posted on Nov, 9 2009 @ 11:07 AM
I have often wondered about this. Any computer can get infected by a virus or bot net and become a slave to someone else without the user knowing it.
It is very worrisome to think that your computer could be used to do very illegal things (from child porn to launching attacks on the internet) and
you would be none the wiser until a federal agent knocks on your door. Fortunately, digital forensic investigators are pretty good at detecting if a
virus/bot placed the files on the computer or if you did - but by the time your name is cleared, you probably already missed a lot of work while
sitting in a detention facility while the investigators comb the machine and determine if there is a case to charge you with or not.
In order to prevent any of this from happening, all computer users should be well versed in cyber security. Think about the early 70's - people had
sex rather freely. You knew to protect yourself if you were traveling overseas or sleeping with somebody sketchy, but in general sex was free.
Nowadays you would be insane to randomly hook up with somebody without putting on protection. Everybody that is sexually active should know proper
techniques to "play safe" and the ones that don't get burnt.
The same applies to computer usage. If you use a computer a lot, you ought to know how to properly protect yourself. Ignorance is no longer an
excuse. So, what can you do to protect yourself from getting viruses that may cause your computer to become some bad guy's slave?
1. Legit version of your OS which is updated frequently (daily if possible).
2. Good antivirus software.
3. A web browser with plug ins to ensure it does not allow malicious scripts to run. (Firefox with Add-Ons: AdBlock Plus, BetterPrivacy, etc)
4. Don't go to questionable sites, and don't install pirated software.
5. If you use WiFi at home, ensure your wireless access point is configured with a good password and use WPA/WPA2 encryption.
6. Do not use a user account which has administrative access to the computer. Use a regular user account for day-to-day activities especially web
Some more advanced techniques:
A. Run a virtual machine for casual web browsing. VMWare Player may be downloaded for free (registration required) and then you may download VM
Appliances such as the Web Browser appliance which is a read-only VM image which resets to default every time you reboot it. Impossible to get
B. Use Black-Ice or some other "system freeze" software to lock down your host OS to prevent any unauthorized changes from happening.
C. "Live light" by storing all important documentation and application configurations on a removable or external drive. Encrypt this data as you
see fit (via an encryption utility such as TrueCrypt). If you suspect being infected, reinstall your OS from scratch.
Personally, I am working on building a static base OS (linux in my case) which will have only certain tools and applications installed on it that I
use on a day-to-day bases. These tools and apps will mostly be things that I cannot run in a virtual environment too well - like audio/video editing
or 3D apps. This base OS will then be locked down to any changes and firewall rules will set up to block all network traffic that does not come from
or to one of the virtual machines.
In that base OS, I will have multiple virtual machines which consist of a 'work' one, a 'secure' one and a 'web' one. Each machine will be
configured for its specified task. The work one will have all of my admin tools, vpn software and will be used only for when I work from home. The
secure one will be used for highly sensitive actions including online banking, personal business and some consulting I do for special clients. The
web one will be configured for a rich web experience via Firefox but will not allow many changes to its OS.
There is plenty of technology out there which can be set up to allow you to use the internet safely and without worry. Being concerned about catching
a bot and being used for nefarious purposes is the last thing I need, so it is worth a few hours on a rainy day to set up a "fortress" on my
computer in order to ensure it is clean and safe. You can too, and you can tailor the solution to your needs.