Archive for Computer virus – Page 2

Free Antivirus – is it letting you down?

Free antivirus - is it good enough?

One of the best ways to avoid a computer virus is by using common sense, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be safe from attack. Even the most careful user can find themselves infected in an instant and spreading the virus faster than a sneeze in flu season. It’s why antivirus software is still the first package we install on all systems – because you never know when you’ll be attacked. But should you choose free or paid antivirus?

Advertising in the program

Much like a free mobile app making its fortune with in-app purchases, the free antivirus software will push for payment. Expect popup boxes pestering you to sign up to the paid version with some free options also trying to change your browser home page and default search engine, an inconvenience you may be stuck with. Paid options are more respectful and largely invisible unless they’ve detected a problem.

Effectiveness of free antivirus

It’s fair to expect your antivirus to detect malware, and testing showed that in a head-to-head battle free and paid are about equal at catching known infections – although some are better than others as you would expect. Unfortunately,  free antivirus generally needs to have recorded a virus into its virus lists before it can detect it. Paid antivirus is more likely to identify and stop a new virus because it also bases the detection on suspicious behaviour, the source and its attributes, a far more effective method of detection.

Features in free versions

Free antivirus programs are usually created from the paid version, taking out everything except the bare minimum. In your free version, it is unlikely that you will have all the advanced features like spam filters, firewalls, parental controls and secure web browsing. Some paid antivirus will also update your other software packages, forming a more secure protection against attacks. For example, you might view a malicious image file that takes advantage of an exploit in your PDF software so anything that reminds you to update your PDF program is a good thing. Unfortunately, hackers have advanced beyond simple tactics and it’s not just about avoiding email attachments anymore.

Support

Free antivirus options are the most popular choice because they’re… free. Obviously.  This also means there’s generally little or no support available. If there’s a problem or conflict, you may find yourself without protection until it can be resolved. Paid antivirus options usually include telephone support, ready to help with problems ranging from installation to system diagnostics.

Ease of use and flexibility

Depending on what you use your computer for, this may be an important concern. Free antivirus options are easy to install and use, but are very limited in their flexibility. They come as-is, meaning you can’t pick and choose what it monitors or how it reacts. For example, users occasionally find it necessary to disable ALL protections in order to install or play a network game. Paid versions are more likely to allow you to adapt the way the antivirus runs, switching features on and off as required e.g. many paid antivirus programs have a ‘gaming mode’ available, which restricts interference by the antivirus product.

Free antivirus is fine for very basic protection or those with an older PC. In these cases, something is always better than nothing. But we generally recommend that you go with a paid antivirus to defend you from the new attacks that are released daily, and to ensure you’ve got solid protection that will make a real difference to your digital safety.

If you want to upgrade to a paid antivirus, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Potentially Unwanted Programs

Too many toolbars are PUPs

Everyone has heard of the term ‘computer virus’ and many people have also heard of the term ‘malware’. Unfortunately there is a less well-known term – a Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP).

This is software that may be clogging up your computer, yet is not classed as a virus or malware. They can cause problems when they are downloaded and installed, but what makes a PUP different is that when you install one, you are giving consent for the installation.

PUPs typically use up large amounts of system resources because they are running in the background and generally slow down your computer – sometimes drastically. From changing your search provider for no reason, adding toolbars to your internet browser or giving you pop-up adverts, PUPs can be annoying and troublesome. They are also easy to get.

Newer strains are information gatherers, providing data about your browsing habits and other information which is valuable to someone and the information is sent out for data collection purposes. Some are used to spread actual malware. Not all are as bad as this, but they all share an unwelcome trait – you are probably better off without them.

How do you get them?

Sometimes they piggy back onto other downloads, such as from software websites where there are bright green ‘Start Download’ buttons everywhere. You click on the button expecting one piece of free software and end up getting something else entirely or something in addition to what you expected.

It’s not just dodgy toolbars or free software designers either. Some big names bundle well-meaning PUPs in their downloads, for example Adobe Reader can give you the option to download an on-demand virus scanning program unless you spot it on the webpage, or a Java download asking if you want to install a toolbar, change your search engine or other setting when installing the program.

The more dodgy variety of PUP relies on you not wanting to read through the long licensing blurb displayed on the screen (the EULA). By clicking on the ‘Accept’ button, you are effectively giving them permission to install and in the case of the dodgy variety, protection from any legal action.

The question is that it’s easy to click away and miss something – you do need to watch what you click on.

Why do you get them?

“Free” software makers make money from them – for example, every toolbar installed earns them money.

Companies that give you the option to download them in addition to their own product, may also make money promoting the additional software.

PUPs are also friendly with each other, so when you get one it may bring along some of its PUP friends as well, to make some more money on the side.

Won’t my anti-virus program catch them?

Not necessarily. The issue is that technically, a PUP can be legal software in spite of the way it is used and some antivirus vendors choose to be strict about detecting them, whilst others are not so strict. Even if it is not switched on by default, many antivirus programs have a setting to configure the antivirus to look for PUPs, so it’s worth checking yours.

The important thing is to be watchful, especially when downloading and installing programs.

Beware the Google Chrome Font Scam

Google Chrome font scam

If you are using the popular Google Chrome browser and open a website that has text that looks wrong, and then see a pop-up window saying that a font is missing that needs to be downloaded, do not download it – it is a scam being used by hackers!

Needless to say that this is not a genuine message from Chrome and reports are coming in that websites that are infected with this malware are causing text in their webpage to display incorrectly, with visitors using Chrome to see the above window saying that a font was not found and that the ‘Chrome Font Pack’ needs to be downloaded to see the web page properly.

This is a scam and if you download the “Font Pack” you will actually download malicious software. It is believed that the download is monitoring software designed to snoop on your computer – although some cases of ransomware have been using it to encrypt your personal files.

The problem is that this pop-up window looks legitimate and already users in the UK are being caught out with this.

So if you see this font message appear on a webpage, leave the website immediately and whatever you do, don’t download the software!

How can I tell if my computer is infected?

Virus infection

One of the common questions we are asked, is how to tell if a computer is infected? Some computer viruses are getting ‘clever’ by deliberately making themselves as stealthy as possible, so that they can do their work without you ever knowing.

Luckily, most of them can still be spotted, if you know where to look or what to look for – especially if there is a combination of symptoms.

Computer is running slow?

The general rule is that computers tend to get a bit slower over time just in normal use, so you need to be careful here. The more that computers are used and the older the technology in them, the more likely it is that the computer will take a little longer to do things than when it was new.

If however, your computer gets slower in a short period of time, that is a possible indication that something is amiss.

Where has my search engine gone?!

You switch your computer on, you want to do an internet search and suddenly Google, Bing or whatever search engine you normally use, is no longer there.

Although some people can inadvertently change the search engine in their internet browser, the majority of cases we see are that the search has been changed without your permission. This is classic computer malware behaviour (malicious software).

Unfortunately in many cases it isn’t a simple task to get rid of them by changing the setting back to what it should be, because they tend to reinsert themselves.

Pop-ups, pop-ups and more pop-ups!

If you are getting pop-up windows appearing, particularly advert-style ones, then again this is a classic symptom that you may be infected.

These annoying windows can appear even though you may have switched off pop-up windows in your internet browser and are usually scam-type infections, trying to convince you to spend money on computer programs and the like.

New icons on your desktop

Quite often we see icons on customer desktops that the customer has no recollection installing – particularly for so-called optimisation or driver update programs.

Many free downloads contain links to other software that is downloaded at the same time and whilst this extra software may not be classed as a virus in itself, they are classed as ‘Potentially Unwanted Programs’ and are automatically removed when professional technicians disinfect a computer. They were installed without your express permission, are hoaxes or simply don’t really do what they say that they do.

If you suspect that your computer is infected, give us a call on 01455 209505 and we can check your computer for you.