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.
So many people come to me with problems on their computers, from viruses, to lurking malware that steals their passwords and slows down their systems. The funny thing is that many of these same people also tell me that they only use their computer for general web surfing, email, and …….. Facebook. Of course Facebook has become the most popular social networking site on the internet in the past year, but with this popularity comes problems – wherever there are lots of people, their arise opportunities for nefarious types and criminal activity. Unfortunately, Facebook provides these people with the perfect platform to spread their Trojans, Keyloggers, fake antivirus scareware, and general malware crap that will make your PC very sick.
But how do they do it? Well, they take advantage of people by using their friends to help spread their nasty things. All it takes is one friend getting their account hacked (either by using a simple password, or by getting a virus/malware infection themselves), and then the nasties usually get sent out as links to all this persons friends and family. Of course when you get a link from Aunt Martha that says to check out the latest Family video, or from your best friend telling you that you just HAVE to check out this sale they found, you of course trust it, and click on it and BAM! All of a sudden you have pop-ups, or something is telling you your computer is infected, or you suddenly go to search for something and end up on some site that has nothing to do with what you typed in.
So what do you do? The best thing to do is to NEVER click on the links in the first place, at least not from Facebook. If by chance you have clicked on one of these bad links and your computer gets infected, first step is to try a system restore (this is often the best chance to stop the virus/malware before it gets out of control). If system restore appears to work, just remember to update your anti-virus and anti-malware software and do full scans to get rid of any traces. If system restore doesn’t appear to work, you should then try going into safe-mode (press F8 key repeatedly at start-up), and then update and run your anti-virus/anti-spyware programs.
Sometimes, infections can get pretty nasty – especially if they have been allowed to invite their friends to your computer over a period of time. When this happens, and you can no longer get on the internet, or even get to your desktop, you may need more advanced help. Visit Pensacola Computers for immediate computer service (yes, it’s a shameless plug, but it’s my blog and I really can help when your computer is FUBAR’d)
The past few weeks have certainly been quite active in the technology world. From the much overhyped release of apple’s ipad to the pending release of Microsoft Office 2010, the press has certainly been filled with reviews, opinions and a lot of conflicting reports. There has also been an increase in Malware and virus attacks on the web, with more people’s computers falling victim to them – yes, even Apple computers are not immune to the bad things, and I had a good laugh when I saw that someone had hacked the new ipad less than 24 hours after its release.
I got a chance to play around with an iPad, and overall I was underwhelmed and not very impressed. Although the touch features do seem to be quite good (something that Apple is great with), the things that the iPad lacks are just too much to make it anything but an overpriced toy. the iPad’s lack of Flash support means that a lot of sites on the web are unviewable, as are the majority of video’s and web based games – of course Apple would be more than glad to sell you apps for games and such (while taking a nice 30% profit from the developers pockets). Then there is the fact that there are no USB ports, no camera, and the Wifi and battery have some serious issues. Also, Apple has now announced that they are going to be even more godlike in their control of what you can do with the hardware that people spend so much money to ‘own’ – sure, you own it, but Apple decides what you can and can’t do with it and what you can and can’t run on it. Personally, I will wait to see what the HP Slate tablet and Dell’s new Android based tablets will do as they are much more likely to actually have a value in terms of usability.
Microsoft has officially RTM’d Office 2010 (RTM=Release to Manufacturing) and it is looking like a pretty good product – stay tuned for a review as soon as I get the final copy! Microsoft is currently offering a great deal where if you buy a copy of Office 2007 in the next few months, you are eligible to get a download copy of Office 2010 when it is released, see: http://www.microsoft.com/office/offers/home/2/
I have recently noticed a big bump in Pensacola computer malware infections, with fake Antivirus applications leading the pack. These kind of infections are what they call ‘ Scareware ‘ – malware that is designed to scare you into either buying a worthless product, or in some cases trying to get your credit card number for nefarious purposes, and I have seen quite a few of these infecting computers in Pensacola FL the past few weeks. These scareware infections are designed to look like common security applications and come with names like ‘ Antivirus 7 ‘ (which resembles AVG), ‘ Antivirus 360 ‘ (which resembles Norton’s 360).
One of the most common ways these applications are installed are when you are directed to a page, or get a popup warning you that you are infected with something nasty and to download a tool to help you – the tool of course is the infection and it completely takes over your computer with even more false scary warning on how badly your machine is infected. The real bad downside of these infections is that they open the door for even more infections that are even nastier in what they do. Many times if you catch these infections as soon as you get them, you can do a System Restore to help deactivate them. However, once they become rooted in your system they do all kinds of things to try to stop you from removing them like disabling system restore, disabling task manager, disabling your antivirus and also blocking you from downloading tools that can help kill them.
For links to free and paid for antivirus/antispyware/antimalware software that can help protect you and remove some of these nasty infections visit Pensacola Computers Tech Page