Archive for Anti-spyware

Steps to help prevent infection on your computer

Here are some tips for PC and Mac users alike — and smartphone users, too. Though there are “few” Mac viruses in the wild, there are plenty of unscrupulous programmers and con-men spreading free fraudulent software and malware.

Take the following steps to help prevent infection on your computer:
  • Enable a firewall on your computer.
  • Get the latest computer updates for all your installed software.
  • Use up-to-date antivirus software.
  • Limit user privileges on the computer.
  • Use caution when opening attachments and accepting file transfers.
  • Use caution when clicking on links to webpages.
  • Avoid downloading pirated software.
  • Protect yourself against social engineering attacks.
  • Use strong passwords.
Let me elaborate on a few points:
Get the latest computer updates

Updates help protect your computer from viruses, worms, and other threats as they are discovered. It is important to install updates for all the software that is installed in your computer. These are usually available from the providing company’s website. The following are programs I recommend updating straight from the source:

  • Adobe (www.adobe.com):
    • Flash
    • Acrobat Reader
    • Air
    • Shockwave
  • Java (www.java.com): Check this one monthly.
Use up-to-date antivirus software

Most antivirus software can detect and prevent infection by known malicious software. To help protect you from infection, you should always run antivirus software. If you have a “subscription” for update service, make sure you renew annually. Antivirus, contrary to popular belief, is not free-for-life.

Use caution when opening attachments and accepting file transfers

Exercise caution with email and attachments received from unknown sources, or received unexpectedly from known sources. Use extreme caution when accepting file transfers from known or unknown sources. When in doubt, reply to the sender, assuming it is someone you know, and confirm that they meant to send you the attachment. It’s possible their computer is infected and sent you the file without their knowledge. I’ve seen this happen several timers in the course of a year.

Use caution when clicking on links to webpages

As above: Exercise caution with links to webpages that you receive from unknown sources, especially if the links are to a webpage that you are not familiar with, unsure of the destination of, or suspicious of. Malicious software may be installed in your computer simply by visiting a webpage with harmful content.

Avoid downloading pirated software

Threats may also be bundled with software and files that are available for download on various torrent sites. Downloading “cracked” or “pirated” software from these sites carries not only the risk of being infected with malware, but is also illegal. For more information, see ‘The risks of obtaining and using pirated software‘.

Protect yourself from social engineering attacks

While attackers may attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in hardware or software to compromise a computer, they also attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in human behavior to do the same. When an attacker attempts to take advantage of human behavior to persuade the affected user to perform an action of the attacker’s choice, it is known as ‘social engineering’. Essentially, social engineering is an attack against the human interface of the targeted computer. For more information, see ‘What is social engineering?‘.

Use strong passwords

Attackers may try to gain access to your Windows account by guessing your password. It is therefore important that you use a strong password – one that cannot be easily guessed by an attacker. A strong password is one that has at least eight characters, and combines letters, numbers, and symbols. For more information, see http://www.microsoft.com/protect/yourself/password/create.mspx.

Updated Posts: AntiVirus for Mac; Sneak Peek Sale

Back in Dec. 2008 I wrote a post titled Apple Encourages AntiVirus Use for Macs?! I updated the article today to include links to the latest AntiVirus and AntiSpyware applications for the Mac. If you still believe that Macs are invulnerable to viruses and spyware, then you may be interested in knowing that Apple has added anti-malware features to their latest Mac Snow Leopard operating system. See Dan Moren’s report at PCWorld on the Hidden Malware Features of Snow Leopard. I mentioned some risks to Mac users in recent weeks.

I also updated the links in my Jan. 2009 post about sale items on Buy.com. I’ve crossed out the items that are not available. I’ve updated the links and proces on the items that are available. It’s a useful link because many of the items have become very affordable.

Anti-Spyware and Anti-Virus for new computers

I’m picking up where I left off last week with the $450 computer system I built for a client. The system has 2 GB of RAM, a dual core processor, a 500GB hard drive, a DVD burner, and it runs the latest Windows 7 operating system.

In my last article, I listed some software I install on a typical new computer; today, I’ll continue by discussing spyware protection with PC Tools Spyware Doctor and virus protection using avast!

Viruses and Spyware: What’s the difference?

Viruses

  • Viruses are small programs or snippets of computer code that are designed to spread from one computer to another by infecting email messages, computer files, or storage media. When another computer opens an infected file, message, or disc, the virus has an opportunity to infect the new computer.
  • Viruses often have noticeable affects such as slowing down a computer, blocking access to files, causing unusual counds or messages to appear, or even the deletion of files stored on a system.
  • Each virus needs specific conditions in order to take effect. For example, some viruses may require that a file or email message needs to be opened — often by a specific program (Word, Excel, etc.). In some cases your computer maybe infected, but without the necessary activating conditions, you may never notice the virus’s presence, but it is still possible for the the virus to spread if the infected message or file is sent to another computer.
  • Viruses can be detected and eliminated by anti-virus software.

Spyware

  • Spyware, as it names implies, is more difficult to spot. After all, a good spy shouldn’t be noticed.
  • While viruses are designed to spread on their own, spyware is often intentionally downloaded by a computer user. Typically the user is deceived and lead to believe that the program they are downloading is useful, beneficial, or desirable.
  • Spyware is often designed to seek out personal information, or to trick the computer user into providing personal information.
  • Some spyware may have “viral elements” which enable to spyware to spread to other computers. Such spyware can be detected by anti-virus software.
  • Spyware without a viral element is detectable by anti-spyware software.

Many computer owners mistakenly believe that they only need one or the other, but if you use the Internet you should have both types of software installed on your computer. Antispyware doesn’t detect viruses, and antivirus programs only detect some spyware programs (as mentioned above).

avast! antivirus

My antivirus software of choice is avast! This program is free for home users with only one computer. If you have more than one computer, they ask that you download the avast! Pro version. avast! Pro for one computer is $40, $55 for three computers, and $85 for 5 computers. I have installed this software on over a hundred computers, and there have been no complaints from anyone who’s used it.

PC Tools Spyware Doctor

My favorite anti-spyware program is PC Tools Spyware Doctor. I found this program several years ago, and was happily surprised to find it caught more spyware than any other program of its kind. I’ve been using it and recommending it ever since.

Spyware Doctor just keeps getting better with age. The latest version includes anti-virus software, and the October 2009 issue of PC Magazine says:

“The latest Spyware Doctor proved effective in every area of malware removal and blocking. It’s a great product.”

Spyware Doctor can be installed on up to three computers for $39.95. It’s only available online. Click the links above or the picture at left in order to buy your copy. Its available as a download and as a mail-order CD.

Facebook to charge $4.99 per month in June?

Not true. Just a few weeks ago, if you’re an active Facebook user, you may have read that Facebook was going to start charging $4.99 to use the service starting at the end of June 2010. Here’s a snippet of the message that circulated last month:

Spyware Doctor Free Scan

There is a website that has over 83,000 members of people protesting the following… WE’RE AGAINST THE 4.99 A MONTH CHARGE FOR FACEBOOK FROM JUNE 30TH 2010 See website here…

[website address removed]

Thankfully, this was just one of many Facebook-related hoaxes that circulate the web. (The bigger the site, the bigger the target, the bigger the audience.) Unfortunately, the bogus message caused real problems for many people who decided to look into the web site and Facebook group it promoted.

Many who visited the web site clicked on certain elements which initiated a hijacking attempt on their computers. Further clicking resulted the downloading of malware, spyware, and “highly objectionable images” to the visiting computer.

Shortly after a counter message began circulating among Facebook users and friends alerting them to the harmful effects of the phony Facebook group and web site. (I received copies of both messages. I ignored the first, and said “Just as I thought” to the second.) The warning messages looked something like this:

WARNING: DO NOT JOIN the group We are against paying $4.99 for Facebook – IT’s A VIRUS AND HACKER! There are extremely graphic images at the website they suggest you visit. FACEBOOK has no plans on charging us. ELIMINATE THIS GROUP from your groups & run your spyware ASAP. REPOST THIS AS YOUR STATUS on your Profile. Thanks

Do you think, or know, you were a victim of this insidious hoax?

The problem with malware and spyware is its hard to detect, and its becoming an ever more common problem. Even more problematic than virus attacks.

Best Buy’s Geek Squad will charge any where from $200—$300 to remove spyware from your computer, but I strongly recommend you purchase Spyware Doctor software from PC Tools. It costs only $39.95 and can be installed on up to 3 computers. I recommend Spyware Doctor over any other antispyware program on the market today, but it’s not available in stores.

Only have one computer? Why not ask a friend or relative if they’d like to split the cost with you? You can have PC Tools mail you a CD copy for $9.95.

Read more Skylarking articles about Internet and email hoaxes circulating the web:

Conficker Virus Begins To Attack PCs

I was reading about the Conficker virus on Shawn’s Technology Blog. He says that a report from Reuters says the Conficker virus — which was supposed to activate on April 1st — has slowly started activating on computers by installing spyware and turning them into spam servers.

Conficker is also known as Downadup and Kido, and it also installs a second virus called Waledac.

Reuters mentions how the computer worm began spreading late last year, and how it was designed to respond to commands from a remote server. This army of slave computers infected with the worm controlled by a remote server is called a botnet.

Furthermore, Vincent Weafer, a vice president with Symantec Security Response, makers of Norton Antivirus, has reported that recently the unknown controllers of this remote server have begun using a small percentage of the computers they control to upload ‘malware’ and ‘spyware’. One such piece of malware is the Waledac virus which installs itself on the infected computer, and then uses the computer to send out spam email messages promoting a fake anti-spyware program.

Meanwhile, Shawn’s technology Blog is very wisely recommending that computer owners keep your Windows software up to date by visiting the Windows Update web site. He also recommends you install anti-spyware software such as PC Tools Spyware Doctor. I strongly agree with his recommendations, and have done so frequently in this blog. I also recommend you install an antivirus program such as Alwil’s free Avast! antivirus program. Yes, you read that correctly, Avast antivirus is free. I have been using it on all my computers for several years now.

http://www.pctools.com/free-antivirus/

There is a free version of Spyware Doctor available from Google which does a good job of removing spyware, but for real time protection against spyware you should purchase Spyware Doctor. If you don’t have an antivirus program, you might also consider downloading Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus.

Have a question about spyware or viruses? Then why not post a Comment or Question with the link below.

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