As all smokers know, the best way to quit smoking is to never start in the first place. The adage holds true in the computer world as much malicious software can be easier blocked than deleted once the computer is infected. One easy way to filter out Spyware and Malware is through the use of the hosts file.
Spyware and Malware are software that get into computer often by looking for vulnerabilities, or they attempt to fool the user into accepting a download. Spyware is used to gather information about your computer. The information ranges from internet surfing history to logging the keys typed in order to get passwords and account numbers. Malware, also called Badware, is designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system. It can be as annoying as pop advertising when the computer boots or outright hostile where the computer can be render useless.
Computer users can utilize applications such as “Ad-Aware SE” or “Spybot – Search & Destroy” to scan their computers in order to seek out Spyware applications. However, once one of these malicious pieces of software gets into your machine, it can become virtually impossible to eliminate. Then, re-installing Windows becomes the only viable option. The best solution is to prevent the Spyware from getting into the computer in the first place. Come in the hosts file.
A little known secret of the computer world is the hosts file which is uploaded into memory when the computer boots up. The hosts file contains a list of IP Addressees used by the machine to find other computers. Alternatively, the hosts file can also be used to filter ads from intrusive sites. The result is a faster internet experience since advertising does not have to be displayed, the bandwidth can be used to download the rest of the site. Additionally, every time your internet browser visits a site listed in the file any response gets blocked. Also, any attempts at piggy backing are blocked.
Modifying your computer’s hosts file is easy, and it can be done with the Notepad application that comes with Windows. The file can be found at “C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc” in Windows XP. Make sure to back up the file before altering its contents. The entry “127.0.0.1 localhost” should never be deleted. A typical entry will look like “127.0.0.1 www.advertising.com.” The computer will redirect any requests from this IP address to itself in essence blocking the address. Thus, it prevents any intrusions from unscrupulous companies.
A down side of using the Hosts file is the need for maintaining a list of websites known to be offenders. A solution is to subscribe to a site that maintains up to date hosts files for download. Google the web for hosts file. It should come on the first try. Another side effect is that banners in many of the sites visited will have a “The page cannot be found” message. This occurs because the machine tries to look for the page within itself and cannot find one. On the plus side, since the browser does not have to download the advertising, the page overall downloads faster.
It is hard to determine how much money these intrusive and malicious applications cost to users in time and aggravation. However, they can be blocked to prevent unethical use of your computer or worst yet identity theft. All that is required is a little work and the trusty Notepad.