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26
Jan
2009

BISS Hosts File Guide

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What is a HOSTS File ?

A HOSTS file is a simple text file that is already present on your computer system and was originally intended for mapping the IP addresses of other host/computers on a network.

Although it wasn't originally designed to be used for blocking websites containing ads or spyware etc, a Hosts file is extremely effective for this purpose.

The benefits of using a customised HOSTS file for "FREE" protection?

A hosts file is a great 'free' way to prevent any unwanted websites from loading which could damage your computer, display ads, track your movements online or pose some kind of risk to you or your family.

Using our customised HOSTS file, which has been created for the specific purpose of blocking internet threats, can help to prevent many spyware / malware from making connections to and from your computer. It can also help prevent your browser from accessing sites which serve advertising, track which sites you are visiting or collect marketing data on you.

A hosts file can be used to block any site you wish from being accessed from your computer using it's domain name.

By making good use of the HOSTS file [ which in most cases would not be actively used on your system ], you will greatly improve your safety on the internet, saving your precious bandwidth and reducing the chances of being hijacked.

You can feel more comfortable knowing that you have increased your protection against rampant spyware & adware, while also reducing the amount of personal information that is being gathered about you from websites.


As reported on Stop Malvertising and in the Flash Mystery thread at BISS forums - Flash Mystery, or how you get infected by *.SWF files it is becoming increasingly common for even high profile sites like the New York Times, Hotmail and Yahoo and many others to be used as a distribution point in malware advertising campaigns.

Webites that are in the top 100 list on Alexa are often the targets of malvertising fraudsters because of the potential to infect a larger number of victims through malware ads.

The success of malvertising campaigns are often helped by the sales / advertising dept's who are responsible for approving the bad ads in the first place, while not only having a deep lack of understanding about any security issues they are also only interested in the potential $$$$ they will make.

Many advertising companies do not even contemplate the risks they are putting on their customers or the people who visit the websites, the people who actually suffer the most when they are infected with terrible viruses, backdoor trojans and botnets.

Family computers are often not very well protected and make easy targets for malware ads, helping to generate a huge amount of money through infections and hijacks.

Unfortunately the rising problem of malvertisements being distributed through ads on high profile sites will most likely continue for a very long time.

Maybe nothing will change until we start to see advertising companies being sued by the victims of bad ads which were approved and allowed to run. Companies may have to be literally forced to put the safety of their own customers and the website visitors ahead of the potential profits.

A real problem with malvertising lies directly with the advertising departments themselves. Especially if the people who work in these places are quite willing to do repeated business with the very same people who have already been identified as malware creators.

Sadly, the potential to make thousands of $$$$ from an ad campaign is just too enticing to pass up. When offered huge sums of money to run an advertisment, these people working in the advertising department go blind to everything else, even common sense.

Of course the blame will always be put on the people who made the bad ads in the first place, but those ads wouldn't be so successful if there weren't so many complacent and incompetent advertising dept's keen to do business with people who are already known to be rogues, and who have no proper checks in place to screen out bad ads.

With their reputations and entire business at stake, the serious advertising companies already know that malvertising is a huge problem.

Yahoo is very well known for it's bad ads (and now working with Microsoft, get ready for even more widespread malvertising campaigns). Yahoo really has a terrible maze of ad networks distributing malware because they don't check anything at their advertising dept's especially dept's like rightmedia, before pushing through their ads.

Then we have others like Clicksor for instance which is actually a malware distribution network pretending to be an advertising network.

In contrast to Clicksor, there are companies like Zedo who are very much aware of what they are doing and take proactive action to screen bad malvertisement ads from ever getting through. At Google / Doubleclick they have an automated scanner to help detect rogue ads on their network, but still things have been able to slip through.

As you can imagine, it's more important than ever to keep your HOSTS file updated, just like most other security tools.

Ok, that's enough ranting..

Read on for the best Hosts file download sources and Hosts File Management tools.

 


When connecting to any website, your computer sends out a DNS request to retrieve the IP address of that sites domain name. The HOSTS file is checked first, before the DNS request is sent out from your system. By listing domains in your hosts file you have control over how they can be loaded.

The HOSTS file allows you to null route any domain [ e:g www.example.com ] of your choice by substituting your own local host IP address "127.0.0.1" with the real IP address.

127.0.0.1 www.example.com

Essentially this prevents your system from allowing the DNS request to be resolved to it's real IP address, and so the site is unable to load in your browser or other network enabled application.

If you ever need to temporarily unblock a website that is blocked in your HOSTS file, you can comment it out and it will no longer affect the site.

#127.0.0.1 www.example.com

This is a very effective and totally free way of preventing/blocking hijackers, popups, advertisements and any other annoyances you may encounter during your internet travels.

 


How do I install a new HOSTS file ?

For an extremely detailed guide to installing a Hosts file [ with pictures ] , please read this great post by Blackspear at Wilders Security Forums:

<> Blackspears Hostfile Guide <>

On windows, the Hosts file can be found in the following locations depending on your Operating System.

Windows XP / Vista / W7  C:>WINDOWS>SYSTEM32>DRIVERS>ETC 
Windows 2K C:>WINNT>SYSTEM32>DRIVERS>ETC 
Windows 98/ME C:>WINDOWS 

The Hosts file must have no file extension to work properly, this means it should not end with a .txt .doc. etc , it should just be labelled HOSTS.

 


Where to download ?

The BISS hosts file can be downloaded using our Hosts Manager program or manually from one of the BISS download pages.

The BlockList Pro downloads section is updated regularly with the latest BISS Hosts File file.

For more details plase view the Bluetacks Hosts File Download & Information page.

 


Bluetacks HOSTS File Forum
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Important!:

Extremely large Hosts files can slow down browsing in windows 2000 / XP / Vista / W7 , so it is advised to switch the DNS Client service in services.msc to manual or disabled.

Go to start-> run-> [ type in] Services.msc 
Scroll down to DNS Client and select the option to set it to disable / manual. 

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Excellent HOSTS File Guides / Information

Spyware Warrior Discussion on Hosts files

Bleeping Computer Hosts file guide
Accs-net Hosts File Information
pgl.yoyo Hosts File Information

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Recommended HOSTS file management tools

BISS Hosts Manager - By Kimberly

:: Information | Download Link ::

BISS HOSTS Manager FAQ

BISS Hosts Manager Update details

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

:: B.I.S.S. HOSTS Switch ::

Quickly enable / disable the Hosts file and add new entries

BISS HOSTS Switch Information

Instead of always having the BISS Hosts Manager open to disable / enable your hosts file, we've decided to offer you an Add-On : The BISS Hosts Switch.

It loads a small application which shows if your Hosts file is readable and it allows you to quickly enable / disable the Hosts file.

If you are using Internet Explorer, you can add a toolbutton to the default Toolbar to launch the program very quickly. You can set it to load at Windows boot - Normal or in the Tray ...

Want easy access while browsing ? Add a button to your IE ToolBar .... it will open up the program when you click on it.

This feature only works with Internet Explorer


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Hosts File Limitations

Some poor quality security applications, antivirus, spyware scanners may give false alerts about your modified Hosts file, as they cannot tell the difference between good and bad entries.

You may be able to exclude monitoring of your Hosts file or otherwise learn to live with this small annoyance, if possible just find a better quality program.

A Hosts file cannot block specific filenames or directories.

If you require more specific control over your ad blocking, you can use a PAC file [ proxy auto configuration ] file which is similar to a HOSTS file. A pac file is also free to use and should already be present file on your system ready to be edited

We will cover the use of a PAC file in another tutorial, so keep an eye out for that to be posted soon.

Other options include such things as Adblock in Firefox browser, ad filtering programs like Admuncher / Privoxy / Proxomitron etc and many software firewalls now come with some kind of adblocking features included.

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