One of the simplest ways that you can protect your computer from harmful sites and spyware from wreaking havoc is by doing what I’m about to share with you. It’s completely free and will only take you 30 minutes or less to implement. First, as always, I want to provide an explanation of how and why this works. So if you don’t care about the details go ahead and skip on down. On every computer there is a file called a hosts file. These days they are not used very often but the was a time in internet history where they were necessary for communication to occur. This file can contain a list of computer names and their IP addresses. There is one IP address that’s never accessible from the internet. That IP address 127.0.0.1 and it’s known as the home address. If you have any servers running on your computer you can access them at that address without sending packets onto the network. Now, what we’re actually going to be doing is fooling our computer into thinking that many “known” harmful sites are actually us. This in effect disables this server because we don’t in fact have any of these servers running on our computer.
In order to get started head over to http://funkytoad.com and download a program called “Hoster 3.1”. Then go over to http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm and download hosts.zip [Updated 05-29-06]. Unzip both of these files and run Hoster.exe from the first zip file. If the button under “Editing Tools” reads “Make Hosts Writable?” go ahead and click it. It should then read “Make Hosts ReadOnly?”. Under “File Handling” choose “Replace” (note:unless you know that you have important entries in your hosts file.) then click “Select File” browse to the HOSTS file from the second zip file you downloaded. Hoster will then read that file and make the necessary changes. Now just click Make Hosts ReadOnly?” and you are finished. The HOSTS file you downloaded from http://www.mvps.org is updated often and you should make it a habit to check it regularly in order to have the latest protections installed as new threats popup everyday. But if you’re the forgetful type, as I am, there is a handy little program that can run in the background and grab the latest updates for you automatically. It’s called Hosts_Secure and it can be downloaded at http://www.timdorr.com/syko86/ycsoft/hostssecure.htm. Once downloaded run the installer and when prompted choose “Start with Windows”. This will ensure that you always have the latest HOSTS file.
As always I’ve provided you with resources that are free, but all the authors that have spent their time developing these tools do accept PayPal donations and it would be a good idea to give a little if you can. If you can’t that’s ok, it isn’t required. I hope you find as much use from these tools as I have. They really can effectively disable many harmful sites and spyware.
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