Readers' Forum - July 2004

by Rob Zorn
from the July 2004 Newsletter

If you'd like to ask a question or request some help on any Actrix or Internet-related matter. Simply send me an e-mail with the word "Forum" in the subject line. I'll try and answer your question by return e-mail, and will also post the answer here for the benefit of others who may have a similar question or problem. By the same token, if you read something here and think you may have something to suggest, please feel more than free. Please also note that questions and answers may turn up under the Helpful Tips section on the Actrix home page (www.actrix.co.nz).

Gilbert writes: Hi Rob, I have the problem of having to pay some four dollars a month to Telecom for a toll bar on my phone. This came about when I clicked on a item on the e-mail lists titled "Fun-Fun -Fun, and that sender got control of my modem and made toll calls to overseas addresses. Telecom agreed that If I got the toll bar, then the toll charges would be dropped this time. I am finding the toll bar a real nuisance as I keep forgetting it when making personal toll calls . The question is do I have to have this toll bar on forever, or can I stop it and be very careful in future what I click on? Yours Gilbert.

Hi Gilbert, I shouldn't think you would need to have this tollbar there permanently, especially now that you know to be very careful what you are clicking on. My suggestion would be to have Telecom remove it, but only after you are double-sure that you have removed the spyware/auto-dialler in question.

The first step (if you haven't done so already) would be to identify exactly what the spyware/auto-dialler is, and then look on the web for ways to remove it. Google may be a great help here. You should also run either Ad-Aware or SpyBot Search and Destroy as these programs should help you locate and destroy the spyware/autodialler.

After that, remove the toll bar and watch your Internet connection very carefully every time you turn the computer on. If it starts to dial up without your consent, then you haven't gotten rid of it and you had better unplug your modem and seek some professional help. Spyware/auto-diallers can be hard to remove, but not impossible.

Please have a look at some recent articles I've written for the newsletter on this sort of thing. They will give you a few tips, and the links you need for the free anti-spyware programs, etc.

Along Came a Spyware (June 2003)
Another Day, Another Dialler (April 2004)

Frances writes: Hi there Rob Can you please tell me how to stop a new entry being automatically put into my address book when I click reply to an email of someone who is not in my address book. I know it can be done but cannot remember how to do it. Many thanks, Frances

Hi Frances, Sure. This one is pretty easy. With Outlook Express open, click Tools (menu at the top) and then "Options" in the drop down box. Click on the Send tab, and then untick the box that says "Automatically put people I reply to into my Address Book." Click the Apply button and then the OK button.

Terry writes: Hi Rob, I am currently trailing "Systweaks programme Advanced Windows Cleaner". It has a function to search for duplicate files and it turned up a surprising number of duplicate "Windows System" files on the hard drive. I always down load Windows patches. Would patches account for so much duplication? Thanks Terry.

Hi Terry, I would tend to doubt that it is Windows Updates or patches which would cause the duplicate files to exist on your hard drive. I would expect these would put new files, or revamped versions of old files where they were originally designed to be when Windows came off the production line.

These duplicate files are more likely to be placed in different locations by new programs that you have installed over time. In order to work on the Windows operating system, many programs depend on some of the same basic Windows files (mainly .dll files), but they may put their copies of them in different places on your hard drive depending on where they want to go to find them when they need to be used. It's possible they are left behind, too, when these other programs are uninstalled.

Sometimes these files can be safely deleted. Other times, they may cause your other programs not to work. If Systweak finds these duplicates for you, I hope it can distinguish between the two before it deletes them. if you're not sure about this, then you'd be best to check the software's documentation about deleting duplicate files, or contact them directly.

Dianna writes: Dear Editor, I’m not sure if you have dealt with this problem in the past, but I have had quite a few syn port attacks in the past few weeks, (I use McAfee Firewall if this makes any difference). What is a syn port attack and what should I do about it when one occurs? Thanks Dianna

Mike Cooper from the Actrix Help Desk replies: Hi Dianna, Software firewalls are very much the in thing on the internet at the moment, and the manufacturers tend to configure them to pop alerts up at the slightest movement to provide reassurance that it is doing something.

In reality, whilst firewalls are a nice security measure, they do tend to be quite problematic. The messages they pop-up are often quite confusing and as you've experienced can be quite concerning.

The "syn attack" your firewall is reporting is most likely just internet noise. At any time whilst on the internet your computer will be making connections to other computers all over the world to get web-sites, make chat conversations and download e-mails. These computers at times may try to connect back to you to see if you're still online and using their service, or other computers on the net may accidentally bump into yours on their way somewhere else. Any of this kind of activity, whilst completely benign is likely to register some kind of alert on your firewall.

As the firewall should be protecting you against any intrusion, it should be safe to disregard any alerts it pops up that purport attacks or intrusion attempts etc. It may even be worthwhile disabling the notifications so you can browse without being disturbed by this.