On today’s internet, you can never be too careful about what you view or download. A good antivirus is essential for anyone using the internet for more than the most basic of tasks, but there are many options available, and they are not equal in the quality or degree of protection they provide.
Two of the most popular Antivirus software’s are Norton’s antivirus and Mcaffee, unfortunately, due to their popularity and the fact that they are pre-installed as trial versions on so many computers, these are often the first two Antivirus software’s that virus writers work to disable and this greatly reduces their effectiveness. While there are quite a few advanced security suites that are fee based, the comprehensive solutions too often bombard the user with constant pop-ups asking what to do, and for most people these become such an annoyance that they either just click on them to get them out of the way, or disable them, which defeats the purpose of having those features in the first place. Generally for most users, a free version of one of the current Antivirus software’s will provide adequate protection with minimal annoyance.
A good choice, and one that comes without costly subscriptions, is Avast Free Antivirus [http://www.avast.com/en-us/index]. Avast is a very old brand, originating in 1988 as a tiny program designed by two Czechoslovakian university students to remove the then-common Vienna virus. Today, it is a major competitor in the antivirus market, with over 150 million users. The latest iteration of the software has three versions (Free, Pro, and Internet Security) [http://www.avast.com/en-us/free-antivirus-download]. The Pro and Internet Security versions come with some additional features, such as spam blocking and an integrated firewall, but for the majority of users, the free version provides enough security.
The most basic component of Avast (and any antivirus) is the ability to scan your computer for malware and then to remove any that is found. In this field, Avast can hold its own with other similar products. What makes Avast great, however, is the inclusion of so many extra features. First, there’s an entire suite of real-time scanners, checking websites, network connections, emails, and even scripts running in the background. If any signs of malware or suspicious behaviors are found, Avast will alert you and provide options to terminate the connection or process before damage can be done. Also included is “sandbox mode”, which isolates programs from accessing any important system files until you approve them as safe. Avast also makes use of cloud streaming technology. It uses this technology both to stream updates to your computer and to keep a database of programs. When a program is run, Avast checks against the cloud database to see what the reputation of the program is. If the program has been marked as dangerous or is unknown to Avast, it will warn you and offer to run the program in sandbox mode until you decide whether to risk it.
For our Pensacola area readers, if your computer does become infected with a virus, there are a few posts here you might want to read such as “Pensacola – Why do I keep getting viruses and malware on my computer?, and “Pensacola Computers Presents – How to Use System Restore in XP”
Alas, if you cannot get past a nasty virus, please visit http://pensacolacomputers.com where you can find information to help you or contact info for immediate computer service and repair.
Unfortunately, in my job I see a lot of computers that have gotten a virus or malware and need to be fixed (and not just PC’s but Mac’s as well lately). While some infections are due to lack of adequate protection – up-to-date antivirus and antimalware/antispyware software, others are due to people falling prey to social engineered malware (fake links on facebook etc), or people accidentally clicking on things, or one of the ones I really dislike – a virus coming in through one of the mass forwarded emails.
It is a misconception that just because you have antivirus/antimalware software that it will protect you 100% – even the best software is hard pressed to protect a computer when someone allows something to come in by clicking ok, yes, or installing questionable software or downloading questionable files (yes, all of the people using limewire, frostwire, or torrent software – you all are at risk every time you download a shared file!). Many times a virus or malware will get onto a computer because someone has installed some ‘toolbar’, ‘searchbar’, screen-saver, coupon printer, rebate searcher, or other such program like those worthless ‘speed up my computer’ programs that are either badly written or are actually malicious and downloads other bad software behind the scenes. **Special note: Almost ALL of the speed up my PC programs are basically worthless and can often do much more damage to your computer than good. Anything that messes with the Windows Registry can damage your Windows installation if it remove the wrong things, and many of them do that!
So what can you do to better protect yourself and your computer from these nasties? Here is a short list of things that I always recommend following to eliminate the most common ways that a computer can get a virus, malware or spyware.
1. Never click on links from social networks such as facebook, or links in emails – regardless of what a link says it is, it can easily be made to hide something else. What you can do is right click on the link, select ‘copy shortcut’ then paste that into the address bar of your browser to see what it really is (or if you have the status bar in your browser enabled, you can often see it there) – if you don’t recognize the link or it looks suspicious – DON’T GO THERE!
2. Never open email attachments unless you specifically know that the specific person who sent you that specific email was sending you that specific attachement – too often people will get an email from a friend or family member that has an attachment and that attachment is a virus that a virus on their computer sent without them even knowing about it. If you don’t know what it is, and weren’t expecting it – DON’T OPEN IT!
3. Don’t download songs, software, videos etc from file sharing networks – when you use software such as Limewire, Frostwire, Vuze, or other torrent or file sharing software to download things you always take a big risk because you have no way of knowing where exactly the files are coming from, or if they have been altered – even a song can hide a virus or malware within it and it won’t activate until you play it. Also the majority of software ‘cracks’ or ‘activators’ have malicious viruses in them. Not to mention that downloading copywrited material is also illegal
4: Keep your antivirus and antimalware/antispyware software as well as your operating system software up to date! It is always important to update your system regularly as the software updates often carry fixes for security issues that have been found and without them you are much more vulnerable. Also update your OS to the latest version (yes, if you are still running Windows XP you might have to get a new computer, but XP is 11 years old and was never designed to handle today’s internet).
5: Beware programs like coupon printers, rebate searches, search toolbars, browser add-on’s, screen savers, and especially the fix all or speed up pc programs. Many times these programs are either malicous themselves or are so poorly coded that they make it much easier for bad things to get onto your computer – IF IT ISN’T FROM A TRUSTED SOURCE – DON’T INSTALL IT!
If your computer does get a virus, try to remove it with your antivirus/antimalware/antispyware software, or you can try to do a Windows system restore to a time before you got the virus (as opposed to a full computer factory restore which will wipe all your data).
Got a virus or malware and not sure what to do? If you run into something particularly nasty or need some advice on how to get rid of something, or just need great computer service or computer repair, visit http://pensacolacomputers.com and give us a call.
Microsoft has just released Security Essentials 2.0 (MSE 2.0), which includes a number of enhanced features. In this latest version there is a updated and reportedly much better hueristic scanning engine for viruses and malware (heuristics look for virus/malware like behavior on your computer). Also included is improved integration with Windows Firewall, and new network traffic inspection. The firewall enhancements are only available to those running Vista or Windows 7 as Windows XP does not have the needed platform to run (if you are still on XP, it is really time to seriously consider upgrading as XP is now 10 years old and was never designed for today’s internet or programs).
Microsoft Security Essentials integrates with Internet Explorer to protect your machine from Web threats like malicous scripts. With the increasing number of viruses and malware spreading to all computers from social networking sites like Facebook, and the constant email bombardment, it is imperative to make sure that you have active and updated anti-virus and antispyware/antimalware software on our computer (yes, even Macs and Linux machines are now getting infected with viruses and malware).
The best part of Microsoft Security Essentials is that it is free for home users as well as being free for small businesses with 10 PC’s or fewer. While only time will tell how effetive this latest version is, I would certainly recommend using it in place of software like Nortons or Mcaffee (both of which are often first targets for virus and malware writers).
You can download Microsoft Security Essentials free directly from Microsoft here: http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/
*Note: Microsoft Security Essentials, like most antivirus software cannot be installed with other antivirus software as well as some other security software, so make sure to remove other security software before installing it.
For links to other free security software or help with Malware, Spyware and Virus removal, visit Pensacola Computers Tech Support page
Once again, a round of Facebook scams is hitting users. This recent one is a rehash of one that has been done before that entices users by telling them they can install an app to see who has viewed their profile. In the past few days, messages such as “OMG OMG I can’t believe this actually works! Now you can really see who viewed your profile on:” followed by a link that redirects people to ads, malware, or other garbage.
According to security firm Sophos, over sixty thousand people clicked on the link in a period of a few hours. Sophos recently published a blog post that outlines the scam here. For people who are wondering, Facebook has repeatedly said that there is no way to see who has viewed your profile and no way for such a function to be created. Facebook security encourages users to report any such suspicious activity and remove any references to such things from your news feeds. They also suggest making sure that you only grant known applications rights via your Account>Privacy Settings>Applications and Websites settings.
As always, all users should follow internet security guidelines and not click on suspicious links, regardless of their supposed source. Always ensure that you are running up to date antivirus and antispyware/antimalware software, and do regular scans. You can find links to free antivirus and antispyware, antimalware software on our Pensacola Computers Tech Support page. If you do get infected or have a question, contact us at Pensacola Computers
Security software manufacturer BitDefender today released some very interesting statistics which it has garnered from its Facebook Safego app which allows users to check their vulnerability to malware that they are exposed to via Facebook. The scary results show that 20 percent of Facebook users are exposed to malicous posts in their ‘news feeds’. These users are at risk just by clicking on one of these posts which have been highjacked maliciously. The scary part, is that the sampling that was gotten in these statistics come from people who were at least security conscious enough to install this app in the first place which means that these numbers could in fact be much higher in reality.
A breakdown of how these malicious malware items can get into your computer:
For those who think they are safe because they have a Mac, guess again, you are actually probably more at risk on Facebook through viruses like the latest Koobface variant that is multi-platform due to most Mac users not having adequate anti-virus/anti-malware software (and the inherent flaws already known in Mac security).
Remember, just because a post ‘appears’ to come from a friend, doesn’t mean it does – many people get their accounts hijacked every day, either through malware on their own systems, or just plain easy to guess passwords. Always be carefull clicking links, never EVER download software that comes through a link on Facebook, and be very careful installing any Facebook app.
If you are interested in the Safego app from BitDefender, you can find it here: Safego Facebook App
If you are in Pensacola and worried about virus/malware infection or think you have gotten a Computer virus or have Malware on your computer, visit Pensacola Computers at http://pensacolacomputers.com and check out the Tech Support page there for links to the best free and paid for Antivirus and Antimalware software.
For those who are still using Windows XP (still quite a few, although that number is rapidly decreasing), here is a short tutorial from Pensacola Computers on how to use System restore in XP Safe Mode. This can be extremely useful when faced with a virus, malware, or any kind of software change that has made using XP in regular mode difficult or impossible. System restore is often the easiest way to reverse the harmful effects of a virus or malware. Always be aware that System Restore, while reversing software changes, does NOT remove files, so even if the virus or malware is not active, the files are still there and must be removed. If you are using System restore due to a virus or malware infection, be sure to run full virus and malware/spyware scans as well as reapplying any needed Windows and software updates. While system restore is not always able to fix a bad virus or malware infection, it is a great first step in attempting to bring your system back to a usable state.
Visit Pensacola Computers Tech Support page for links for the best free and paid for antivirus, antimalware, and antispyware software.
If you need more in-depth help with virus removal, malware removal, computer service, or computer repair here in Pensacola Florida, please give Jeff at Pensacola Computers a call today at 850*390-4242