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Using HOSTS to Block Malicious Web Sites

I was looking through our computer tips archive [1] the other day and found an article about computer HOSTS files. The article explains exactly what a HOSTS file is and how it can be used to block malicious Web sites. At the very end of the article, there’s a short paragraph about how you can download a custom HOSTS file that will automatically block many of the known malicious Web sites on the Web today.

As I was reading it, I decided the last paragraph of the article should probably be explained a little better. So, here we go!

HOSTS files are on every computer. They contain a list of Web sites and the location of those sites. In a nut shell, when you visit a Web site, your computer will look at the HOSTS file to see where it’s located. If it can’t find it in the HOSTS file, it will then go to the Internet and ask your ISP’s DNS server where it is.

Since a HOSTS file is like a quick reference guide on Web sites for your computer, you can tell the HOSTS file which sites the Web browser should not be able to visit. If you have a list of every bad Web site, you could make a HOSTS file that wouldn’t allow your computer to visit any of them. Pretty cool, huh?!

Now, I’m sure some of you are saying, “That’s great, but how do I get a list of all the bad Web sites in the whole world?” Well, I have the answer for you! There’s an organization that keeps an up to date list of known malicious Web sites called MVPS. Not only do they keep the list updated, but they also put it into a custom HOSTS file for everyone to use. All you have to do is download it and replace your current HOSTS file with it. Here’s how!

First, download the file here. Save it to your desktop so that you can easily find it later. It’ll be called hosts.zip.

Next, right click on the file and choose Extract All. That’s the easiest way. Note: If you use a different unzip utility, you’re welcome to use that as well.

Finally, install the file. If you’re using Windows 98, 2000, ME or XP, just open the folder and double click on mvps.bat. If you’re using Windows Vista, right click on mvps.bat and choose Run as Administrator. You should then see a screen that says the process is complete.

Congratulations. You’re done!

Now, this was just a short introduction into HOSTS files. If you want to learn more about what you just did (or are about to do), check out the MVPS Web site. Until next time, stay safe out there, my friends!

~ Gary