antivirus

Since this post is the last of October, it may be beneficial to remind everyone that many of the software programs you are using may need to be revisited.  While this post may be very useful for those that have brought me their computers and are working on keeping things running smooth (no tricks), it is probably also good for others to look at what they are using on their computers and update their software (or no treats).

Anti-Virus

Many are using some sort of anti-virus – take a moment to see if you are running the latest version (if there is a software upgrade or newer version you could be using).  Since many folks get various packages, I’ll only note the very popular free programs that should meet home user needs (always read the EULA [End User License Agreement] to make sure you don’t violate use).  The only free one I recommend is AVG.  I use the paid version and have for 3 years running.  The latest offering is AVG 2011 Free Edition – upgrade now.

Adware

While some software packages tout all-in-one capabilities, the reality is no single package of software meets all threats or responds as well as others that focus on a specific area of threats.  Ad-Aware Free Internet security is at version 8.3.4 as of this posting.  If you are running an older version, make sure you visit their site and get the latest version (then keep it updated).

Spyware

One of the popular programs is an oldie but a goodie – Spybot.  Believe it or not, they are still at version 1.6.2, however be sure that is the version you are running.  Then take the time to download the most current definitions, then immunize your computer.

Malware

A heavy hitter in this area is Malwarebytes.  Currently the version is a 1.46 – and they update their database many times a day.  Today is a good day to open this program, update your definitions and scan your computer for any issues.

While these are far from the only programs out there, many people use these programs to fix badware issues that happen to their machines.  Whatever software package(s) you are using, why not take some time today to make sure you are using the latest version of the software, then update the definitions and scan your computer to keep it running at peak performance – and problem free!


 

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Click Behavior

You’ve heard it all before – practice safe computing.  That means (to this writer and many others) keep your software patched and up to date, put a personal firewall on your computer (to control what comes in to the computer and out from the computer) and install anti-virus software (and keep it up to date with current definitions).  And many folks follow this advise – good for you!

But there is an area that still faces challenges even with all of the other items done above – that would be your click behavior.  Some people might put this in with other behaviors that we face everyday, or even in the category of social engineering.  I’m certain there is some validity to these thoughts – however, click behavior I’m talking about has to do with you, your mind, your finger(s) – and how all that comes together to become more than a thought, it becomes the action where you click on … something.

Let me explain.  We sit down to read our e-mails.  Oh, cousin Aaragon sent me all the normal jokes and chain letter warnings – I just delete them.  There’s a message from my friend Legalos, with a link to a news article.  I click on that – oh my, that wasn’t the type of news I expected at all!  Now I have this pop up saying my computer could be at risk because of (fill in the blank here, anti-virus, trojan, spyware, etc.).  Click on the box!

And you’re had.

Often times, these ‘ads’ appear to be legitimate, or at least they look like they may be something that came from our installed protection software.  Be very careful, many are not.  A quick look at Wikipedia reveals interesting names like ANG Antivirus (not to be confused with the product I use – AVG Antivirus).  Or maybe MS Antivirus (or one of the other names it is known by, like XP Antivirus, Vitae Antivirus, Windows Antivirus, Win Antivirus, Antivirus Pro, Antivirus Pro 2009, Antivirus 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 360, Internet Antivirus Plus, System Antivirus, Spyware Guard 2008 and 2009, Spyware Protect 2009, Winweb Security 2008, System Security, Malware Defender 2009, Ultimate Antivirus2008, Vista Antivirus, General Antivirus, AntiSpywareMaster, Antispyware 2008, XP AntiSpyware 2008 and 2009, WinPCDefender, Antivirus XP Pro, Anti-Virus-1, and Total Security).  The name changes all the time, but the intent does not – to infect your machine and to get your money if possible.

Now how did this all begin?  Oh, right – we clicked on something.  So, are there ways we can avoid this problem?  Certainly!

First, make sure you ARE practicing safe computing.  Then, be wary of pop ups that are warning you of impending doom (don’t click OK on them).  If you have that happen, perhaps you should learn to kill that window using Windows Task Manager (for you Microsoft Operating System users).  Here’s an article on how to get Task Manager open (normally by pressing CTRL+ALT+DELETE, and then click Task Manager).  From there you should be on the application tab, select the window you want to end (or shut down or get rid of) and click on end task.  Below is a screen shot of this tool, I circled the tab at the top and the end task button so you could easily see what I’m referring to.

Task Manager (in Vista)

That could be an easy first line of defense.  Another area is that of knowing that your click will take you somewhere – but it may not be where you think it is.  My rule of thumb there is – don’t click.  If you want to see it, type in the URL (if you are reasonably certain it is legitimate).  There are times that you don’t know what the link leads to – you mouse over the text and see!  Below is a screen shot (and click on it to get a larger shot that opens in a separate window).

Link Hints

Here, I’ve numbered these so I can better type to them.  Number 1 is the address bar of my web browser.  That tells me where I currently am, or the page I’m currently viewing.

Number 2 shows me with my cursor over a link on the page.  When I put my cursor there, notice what happens in the bottom right of my web browser screen – it tells me where that link is going to go (if I click on it).  That’s a nice clue to have, even when the link has a URL in there, I’m going to check the bottom of my browser to make sure it is going where it is suppose to go and not somewhere else.  This even works in many computer-based e-mail programs (see below for one).

Don't Click There!

Clicking on that link is not taking me to PayPal…perhaps that is one I shouldn’t click on (actually, I forward these to spoof [at] paypal [dot] com so they can work to stop this type of abuse).  So be smart and use these clues to your advantage.

Number 3 as shown earlier is part of my Web of Trust.  In the second part of this post (will be up later this month) I’ll address this tool and others you may want to use when searching the web as you follow links in search engine results.  Until then, thanks for reading!


 

If you haven’t heard about this one, you must spend way too much time under a rock.  Many major news outlets have been discussing this on the television, radio, and (gasp) on line (for a sample, click here for a Google News search).

Computers already infected by the worm are supposed to be automatically updated with some unknown software component on April Fools Day. That’s more or less the sum of what computer experts know about the rhyme or reason behind this worm, but it hasn’t stopped pundits and the press alike from issuing ominous warnings…Security software maker F-Secure has put together an interesting and entertaining FAQ on Conficker, which I highly recommend that anyone worried about this threat go read. F-Secure also has a free cleaning tool available at that link.
(from Conficker: Doomsday, or the World’s Longest Rickroll?)

There are many writings on this, one of my favorites has been posted on Lockergnome (‘How Do I Know If I’ve Got The Conficker Virus?‘).  There the author brings up important issues as well (messages that pop up saying you need a newer set of codec’s to play media files or need to upgrade flash player).  I always recommend keeping your operating system and software programs up to date, but be mindful that every message that pops up may not be from a trusted source!

Since April 1 is right around the corner, why not take the time to make sure your Anti-Virus is updated and set up correctly (scanning as per either the default settings or to your preference, but make sure it is functioning!).  While you’re at it, check to make sure your operating system and applications are up to date with all the applicable security and update patches.  Don’t forget your firewall and other malware programs you may be using, check on them as well!

While many writing about this particular virus run the gammet between crying wolf and doomsday predictions, the ultimate security for your machine is – YOU!  Be informed, and take all necessary precautions.  Happy Computing!


 

I have quite a few customers who ask me to either get their computers working better (slow, sluggish, or infected and almost broken…).  Others get new computers and just need them loaded up with decent software at a decent price.  For me, the best price is FREE, so below are some of those items I highly encourage my customers to load, keep updated, and schedule to run so their machines are happy machines.  For this article, I’m focusing on Microsoft Windows XP and Vista based software (and some of these items will run on older versions of Windows OS (Operating System) as well).

Special disclaimer – if you are a business or your customer is running a business from the software below, please be sure you read and understand the EULA (end user license agreement) for each piece of software.  If it is free for non-commercial use, but you need the paid for commercial use, I still recommend the product *and* recommend that my customers purchase it.  We need to always do the right thing, it is how these software writers make their living!

First – make sure you are protected from viruses, and AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition does the trick (find it at http://free.avg.com).  This is a nimble product that has (and does) work well for a bunch of my clients.  I use their paid edition (3 license version) for my business and home computers, it is a very reasonable price for an excellent product.

Also, you need to have a personal firewall protecting your computer.  I recommend ZoneAlarm Basic Version, which is also free!  You can find it here and if you are interested in why you need a firewall they have an interesting article here on that.

Now let’s move to malware.  We probably need to prepare for Ad-ware, Spy-ware, and other bad stuff that could come to our machines.  I recommend using the following items, all free!  The first is Spybot, you will find this program here.  The next one is Ad-Aware, and this program is located here.  Finally, don’t forget Windows Defender, and you will find that program here.

For each of the programs I’ve mentioned, you need to make sure they are updated, you immunize (as needed), and you run them periodically.  I’d say every 2 to 4 weeks at a minimum!  Coupled with this, please be sure to defragment your machine as well.  These are basics to maintaining a happy and healthy computer.

And…be sure to clean out your temporary files as well.  Just download and use CCleaner, you can find it here.  Hope this helps!