The method illustrated in the tutorials on this site will fortify your system to the point where remote attacks should not work. But while covering up key attack surfaces greatly reduces your exposure to Web-borne threats, it is never safe practice to assume with cocksureness that there is absolutely no way for criminals to gain a foothold on your machine. This technique focuses on remote attacks, not on infected files that you open yourself. If a Trojan horse accesses the registry, or any folder other than system32 or any of its subfolders (Program Files, for example), then a locked kernel won't stop it.
You may further reduce your exposure to attack by focusing as well on the vectors they use. Commonly used software; such as iTunes, QuickTime, RealPlayer, Adobe Acrobat, and Adobe Reader; as well as various instant messaging clients such as AIM, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo!, and the VoIP client Skype; double as commonly used points of entry for hackers. Try to keep these up to date. Adobe Flash is garnering a lot of bad press lately, as one vulnerability after another is being found that enables criminals to bypass some of Microsoft's latest and greatest technologies. Flash and Java are two programs that rely on Microsofts' just-in-time (JIT) compiler, which presents a reliable way for hackers to bypass key defenses in Windows 7 and Vista that Microsoft probably won't be able to fix; they will have to rewrite a lot of code, which likely will not happen until Windows 8. A way to keep on top of all these at once is to visit Secunia's Online Software Inspector (OSI), and run it regularly. Even better, you could install their Personal Software Inspector (PSI) on your own computer. I recommend setting Automatic Updates (or Windows Updates) to "Download updates for me, but let me choose when to install them." This way, you don't have to worry about it at all; security patches will be downloaded automatically as they become available, and can be installed automatically the next time you turn off your PC. You do not have to unlock your system for this; restrictions do not apply when you are logged off.
I recommend turning off the Remote Registry service. Since this site was first launched in August of 2007, I've yet to see a drive-by download that could get past a simple kernel lockdown, but that doesn't mean there won't be such an exploit five seconds from the moment you finish reading this sentence (there could be one already). I also recommend turning USB AutoRun off, to prevent the loading of parasites that spread via flash drives, such as Conficker. You could turn off both AutoRun and AutoPlay (CD-ROM version of AutoRun) if you like. To my knowledge, these registry edits work on all versions of Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and 7; and may work on others.
Whenever you get an e-mail with an attachment, even when it's from someone you know, save the attachment to your desktop first, and then scan it at VirusTotal before opening it. If you don't know the person who sent the message, then you shouldn't open it at all. Also, you should refrain from forwarding chain letters, and advise loved ones to do the same; somewhere down the line, your e-mail address and many others will wind up in a spammer's hands. When this happens, you'll soon be getting tens to hundreds of male enhancement advertisements and other junk in your inbox, and eventually your address itself may be spoofed by a spammer.
The last time I had to ask someone to stop sending chain letters was quite an upsetting day. He knew to conceal all of his recipients' addresses with BCC, but had forgotten for once and left them all exposed. The very next day, my spam count had catapulted from ±3 messages to over 20!!! I am typing this edit nearly a month later, and diligently bouncing spam with MailWasher Pro has gotten it back down to about 5-10 spam messages a day. There are no hard feelings between my friend and me, but anyone who thinks I appreciated this little botch is sadly mistaken.
Chain letters are like a wolf in sheep's clothing. They may be cute, they may make you laugh, and they may wrench a tear from your eye; but underneath it all, they have razor-sharp teeth. Do not allow yourself to be coerced by the old Matthew 10:33 trick. The devil knows scripture better than anyone, and will take every opportunity to exploit it. If you really want to show friends and family that you love them with a letter, then make it a personal letter. It may not be as funny as that joke about God and Satan with food, and it might not choke you up like the MADD poem, "I Went to a Party, Mom," but it's still a lot more meaningful, and a lot safer.
Try switching from Internet Explorer to a different Web browser. A worthy alternative is Firefox. This open source browser is less of a target than IE, and compatible with the vast majority of sites on the Internet. And the library of extensions available for Firefox is probably superlative in the browser realm. I recommend setting Firefox as your default browser, using IE only when necessary (if ever). I also recommend complementing Firefox with McAfee SiteAdvisor, Web of Trust (WOT), or both. These are Web-rating tools, which can help give you an idea as to whether it is wise to submit your e-mail address or any other sensitive information on a particular Web site, or whether you should even be on the site at all.
There is a plague of fake antivirus scanners and disk defragmenters right now. And even though most people are correctly identifying these as less than trustworthy, almost everybody is being duped into installing them anyway. And when they find that the fake alerts persist, and begin to restrict all activity on the computer, they have no idea what they could possibly have done wrong; they are safe surfers! What they don't know is this: when we see pop-ups on the Internet, we are conditioned to close them by clicking the red "X" button. But in the case of a rogue antivirus, this button is craftily designed to install the malware, which works even on Windows 7 and Vista. The only way to avoid infection by these baddies is to close the browser itself (Alt + F4) or restart Windows; my method will not stop them. You could take my method a bit further by locking down Program Files and the entire WINDOWS/WINNT folder, rather than just system32. This could prevent your antivirus from being crippled by hostile agents, including rogue antivirus products. It still wouldn't stop a rogue antivirus from being installed, as they don't usually go to the Program Files folder. But what it would do is help to minimize damage to Windows and your applications.
Something every PC user ought to know is that there is software you can use to backup Windows exactly as it is. Malware is not the only threat your computer faces, nor the most immediate. You, and anyone else with physical access to your computer, can mess it up faster than any remote hacker ever could. In addition, every hard drive dies sooner or later. It might save the hair in your scalp if you have a clone or DVD backup that can be loaded onto a new drive, having you back up and running in a few minutes to a couple of hours. This is ever so much faster and simpler than restoring your operating system, applications, settings, and precious data; piecemeal over the course of a week or even longer. I backup my own machines with Acronis True Image, and recommend you do the same. The most secure computer is one that is backed up.
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