Think Of That: January 2005

Think Of That

Some things to think about

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Location: Lebanon

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Home PC Security

As promised in my previous post, I would like to share with the readers of this Blog a few tips I learned over the years on how to protect your home computer from the threats that lurk on the Internet, waiting to invade your PC once you go online. I must emphasize the term home computer because the methods of protecting your pc at work (which is usually connected to a local network) is far more complicated and should be left to the person in charge of doing so: the system administrator.


The first thing you need to understand is that there are 3 kinds of threats you might be subject to when connecting to the Internet:

  • Viruses/Worms: Viruses usually infect your PC after running an infected program downloaded from the net or received by email or by any other medium (Floppy, CD,…). Worms are sneakier and you could be infected just by running an un-patched version of Windows or Outlook/Outlook Express.
  • Hackers/Crackers/Script Kiddies: These individuals hack into home PCs just for the fun of it or to take control of them and use them for their own devilish intentions, usually to hack other computers or send spam emails through them.
  • Adware/Spyware/Malware/Dialers…etc: These nasty little programs infect the PC without the user’s knowledge when browsing some websites or when installing some freeware. They are usually not as harmful as viruses (that might delete entire hard disks) but they will divulge personal information from the user’s computer to third party individuals, slow the internet connection down … and sometimes crash the computer altogether.
The solution: To protect your PC from these threats, you will need to install 3 kinds of programs:
  • Antivirus programs: Antivirus programs detect and remove viruses and worms from your PC but they have to be updated weekly, if not daily, for best results. They will usually scan your hard disk at installation and continue to protect it automatically while running in the background. Most can be configured to automatically download and install new updates when you’re connected to the Internet. The most well-known Antivirus programs are Norton Antivirus (www.symantec.com) and McAfee Virus Scan (www.mcafee.com). You can also find free antivirus programs here.
  • Firewall programs: Firewall programs prevent hackers from getting into you PC by closing all the ports left open by the operating system and allow you to take control of the programs you wish to prevent from accessing the net. Windows XP has a built-in firewall program but I prefer using the more powerful and free ZoneAlarm (www.zonelabs.com).
  • Adware/Spyware/Malware removal tools: Two programs come to mind when thinking about adware: Ad-Aware (www.lavasoft.de) and Spybot - Search & Destroy (www.spybot.info); both are free and most reviews recommend installing them both for best protection. Like antivirus programs, they must be updated frequently.
Finally, I recommend turning Automatic Updates on and using an alternative browser than Internet Explorer which is more vulnerable to security breaches. I use Mozilla Firefox (www.mozilla.org) but you can use Opera as well (www.opera.com).

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Star Academy

It’s Friday night. I’m sitting in front of the TV, getting ready to write my next article. I’ve decided to tackle a subject I’m quite familiar with and that would have been useful to readers of this Blog - computer security - but I’ve just changed my mind. I’ll postpone writing about computers to another time and write instead about the show that’s airing on TV tonight: The Arabic version of Star Academy. It’s a real-tv show in which several supposedly talented young people live together in a house where they learn how to sing, dance…etc. Well, I’ve got to tell you this: Cat meowing is easier on the ears than most of these guys’ singing. How do they pick them? On what criteria do they base their selection? Maybe they choose terrible singers on purpose, so viewers can observe the progress they make during their time at the academy? The bottom line is: LBC (the TV station in charge of Star Academy Lebanon) is not living up to its usual standards. We used to watch much more interesting shows and now, all we see is a bunch of teenagers running around corridors shouting at each others. Star Academy Lebanon is a renowned show watched all over the Arabic speaking world but, in opinion, it will never create stars. Maybe it’s just trying to reach for them too high.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Happy New Year 2005?

The year 2004 has ended – quite tragically with the Tsunami that killed more than 156,000 people in South East Asia – but it’s finally over and we’ll be referring to it as “Last Year” for the next 12 months. So many things have happened in 2004; so many changes have occurred that it’s hard to remember everything; however I’ll try to recall some of the major events that took place:

Jan 26 - Virus Affects Millions of Computers: The MyDoom virus spreads through Internet servers. About 1 in 12 email messages are infected.

Feb 12 - Scientists Say They Have Cloned Human Embryos: Scientists in South Korea announce that they have created 30 human embryos by cloning and have removed embryonic stem cells from them.

Feb 25: "The Passion of the Christ": The Mel Gibson Movie about Jesus’ final days, grossed $89.3 million in its first three days in theaters.

Feb 28: Train Explosion Kills Hundreds in Iran: About 300 people die when a train crashes in the northeast.

Mar 11: Spain Rocked by Terrorist Attacks: At least 10 bombs explode on four commuter trains in Madrid during rush hour, killing 202 people and wounding about 1,400.

Mar 22: Israeli Forces Kill Hamas Leader: Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the leader and founder of the militant group Hamas, and seven others hit by missile in Gaza City

May 11: Nick Berg, an American citizen, decapitated in Iraq. The decapitation video was released on the Internet.

May 23: Roof Collapses at Airport in France: At least five killed (among them a Lebanese woman) at new terminal at the Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris.

May 26: Floods Devastate Caribbean Island: Death toll reaches 1,950 from floods caused by days of heavy rains in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Jun 5: Former US President Ronald Reagan Dies at 93.

Jun 10: Ray Charles Dies at 73.

Jun 23: Fahrenheit 9/11: Michael Moore's anti-Bush diatribe "Fahrenheit 9/11" became the most profitable documentary ever.

Jul 1: Marlon Brando Dies at the age of 80.

Aug 1: Christian Churches Targeted in Iraq: Four churches attacked in coordinated car bombings in Baghdad and Mosul. About a dozen people killed

Aug 12: Florida Pounded by Storms: Tropical storm Bonnie pounds the Florida Panhandle. Aug 13: At least 13 people die as Hurricane Charley tears into the state's west coast, with winds of 145 miles an hour.

Sep 1-3: Russian Insurgents Take Over School: Armed Islamic guerrillas, most of them Chechen, take about 1,200 schoolchildren, parents, and teachers hostage in Beslan. Standoff ends in tragedy, as about 340 people die as the militants detonate explosives inside the school

Sept 4: Florida Hit Again by Hurricane: Enormous, slow-moving Frances pounds state, causing about $40 billion in damage.

Sep 20: Hundreds Killed in Haiti: Floods and mudslides caused by Tropical Storm Jeanne claim more than 550.

Oct 8: Israelis Targeted in Egypt: At least 30 people die in three bombings at three resorts in the Sinai Peninsula.

Oct 10: Christopher Reeve Dies at 52.

Oct 18: President Lahoud re-elected for three more years.

Nov 2. Bush Reelected: George Bush won over his Democratic challenger John Kerry for the United States presidency.

Nov 11: Arafat dies in Paris. PLO quickly elects former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas as its leader.

Dec 26: Tsunami in South East Asia kills more than 156.000 in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India.


That’s it. As you can see, it was a rather gloomy year and I’m glad it’s over. I just hope that the year 2005 will be much better with less sorrow, fewer tragedies and more hope and joy in this world.

Happy New Year!!!