August 13, 2017

I like my shady web but not the viruses

What's the best way to mitigate virus infections when I have tendencies to visit shady websites?

Most of us have been tempted to venture in some corner of the Internet that could be considered high-risk for one reason or another.  Maybe you were looking for lyrics for a song or subtitles for a movie you downloaded.  Either way, when you venture outside the bubble of popular websites, you put your computer and your data at risk.

Protection for your computer is like an onion, with various layers of protecting solutions safeguarding your system.

The most common layer of protection for users is antivirus and malware software installed on their local computer.

While this layer of protection is standard, it's never the end all be all.  A lot of viruses can bypass even the best-rated AV scanners on the market today.  If your computer was the core of the onion, this is the very thin layer covering it, and as the skin on your body, it can be very porous.

What other layers of protection are there?

There are numerous others however for this article I'll cover the basic and most accessible to the average user.  You can install a firewall/router that has built-in security services like the Dell SonicWall.  A firewall/router that scans inbound and outbound network traffic for malicious code is a decent layer of protection since it can stop a virus from ever reaching your computer. But even this solution can't be 100% effective all the time, and these units can be costly and slow your Internet browsing speeds.

Another layer you could add to help safeguard your computer is to use a second browser that is configured only to read the underlying HTML code of a website and never executes JAVA, Flash or accepts cookies.  For example, if you use Chrome as your primary browser, you could setup Internet Explorer to be as restrictive as possible by disabling JAVA, Flash, accepting cookies and even processing images the website presents.  If you are unsure that a site you want to visit is 100% safe, use your locked-down Internet Explorer to view it.

Is there a layer that is 100% effective against virus infections on my home or office computer?

Yes, there is, and it's free!  It's called Oracle Virtual Box (https://www.virtualbox.org/) and like VMWare Workstation, you can launch a virtual machine from your desktop computer and use it to visit possibly unsafe websites.  If your virtual machine becomes infected, delete it and run a new VM.

You can go a step further and make sure that your local host and other networked computers have rules in their firewalls blocking the network traffic generated by your virtual machine.

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