The most dreaded threat to your computer is being take over by hackers, who use your computer without your knowledge to attack and harm other computers while your computer is connected to internet. FBI reports that there are above 1 million home computers in US alone which are being used remotely by the hackers called Bot-herders, without the consent or express knowledge of the owners of those computers.
You can take a small precautionary measure to protect yourself while Online by using a Limited Account on windowsXP. If you are using XP, and if you are the only user, or if you are the main user then probably your account is an Administrative Account. To check what type of account you have, Go to Control Panel > User Accounts > (Look at the Icon of Your Account) , it is either Computer Administrator, or Limited Account.
If you use an Administrative Account which is the default account type then you have the privilage of Installing new programs. But Unfortunately this Privilage becomes your weakness/drawback while you are using internet. When you are browsing different sites, some malware can creep in as temperory Internet files and remain there waiting for a chance to be executed. Once it is executed, normally when you boot your computer again, it spreads in your computer by making new entries in registry, copying its DLL files and executables in different locations on the hard disk and modifying your default home page.
These entries are preserved by windows system restore therefore whenever you have a Trojan or a Worm you have to disable system restore temperorily to remove its traces.
If you are using a limited account, then the infection will be contained to the user account only, and will not affect the whole computer.
It is a good practice to delete all computer generated files, temporary internet files, cookies etc at the end of your online session at least at the end of the day or before you shut your computer. This way you remove any lurking malware in it.
If you already have a Limited User Account then just Log In and use it while you are accessing internet. Otherwise create a new one.
Start > Control Panel (Switch to classic View) > User Accounts > Create a new Account > Type a name for the new account -Next > Pick an account Type (Limited) > Create Account
Once the account is created, it should appear in the User Accounts window, with Limited Account written under it. Use this Account for accessing internet from now on.
You can switch between your Administrative and User Account easily without having to Log Off one account. Click on Log Off > Switch User and Choose the account to Log In. This can be handy if you need to access your Administrative account for installing softwares, or for any other reason. But remember your Clipboard does not work in between switching the accounts. It means you can not copy something in the clipboard in one account and then paste it in another account. For that you can copy the files in the Shared Folder. This is the location of shared folder on your hard disk.
Click on Start > My Computer > doubleClick Shared Documents.
This is the common place where you can copy any files, or documents that you want to access from both accounts.
You will need to do some house-keeping before you can start using your Limited Account.
Some of the programs that you have installed in Administrative Account may not seem to appear in the programs menu of the Limited Account, and some those appear may not seem to open at all.
If you see that a program that you had installed is not appearing in the menu, Click on Start > My Computer and doubleClick on the disk icon, C,D, etc to browse to the location the program was installed. For Example Ccleaner does not appear in my Limited Account. So I doubleClick on C > Program Files > CCleaner
Once you are in the folder of the program, doubleClick on the Icon of the program to see if the program opens executes runs. If it opens then close that program for the time being. Then Click on the Icon again to select it, right click on it and select Send To > Desktop (create shortcut) from the menu. It will create a shortcut on you Limited Account desktop, from where you will be able to access the program.
What about the programs that are not working ?
You can install new program (probably) while in the Limited Account. Try to run a installation file , if it runs then create a new folder for it. Otherwise it would overwrite the installation that you had done form the Administrative Account. I had to install Privoxy, because it would not run on my Limited Account. So I had to download it from the site and run the setup program. I created a new folder called Privoxy2 and installed the program in that folder.
I had to configure my browsers, both IE7 and Firefox to use the proxy server at 127.0.0.1 on port 8118. Privoxy really makes your Browsing Transparent. You can view each file as it is being rquested, you can immediately block any file by editing the default page of privoxy. You will be surprised to see how many files get downloaded just for advertising purposes. Privoxy blocks them all