a fireproof wall to prevent the spread of fire from one place or area of a building to another. The Internet is a volatile and unsafe environment when viewed from a computer-security perspective, therefore "firewall" is an excellent term for security.

A firewall protects your network/computer from unwanted Internet traffic. The primary function of a firewall is to let normal or good traffic pass through while ‘bad’ traffic gets blocked. The most important part of a firewall is its configuration that distinguish between good and bad traffic.

When installed, a firewall exists between your computer and the Internet. The firewall lets you browse web pages, download files, chat, etc. while making sure other people on the internet can not access your computer. Some firewalls are software that run on your computer like Windows XP Firewall®. Other firewalls are built into hardware and can protect your network/computer from attack.

If you have Microsoft's Windows XP there is a firewall built in, by default it is usually turned on. See "Help and Support" in Windows XP for more information.


Firewall software can be purchased between $40. and $80. at almost any Staples, EB store, online or large department stores.

For more information on Firewall software;


System hijacking is when a piece of software (sometimes within a virus) download with a music, photo or video file swapping or like software takes over your browser. When you try to surf to a page the browser displays a page of it's own, opens four, five or more new browser windows and usually but, not always one of the windows asks you for personal information. Every time you try to close a browser window more open. Sometimes other control windows (like control panel) will open.

One of the tactics is to install a browser hijacker in the system. Hijackers are tools that knowingly or unknowingly alter the settings of your browser start page, or install helper data that your web browser relays. Hijackers are usually in the Trojan category of the viruses. A hijacker installs itself in some hidden and undetected part of your system.

Some consider hijacking part of spyware or ad-ware, some do not. Either way it is annoying and does not let you surf the web, in time it may stop you from connecting to the internet.

This type of problem may be harder to solve, first try those utilities listed under "Spyware and Ad-ware". If those are unsuccessful you may require professional help to remove the spyware/hijaker software.

To read more about this and security information at Microsoft click here.

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Email Spoofs  -- "phishing"

Email spoofs are fast becoming a new threat. They make the receiver of the email believe that a website they use needs updating. If you are unsure of the validity of the request, email the webmaster of the real site (the one you use) and attach or forward the email you received. Ask if the email came from them.
  • Do not "Reply To" or email the sender of the email or the contact email contained in the suspected email you received.
  • Go to the actual site you normally use, do not click on the link in the suspected email.

That being said, we here at Cape Cod Web Service as well as other business do send out emails reminding customers to update their credit card or other information. If you suspect an email that looks like it came from us is a fraud, do not hesitate to contact us. You may also surf to our members page and update your information directly from our site. Most often when we request an update we will send you to our website before going to the secure update site. This is done to re-assure the customer that indeed it is a valid request, not a spoof.

Below are two spoof/fraud emails we received here at the office. Note how legitimate they look, but, they have hidden details.

The link they provide for the form to fill out is a fraud, it is masked it will send you to the fraud site*.

This type of email is called "Phishing".

What Is "Phishing?"

"Phishing" refers to a person or group of cyber-criminals who create imitation or a copy of an existing legitimate web page to trick users into providing critical personal account information. Responding to "phishing" emails puts your accounts at risk.

If you are expecting a conformation email, or have just completed business at a web site and receive an email immediately, chances are its legitimate. An any case if you are unsure, email the webmaster or account dept directly from the site, not the suspected email.


*We have altered the links in these emails so that they will not resolve to the actual sites.

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Email Security (or lack thereof)

Email generally has no security, period.* Anything you send out in an email can be read by anyone who wants to read it while in transit. The email may travel around the world before it gets to your mailbox. Email can be duplicated and copied.

Remember, you should not send via email:

  • credit card information
  • bank account information
  • unpublished telephone numbers
  • sensitive personal information
  • specific travel plans
  • identification numbers, such as social security numbers
  • or any critical information

While the risk may be small, why take it. Be cautious when sending information via email.

There are secure forms of email, they are PGP, digitally signed and encrypted. We occasionally send a certified digitally signed email, it allows the receiver to be assured it is from us and has not been tampered with.

*Most users of Microsoft's Outlook® or Outlook Express® can send an encrypted message, but, you must obtain a digital Security I.D. and authentication. It can be expensive and requires you to maintain a security certificate. Digital Encryption requires both the sender and receiver to have a digital security certificate.

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We are not affiliated with any of the companies or products listed, nor do we receive any kind of compensation from them. We are simply supplying the titles and links for informational purposes and assume no responsibility for the companies or their products. The programs, software and or patches are supplied only as a helpful suggestion we assume no responsibility as to how they work or their function ability on your computer. The user has the sole responsibility to test and appraise the software, programs or patches.