If I may add a few resources available free of cost over the internet that I personally use, as well as how I manage my business assets (computers) in face of the exposures referenced in the article Geosing posted.
My home trading environment consists of 2 base PC systems, and also an older vintage Micron laptop for emergency use, as well as for when I travel. I'm still a struggling neophyte trader, but one of the allures of finding success in this business, is you can go virtually "anywhere" and conduct your day-to-day business. You really can't beat breaking the tethered line, and the freedom success in this business can offer... there's only one paramount requirement that comes with this proposition.. you have to be able to make it work!
I utilize 2 pc's for my trading environment. I have a daily need for email access, forum and virtual trading room participation and general web-browsing. I also have a primary core environment that entails my brokeage trading application, as well as my charting application. My brokerage and charting requirements, I deem as "mission critical" to my core business operations. A business requirment that I personally feel justifies special equipment. Thus, I have a dedicated PC for just my brokerage and charting applications. This is all I do on this pc. I do not hit any sites on the internet with this pc, I do not check my email with this pc. I do nothing on this PC except run my core business applications.
For non business-critical activities, I have a secondary PC that I use for forum browsing, chat-room participation, e-mail checking, etc. By virtue of using this secondary PC for general internet access, this is the PC that requires the most management oversight as related to virus', spam, hacker control, etc. For this PC, and for my primary PC, I will utilize one or all of the following applications:
Virus Protection - AVG from Grisoft.com. The following URL will get you to a free anti-virus application from this company:
Use and operation is self-explanatory with a bit of reading. If already versed in anti-virus usage, one can easily determine how to configure this application. I'm very controlled in my internet access use, so this application has met my needs. I was a Symantec user prior, and once my license expired, I chose the free route due to business costs management. So far, I have not seen any serious shortcomings using this application.
SPAM Protection - SpyBOT and SpywareBlaster. I use a combination of two applications for management of SPAM. SpyBOT is an application that will REMOVE spam residing on a system and SpywareBlaster is an application that will PREVENT spam from penetrating a system. With this combination, you need BOTH applications. I'm sure there are commercially available (fee-based) applications that are an all-in-one solution, but these 2 applications have met my needs thus I have not researched other solutions. Both these applications are free, of which both companies also accept donations. A worthy jesture if one is capable of such.
SpyBOT - http://www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html Click the "download" button at column-left, and follow the yellow-brick road.
SpywareBlaster - http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/spywareblaster.html
Click the "download" button mid-page, and follow the yellow-brick road.
STINGER.exe - This is a McAfee executable that I run weekly on both PC's. This is a non-resident application that you can execute off a floppy disk, that will also scan your machine for any hidden trojans, key-stroke loggers, etc. This is a stand-alone application that we used in my prior job, to scan a system that we suspected may have been comprimised.
I run this as another precautionary step, a step that ultimately is just the same as what my AV and SPAM applications monitor, just for additional reassurance that my system is stable and has not been comprimised. Overkill? Probably. But with the unfortunate risks that one assumes these days with just hoping on the internet, it makes me feel better..and that's what matters most to "me".
The URL for this can be found at the following:
http://vil.nai.com/vil/averttools.asp Download to your pc, and double-click the executable to initiate.
Registry Cleaner - A PC can really get gummed up over time, as to registry entries still resident, but no longer required. This is a utility that I run just to better tune my PC. Not required for active management of virus' or spam, but a nifty utility for anyone interested. Provides other uselful functions as well. URL for this utility can be found at the following, just click on the appropriate link within the article:
Disk Defragmenter - This application is native in Windows XP. Should be available in other OS versions, however not for certain where to find. In XP, go Start ==> All Programs ==> Accessories ==> System Tools ==> Disk Degragmenter.
Firewall - I personally use a free version of ZoneAlarm. I've not had any problems with usage of this application on my secondary PC (email, browsing, etc). There are other firewall applications available, but this is the one I have used for serveral years and have not had any problems. Will monitor every application that tries to access your system from an external point of entry (i.e., coming in from the internet) and will monitor when an application residing on your PC tries to access the internet. When I say monitor, once this application initiates, you will get a pop-up window saying "Application xxx is trying to access the internet, do you wish to proceed".. You click a yes to no to permit access. Of all the applications I've noted, this one requires the most user intervention, but is not rocket science to manage.
ZoneAlarm can be found at the following URL -
How I Use these applications - As to how I personally use these resources, I utilize each resource noted above on my non-mission critical PC, the one I use for email checking, etc. This PC is unquestionably the most exposed to potential problems due to the very fact it spends the majority of time accessing the internet.
On my mission critical system, the one I use for my brokerage and charting application, I use SpyBOT and SpywareBlaster only on this PC. I do not run a firewall and I do not run any anti-virus application on this PC. (I will add that both pc's are networked through a LinkSys BEFSR41 gateway hub which does offer minimal shielding from the internet in way of IP address proxying, etc) Some people might not agree with this approach of not running AV and firewall, but I chose to keep my core system with as minimal overhead as possible as far as applications running in the background.
I choose to run SpyBOT and SpywareBlaster as a precaution in keeping any hijacker or key-stroke loggers bots from getting on my machine. As was alluded in the article in Geo's post, tiny applications can get on your machine that will capture your keystrokes (a keystroke process such as typing in a password) and send this off to some far distant places such as Denmark, Russia, etc for resale at a later time to some shady, roadside character.
I use this PC in a very controlled "internet-access" environment thus I choose not to load any AV or firewall. I have not noticed any adverse performance effects of running theses 2 spyware applications.
My weekly regimen (Secondary PC) - Every Saturday I do the following on my non-mission critical PC system. I will run a Spybot "Check for Updates" process - I will run a SpywareBlaster "Check for update" process and I will make sure my anti-virus signature files are current (I want all the latest detection pattern files, before I run the actual system scan) After making sure I have the latest detection files loaded, I run a full scan on the SpyBOT application to check for any SPAM or snooping type junk that may have found it's way onto my machine. I almost always come up clean.. but you never know when a new pattern may have been created by a hacker, of which the detection files by SpyBOT have not been createds yet. So I run this check religiously.
After this completes, I take my Stinger executable and run this. Again, probably overkill, but the more angles I've got attacking any potential hijacker software, the better off I personally feel. This can take a while, sometime upwards of an hour to run the Stinger application.
After Stinger completes, I do an AV (anti-virus) scan on my system. Again, this can take a while depending on how large your hard drive is.
After AV scan, I run a system defrag.
I'll probably, once a quarter, run my registry cleaner application. This is not a high usage type application. But if you've not re-formatted you system in a while, and have added/removed several applications over the process, not a bad idea to give your registry a go-over.
Aside from the normal backing up of key files stored on your system, that's about it as far as the process I use on my secondary PC.
My weekly regimen (Primary PC) - On this system, I will check for any program updates on SypBOT and Spyware Blaster. I will run the checks on SpyBOT as noted in the above segment. If there are no updates required to the program when checked on the secondary PC, I will not run a check on my primary system. A check puts you out on the internet, and I try to keep this to a minimum on this pc.
After SpyBOT, I will run a Stinger check.
After Stinger, I'll run a defrag check and will run this process if required.
Final Comments - These are but a few of the resources I personally use to manage my business resources (computers). I offer these as a "use at your own risk" as I cannot determine the computer knowledge of users on this forum. All these utilites I have found very user friendly, requiring minimal configuration, and usually run pretty good out of the box. That said, there is user intervention required as far as initiating an application, checking for appropriate updates, etc. I will certainly try to offer any advice I can on usage if anyone has a question.
There are other steps a user can take to turn off features that, by default, are turned on when XP is loaded. I won't go into those, but a search on your favorite search engine, with keywords "Tuning XP" will reveal tips in this area.
Happy Computing -