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Fix host hijacks or host file hijacks for free

Sometimes your antivirus will tell you that you have host hijacks or host file hijacks, but not elaborate on how to fix them. Some people charge way too much to fix them. Here’s how to fix host hijacks or host file hijacks for free.

A former classmate’s computer suddenly stopped letting him get to search engines. Aside from that, his computer appeared to be normal.

Fortunately he had some antivirus and antispyware software installed, so he was able to run it and get a relatively clean bill of health, but he still couldn’t use Google or Bing or Yahoo.

One of the pieces of software he ran mentioned a host hijack or hosts file hijack, but didn’t offer to clean it up without ponying up some serious bucks.

That was enough to tell me how to clean it up though. You don’t have to buy anything.Read More »Fix host hijacks or host file hijacks for free

A late adopter’s survival guide to Facebook: Part 1 of 3

A good friend asked me for some thoughts on Facebook this week. Like many people, he’s resistant. But, as he put it, it’s the standard for personal, non-professional communication these days. As a Facebook late adopter, I understand the hesitancy. As someone with a couple of years’ experience, I’ve weathered some storms. So he asked me for my thoughts on its pitfalls and avoiding them.

Arm your system’s defenses

I went something like 16 years without catching a virus, until I caught something earlier this year. My antivirus software minimized the damage, but this was embarrassing. Whether it came from a rogue ad on their site or some rogue app, I don’t know. But if you intend to participate, protect your system from known malware domains. whether at the operating system level, or by using Adblock Plus.

Even if Facebook is completely benevolent (which I doubt), it’s a huge, attractive target for malware authors, and it has a history.

Games

Maybe the games are fun. I don’t know; I stay away from them. I get tired of hearing about casual acquaintances’ game activity, and I really don’t care to annoy all of my casual acquaintances with them. And frankly, before I learned you could hide these games by hovering over the update and clicking the ‘x’, I really wondered about certain people because it looked like they were spending their entire lives playing games.

But there’s an even better solution…

Filtering

Several filters exist: F.B. Purity, Better Facebook, and FFixer are popular ones. I use F.B. Purity and I’m pretty happy with it. It blocks the games and the stupid link-sharing apps, which eliminates at least 50% of the noise. At least now I don’t see waves of “Click here if God ever answered a prayer!” and similar posts that tend to percolate up every so often–and it seems like once one of your friends posts one of those, 30 of them follow.

I don’t know why people see the need to use Facebook apps to say things like that–I could go through my friends list and tell you who would say yes and no to that particular question, probably with greater than 90% accuracy–but it’s not my problem anymore. Every time I sign on to Facebook, all I see is that FB Purity hid 10 superfluous updates. I can see them if I click on something, but I never bother.

Politics and religion

There’s a growing disrespect for differing views in these two arenas. I suspect it’s because today’s popular opinion makers have no respect for differing opinions and encourage their fans to behave similarly, but whatever the reason is, I have less and less interest in participating in it.

My view seems to be a minority view. I have some acquaintances who seem to have plenty of time to post 15 updates every day about these things. You probably already know who you can safely talk about these things with and who’s just going to call you an idiot. (Hint: the more extreme the view, whether left or right, the worse your chances.) Unfortunately I’ve had some conversations on these topics that damaged relationships. A better approach is just to hide the status updates of people who post 15 inflammatory updates per day. Then you can still keep in touch, without being stuck reading a ton of stuff that gets under your skin every day.

And since you probably don’t want to read that kind of stuff, you shouldn’t be one of those kinds of people. While there are things I believe in, I realize it’s counter-productive to post updates about those things multiple times a day. Posting obnoxious links and status updates isn’t going to convert my atheist friends to Christianity. It’s more likely to make them dig in. Posting obnoxious links or parroting obnoxious pundits isn’t going to convert my friends’ political views either. And on the latter, I’m not certain that it’s productive.

If you feel the need to talk about such things, do it in a targeted fashion. Confine it to the people you know you can have productive discussions with. Not all 999 people you know. But I’m getting way ahead of myself–I’ll cover that in part 3, when I talk about lists.

Parts 2 and 3 will follow later in the week.

Blocking malware at the operating system level

In recent months I’ve been recommending that everyone run Adblock Plus with the malware domains subscription, to get extra protection beyond what your antivirus/antispyware suite can give. Given a choice between detecting and blocking bad stuff, or not downloading it at all, it’s much better to not download it at all.

There are some downsides to this. Adblock Plus uses a fair bit of memory. It’s tolerable on my desktop PC with 2 GB of RAM, but less so on my netbook with 1 GB of RAM. And if you have to use a browser that doesn’t have a compatible version of Adblock Plus available, you’re unprotected.

The solution is to block at the operating system level, using the hosts file.

Here’s a script that does it, with instructions.
http://www.ericphelps.com/scripting/samples/Hosts/index.htm

But I know of one malware site list that his script doesn’t use: http://www.malwaredomainlist.com/hostslist/hosts.txt.

Read More »Blocking malware at the operating system level

Hey! I’m famous!

I got mentioned in a post about Adblock Plus on Lifehacker.

In a comment about something else, I mentioned that you should install Adblock Plus and turn on the Malware Domains subscription to give yourself protection beyond what your antivirus software does. If intercepting bad-guy software is good, not even downloading it in the first place is better.

I guess someone liked the advice.

Another site listing spyware-free software

Generally speaking, I tell people not to install free software on a computer anymore unless it’s licensed under the GNU GPL or another similar open-source license, because open-source software is the only type of software that has any high degree of likelihood of not containing adware or spyware or other malware.

The problem with that advice is that the people who know what it means probably already follow it, and if you follow this Farquhar’s Law (there are many) to the letter, you miss out on gems like Irfanview.I’ve recommended the Tinyapps.org web site for a long, long time, but some jewels like Mozilla are much too big to qualify for that list.

Enter Cleansoftware.org.

While neither list is likely to have every safe, free application available, checking those sites for software that does what you want gives a broader range of choice than simply making a blanket statement like “Don’t install anything that isn’t Free (as in speech) Software,” or “Don’t install anything that isn’t GPL.”

If you want software that you can copy and redistribute and, if you wish, modify, with little or no restriction, then of course your best bet is to check out Freshmeat.net and look for software with a license that’s OSL approved.

Contrary to what it may seem, strings-free freeware isn’t a totally lost art. You just have to look a little harder these days, that’s all.