The Internet, Your Computer, and How Not to be Stupid

Started by Ryex, March 16, 2011, 10:10:58 pm

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March 16, 2011, 10:10:58 pm Last Edit: September 07, 2014, 11:36:13 pm by Ryex
The Internet, Your Computer, And How to Not Be Stupid

(And a Few Tricks Just in Case)

By: Ryex, Student of Computer Sciences


Suckers, there is one born every minute, and the internet turns out to be the perfect place to pray on them. There exists pieces of software called viruses, spyware, malware, and a whole bunch of other "wares". Most of these "wares" are dangerous and you should have nothing to do with them.  The internet is just like the real world in that there are at least just as many people about, the difference is that it's a whole order of magnitude easier to get scammed. Scams pop up left and right some last weeks some months and all of them can ruin you or your computer. The sad thing is that you have to be almost completely ignorant to get Viruses. I get maybe 1 ever other year when I decide to take a risk on something and I can get rid of it in a matter of minutes. This guide will attempt to make you aware of these threats, teach you how to avoid them, and combat them just in case you stray too close. In short, reading this guide will make you not stupid when it come to online threats.

Another travesty of this modern age is that while I meet people every day who have grown up with computers and use them every day. very few of them actually understand what they are doing they've simply memorized a process to do mundane tasks like check their email or write a word document. Stepping out of the process is both uncomfortable and confusing; learning how to use a new program, or a new feature in a program they've used before is difficult and they need to be walked through it step by step. This is pitiful, a computer is a much more power full tool than a word processor and a means to access web pages. Proper utilization can make your life much easier. As a computer user you should understand the full capabilities of the device that you paid anywhere between $300 to $8000 dollars for. And so, this guide will also teach you the basics of how your computer works, and while it won't get you an IT job you should at least be considered on your way if not among the power users.

This guide will start off incomplete as I add information and sections along the way. I welcome community input for both experiences and knowledge that will be useful and pertinent to the guide.

The Threats

In this day and age information is indeed power and you posses a great deal that other would like to steal for them selves.

Things like key loggers and other Spyware exists just to take this information with out your knowledge. They can record your key strokes and search them for repeating patters that may be passwords or other personal information and then transmit this information back to some one who can use it to obtain  access you your money or steal your identity.

There are also website that do the same thing. in a practice known as phishing people will put out fake websites that look like the real thing in an effort to steal your account information. they exist for everything from WoW to DA to you local bank.

the end result is the same. suddenly you identity has been stolen and be it a WoW account or your bank credentials YOU gave them the power to take it.

but fret not you can become savvy and learn to spot such scams and avoid them.

There are also other types of illicit programs that can do everything from scamming you into buying a fake anti-virus to redirecting your Google links to other search engines to wiping data from your hard drive they're all trouble and they're all preventable.

Non Threats

A note of warning, not everything that goes wrong with your computer is the fault a virus, in fact, most things aren't. I see people complain how their computer is too full of viruses to work properly and while if you get the wrong combination of malware and viruses in your computer you can get some weird behavior this is highly unlikely, it's far more probably you have a more mundane but much more serious problem on your hands.

if the computer is just slow, you find your self what seems like forever for a page to load and everything seems lagy, well you computer might just be old and out of date, not powerful enough to keep up with the ever increasing load of the ever more heavy web pages. it should also be that your facing the mysterious problem that plagues windows after one too many update cycles, (seriously windows gets slower the more updates you install and there is no explanation), or you might just be experiencing severe hard drive fragmentation

In all those cases the easiest solution is to

Computer Basics

In order to prevent and counter the threats to your computer's well being as well as to be able to use your computer to it's fullest extent. you need to understand how it works.

The Parts

Understanding the computer starts at the hardware. The physical pieces of your computer that use electricity to do everything else.

The first piece is the Motherboard. This piece can be considered to be a small computer itself it contains a small processor and some flash memory and provides an interface to all the other pieces of hardware. the Mother Board runs a program called a BIOS(Basic Input/Output System), if it's a little bit more modern it might be running a UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). Both are simply a program hard coded into the board that allows all the other pieces of hardware to communicate, it is actually the first thing to run when you start your computer.

Plugged into the Motherboard is the most important piece called a Processor. this piece of hardware does all the calculations in your computer and consists of hundreds of thousands of tiny transistors packed onto a small block. transistors can be in two states, On (1 or True) or Off (0 or false), and these on off states when counted in the thousands are capable of doting large calculations. how this is achieved is beyond the scope of this guide, suffice it to say that while I understand it myself it would take ages to explain, it works that's all you should need to know for now. Go look up how logic gates work and build up to make adders it you really want to know.

Also plugged into your motherboard is your Hard Drive (also refereed to as an HD, not to be confused with the video term HD meaning High Definition). this device stores information in large quartiles in the form of binary true, false sequences (1, 0). they can be constructed in two forms. mechanical (a flat magnetic disk that spins and is read by an arm like an old style record) or Solid State. Solid state drive are made of large clusters of flash memory like what's in a flash drive, basically transistors that lock into position and stay that way even if there is no power. Flash memory is far faster when it come to reading and writing data quite literally the fastest medium possible at the moment but they are subject to wear much faster than solid state drives. Each transistor can only be written to so many times be fore it fails, but at the same time they can't be wiped by large magnets or damages by dropping them (unless they hit hard enough to actually break them).

There can also be devices like Graphics Cards and Sound Cards that act as separate processors specifically designed to process graphics and sound but they are also commonly integrated into the processor or motherboard these days. If you have a discreet (separate) card for your graphics or sound your computer is generally considered more powerful.

There are also devices for reading data off other storage devices like CD, DVD, and Blu Ray drives that read and write data to disks and devices for reading memory cards from cameras etc. and there are ports for connecting external hardware like printers, screens, usb drives, mice, keyboards etc. HDMI or Displayport ports for connecting screens with a high data transfer rate ideal for showing HD video, and others. For the most part these are not of the concern of this guide. But generally a computer has an Optical Drive (a drive for reading disks; CD, DVD, Blu Ray) and a bunch of USB ports to connect you mouse keyboard and any other external hardware. Ports for connecting monitors are either built into the motherboard (is the board stupors Processors with integrated graphics cards) or provided by a discrete graphics card. Common types include VGA (oldest limited display resolution) DVI (replaces VGA can do HD resolutions and above) HDMI (popular with TV and media devices as it can do video and sound at the same time) and Displayport (Can do extremely high resolutions, 4k video anyone? And can daisy chain 3-4 monitors off one port, a bit rare right now in 2014)

The Boot Process

When you press the power button the first thing that happens is that the BIOS/UEFI from the motherboard loads. it checks all the connected hardware and initializes it. then (depending on your boot sequences) it checks your storage devices to find an Operating System (sometimes referred to as an OS). the Operating System is like the BIOS/UEFI in that it manages interface with hardware etc. but it is MUCH bigger and is stored in a storage device like you Hard Drive. The BIOS starts a program called a Boot Loader that in turn load the Operating System. the Operating system again searches for Hardware and load programs called Drivers to govern the interface with the Hardware. If you're Using Linux or OSX instead of Windows these things are referred to as Kernel Modules

After all of the above you're greeted by your login screen. Once you login the Operating System starts a bunch of new programs like your desktop and others. If you're on a windows PC this includes explorer.exe (this displays your start bar, all your desktop icons, your wallpaper, and all the windows you use when you explore the files on your hard drive), a Display Manager that governs the interface between user input and windows created by other programs. a bunch of services that control things like internet access. and any startup programs like your antivirus / security software or anything else you've set to run at startup.

Whats a Program?

A program is a set of instructions that are executed linearly by your operating system to perform some action. a mulch-thread application executes more than one set of instruction linearly at the same time. if you want to know more, learn programing. this knowledge is beyond the scope of the guide

Your Desktop

The Desktop is what you're greeted with after you log onto your computer. It's your wallpaper, the desktop icons, the task-bar, etc. Generally speaking this is where you spend most of your time, yes even when you on the internet you're still using your desktop.

The Browser

These days a great deal is done inside your web browser, as such choosing the right one is both important both the comfort of your work-flow and for security reasons.

If you're running windows XP DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT use internet explorer. Ideally you should ditch XP ASAP as it's end of life and will no longer receive security updates (not that it did in the last four years anyway but whatever back on topic). The latest version of IE to run on XP is version 8, version 8 while far better than version 6 that come on XP by default is still a rats nest of security holes and compliance issues that will make using the internet hell for you. Modern tech will NOT work in IE8 and you'll be prone for all sorts of malware and viruses.

Instead use an alternative like Firefox for Google's Chrome (just search for them, there are easy to find.) indeed any savvy computer user that installs Windows will tel you one of the first things they do is open IE, down load one of those two browsers and install them, close IE and promptly forget IE exists.

There are other browsers like Opera, Midori, Maxthon, Avant, and a score of others, check them out if you want they have to be better than IE can I can make no personal recommendations as I've never used them.
If you're running Windows 7 or 8 then you able to run the latest version of IE version 11 and while the days of IE being the worst browser ever are for the most part behind it with version 11 and it's perfectly useable form a user and security standpoint I would still recommend ditching it for Firefox or Chrome, those too will get security updates far faster than IE and will always be up to date on threats and tech.
If you're running OSX or Linux then you're in the clear, Use the browser that came with the computer or pick one of the ones mentioned above, doesn't really matter. Those those of you on OSX using Safari might want to consider something else, Safari is fine on security but it's decrepitly slow compared to the others.

The Use of Adblock

Adblock is a plug-in for most browsers that blacklists and blocks the display of ads. Its a great security tool as occasionally even perfectly legit sites using an ad service to support their upkeep costs will get a bad ad that could infect you. And it sure gets rid of those pesky advertisement, But be wary, I dread the day that EVERYONE uses adblock, it will be the day the internet as we know it can no longer exist. That VAST majority of websites make a profit off of advertisement and only advertisement, when you block their ads they can't make any money, if they aren't making money that website will likely disappear forever as it's host pulls it down to cut costs. Even now you see site that will prevent you from entering the site if they see you have ad-block enabled. Be kind to your fellow internet community, whitelist the sites you visit often in your ad-block so you can support their existence. Yes, even YouTube.

The Use of NoScript

NoScript is a plug-in or setting on browsers that disables the use of JavaScript on web-pages. In the old days of IE 6 it was a great security tool and could prevent a great many security threats. These days it's use is an artifact of paranoia and your an idiot if you insist on using it. JavaScript engines these days are the CORE of most website experiences, nothing works on web-pages with NoScript enabled. Modern browsers are ever conscious of security hole in their browsers and this includes the JavaScript engine. In-fact most of them sandbox their JavaScript engine these days preventing them from even touching the rest of your computer.

The only thing you do when you use NoScript is make a web-developer's life hell, because s/he has to figure out how to get the same content to you as everyone else but with no programing language to work with,

Say No to NoScript.

Security Software

These days security software has really grown up, real time scanning, firewalls, the works. Almost nothing can get by them.

If you're on XP make SURE you're using a good security suite, I could debate the merits left and right of all of them but in the end so long as you have one the biggest threats will be dealt with. AVG, Mcafee, Norton, Nod32, Malwarebytes, Avast. Something, just use something. Be sure to use an adware scan along with it as most security software don't do adware.  Spybot and AdwCleaner are both very good.

If you're on Windows 7 Use Microsoft security essentials, It's free, just as effective as all the alternatives, but it's extremely lightweight and integrates with windows better. Microsoft finally got their security right. But again be sure to use an adware scan too.
On windows 8 Microsoft finally REALLY got security right. The inbuilt Windows defender is great, no need to buy external security unless you REALLY want to, research your buy carefully though, some of them are worse than defender. And using a worse security software would just be silly. Again, get yourself an additional adware scan.

If you on OSX or Linux you almost don't have to worry, it's both too hard because of the fundamental differences in the system, and not worth it because of market share to write a virus or other malware for those systems. That said they do exist, they are rare but they do. Security software also exist for these systems, do a quick search and you'll have a few options to consider. If you take your security a little more seriously on those systems than I do, install one.

Spotting a Scam


((Still not done, but better))
I no longer keep up with posts in the forum very well. If you have a question or comment, about my work, or in general I welcome PM's. if you make a post in one of my threads and I don't reply with in a day or two feel free to PM me and point it out to me.<br /><br />DropBox, the best free file syncing service there is.<br />


Lol, I was just considering to sticky this, then I noticed it already was stickied. xD Good job.
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thanks, I'm trying to keep it entertaining for the people who know what their doing while informational for those who don't.
I no longer keep up with posts in the forum very well. If you have a question or comment, about my work, or in general I welcome PM's. if you make a post in one of my threads and I don't reply with in a day or two feel free to PM me and point it out to me.<br /><br />DropBox, the best free file syncing service there is.<br />


Though i use computers frequently and understand them fairly well, this was still educational to me and entertaining :)

If you were a fish...


I no longer keep up with posts in the forum very well. If you have a question or comment, about my work, or in general I welcome PM's. if you make a post in one of my threads and I don't reply with in a day or two feel free to PM me and point it out to me.<br /><br />DropBox, the best free file syncing service there is.<br />


Huh. I never noticed this topic. Nice work Ryex. And yes, you should add more content to it :D
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I've updated the guide a bit, about freaking time. corrected the early sections and added a few
I no longer keep up with posts in the forum very well. If you have a question or comment, about my work, or in general I welcome PM's. if you make a post in one of my threads and I don't reply with in a day or two feel free to PM me and point it out to me.<br /><br />DropBox, the best free file syncing service there is.<br />