portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary portland metro

corporate dominance | technology

Computer use and defense: a primer.

Computers can be an invaluable tool to the modern activist. They allow us to communicate and publish our thoughts in ways that no one would have dreamed of, twenty years ago. But, as I was reminded a few days ago, someone who's able to get online doesn't automatically know as much about computers as I do. With that in mind, I present this primer on computer functionality, and defense.
Viruses and Spyware are the biggest threat your computer will face. You're most likely to contract these as you're surfing the net for porn and SNES roms, but a person with malicious intent could also hack a site you trust, and tell it to infect your computer the next time you visit.

If you're using both Windows and Internet Explorer, then you're the most exposed. Both programs are full of holes, and provide little, if any, security. You should think about switching over to the alternatives.
br/> There are many Free/Open source software(FOSS) options for your net surfing, I recommend Firefox. When combined with the Ad Block Plus and Noscript extensions, it provides a strong wall against outside threats.

There are also FOSS options for your operating system. Linix has berthed a number of them, including the most user-friendly, WINE can help you run Windows programs in a Linix environment.

About the FOSS programs; GIMP and Scribus are some of the best. You can use them together to edit photos, and produce pamphlets and Zines. There are also programs out there for editing video, and mixing music. These programs are available for Windows too, if you're not quite ready to make the Linix jump. That covers protecting your own computer, now lets talk about protecting the info you put online.
br/> As has been well covered, the US government has no problem gathering your information. They don't need to get it from your computer, your ISP and e-mail provider are more then happy to hand it over to them. Fortantly, you can take steps to protect your self there, too. The TOR system can help to mask your on-line activity, and programs like GnuPG can help you to encrypt your e-mail.

Again, this is all just a primer. There is tons more information out there, if you want to look for it.

Nother defensive method 05.Dec.2007 12:58


It's also possible to block a large percentage of the ads you see in your browser. It's called the hosts file. The system will look in that file first, before trying to reconcile the URL's over the web. There are many published hosts files that have references to some of the most obnoxious servers.

What you will see, is an error message in places where the ads used to be. I like this better than ads. Note: Some video news services *require* that you suffer through their commercials before they show the real thing. Follow links below for more info. Do what you will...


Hmm. 05.Dec.2007 15:46


The damned machine seems to have eaten one of the links I tried to include. When I mentioned the most user-friendly Linix distro, it should have had a link for Ubuntu. I assume other people have already complained about the lack of edit and preview functions?

Other info 06.Dec.2007 12:23

mike H

Firefox is highly recommended by myself, as it it not just safer than using MSIE, its actually much more user friendly and quick.

You can download free firewall from zonelabs.com (Zone Alarm). Free version works fantastic

Spyware use only MS Defender, and Spybot Search and Destroy.

Anti-Virus .. the BEST program out there period is Avast (it updates with more virus defs than any other in the business, including McAfee and Norton). Corporate IT centers use Avast. The program is free for home users and there is no difference between the home user and corporate. You get the same rock solid program.

These 3-4 things will keep your PC safe and sound, without using up too many resources.

Been using these for 5+ years, and never a problem.