IT Information Tips

The biggest Internet virus of all… yourself

Here is an article I created for student who may be wondering what they need to do to protect themselves and their computer on the Internet against viruses, hardware failure, software failure and data loss.
 
Russell Neitzke, Ed.D.
Office of Student Services
Graduate Theological Foundation
Dodge House
415 Lincoln Way East
Mishawaka, Indiana 46544
Toll Free: 1-800-423-5983
Phone: 1-574-255-3642
Fax: 1- 574-255-7520
email
 
I have been programming computers for 31 years to assist me with everything from word processing to audio wave spectrum analysis.  Since 1977, computer problems have outpaced computer understanding by the general public, and as a result, an entire industry of computer tech support has been created.  That industry continues to thrive by keeping the general public in the dark about how to manage their own computers.  I would like to share a few computer maintenance tips with you to help you protect your time, your money, your data and your computer.  Of course there are many other ways to protect yourself, but this is what has worked for me.  So if you are wondering what to do, here is one method of protecting yourself.
 
Backup Your Data Every Day
Backup your data every day and put the backup on a shelf so you never lose more than a day’s worth of work.  I bought (7) 1 gigabyte usb flash drives for $35 from froogle.com online.  I wrote a day of the week on each stick, and I copy my data in the “documents and settings” folder each day to one of these usb sticks.  Each week I burn my data to a dvd, write the date on the dvd and put it on a shelf in a box.  This process creates a physical copy of my data, email, computer settings and a physical log of the changes to that data over time.  This will protect you in case your hard drive motor dies, if you get a virus that attacks your files, if you accidentally delete your files and if you intentionally delete your files and then say, “whoops."   If you want to add a disaster recovery plan to this backup plan, you can keep the dvd in a remote location which will protect your data against fire, floods, earthquakes and theft.  Lately I have just been relying on the usb sticks to store the data rather than a cd because the usb sticks don’t scratch.  Also, unlike a hard drive, they have no moving parts that can fail.  I just bought a new computer from cpdist.com where the operating system and all applications are on the flash drive which means the only thing that can die in my computer now is the fan.  I have also had good luck with emailing myself important documents to my yahoo.com email address.  For now the space is unlimited, the email address is free and they have kept every email I have ever sent or received since 2003.  Amazing.
 
The Internet
Email leads to my second point.  How to protect your computer against viruses, spyware, spam email, hackers and corruption.  All computers on the planet can be connected together via the Internet.  You can log on in Wisconsin and watch the sun rise in Japan.  You can shop in England and have things delivered to your friend in Texas without leaving the house.  You can instantly vote about public policy and find out if you share the majority's view.  You can produce a video presentation and post it to youtube.com for free where millions of people can view it for free.  Amazing.  Unfortunately you can also download a virus which wipes out your hard drive, steals your credit card information, and uses your email address to spam everyone you know about Canadian pharmaceuticals.   There are several things you can do to protect yourself against this. 
 
Virus Protection
Buy ESET Smart Security 4 from http://www.eset.com/  This is a virus protection program, firewall program and anti-spyware program that works pretty well.  I was told by our tech support company at http://www.cpdist.com/ that McAfee and Norton are big, slow, expensive virus protection programs that don’t work and ESET does.  The Graduate Theological Foundation has used it for 5 years and it has never failed us. 
 
Firewall
Eset will automatically turn off the windows firewall and it should remain off as 2 running firewalls can conflict and cause a security breach. 
 
Spyware
Eset is also antispyware.  This will protect you against programs that embed themselves in your operating system and watch you type things like your credit card number.
 
Process Explorer
Download and install process explorer for free from here.  This program acts like the ctrl-alt-delete task manager, but it actually works and actually allows you to shut down programs that you do not want running on your computer.
 
msconfig
Click the start button, click run and type msconfig.  Go to the startup tab and disable everything but ESET.  Click apply and restart your computer.  This will keep all the programs you have ever installed from automatically launching every time you turn on your computer.  You can still start them if you need them but they won’t try to start automatically.  This was probably the most significant trick I learned to speeding up my computer performance. 
 
Clone Your Hard Drive
Buy a second hard drive and a usb converter from http://www.cpdist.com/ and buy and install Acronis from here.  All you have to do is plug the second hard drive into a usb port, open Acronis, click clone the hard drive and follow the wizard. Unplug the hard drive when it is done and put it on a shelf. This will make a complete copy of windows, all of your applications and data. If you lose your hard drive, it will take you hours to reinstall windows and all of your applications and drivers. I can’t tell you how many programs I have lost, and then lost the installation disk as well, and then find out I can’t even buy that program anymore. Every time you install a new program, you can just reclone your hard drive and put it back on the shelf. If you ever lose your hard drive, you can just buy a new one, clone the cloned hard drive from the shelf, copy your usb stick from last night to get all of your data and you are back in business.
 
SPAM
I have been informed by my IT staff that we are stuck with SPAM for the rest of our lives. My webhosting company Bang Web Site Design is kind enough to label emails with a high potential for being spam by altering the email subject line with the word SPAM in front of it. In MS Outlook I can click tools, rules and alerts and create a rule to move any email with the word SPAM in the subject line to my junk email folder. Once or twice a day I look through my junk folder for any legitimate emails, then right click the folder and send the rest to the recycling bin. I have requested from my webhosting company to turn off all email filtering including grey filtering to make sure I get every email. I have to deal with SPAM myself but at least I don’t have to worry about missing any important emails.
 
Tech Support
I am happy to help any student, staff or faculty member troubleshoot their technology problems. If you are using a free email service you usually get no tech support. I would recommend paying a little bit for email as you then can demand technical support. If you are having trouble emailing the offices of the GTF please copy and paste the error message you are receiving to my contact form here. I also ask that all tech support questions be sent via this form. The Internet can be overwhelming but with these few basic skills mentioned above you can become your own guru.
 

Russell Neitzke, Ed.D.
Director of Management Systems
The W. Edwards Deming Professor of Educational Reform
Graduate Theological Foundation
Dodge House
415 Lincoln Way East
Mishawaka, Indiana 46544
Toll Free: 1-800-423-5983
Phone: 1-574-255-3642
Fax: 1- 574-255-7520
email