Whitwick & District U3A - Computing tip June 2013
May’s tip made the assumption that you had some anti-virus software installed. Many people ask whether the paid-for versions are superior to the free ones.
The answer to a large extent depends on what else you want the program to do. Most of the the paid-for programs include more than plain anti-virus, such as parental controls, website checking, looking for tracking cookies and so on. If the convenience of having all of this in one place is important to you, then these programs are worthwhile. (A word of warning, sometimes these products insinuate themselves so well into Windows they can be hard to remove; certain of Norton’s products have been like this in the past).
However, many of the free programs contain similar features, and some features are also available as part of later versions of Windows®, or are available as standalone programs. The performance in terms of detecting viruses does not differ noticably between different suppliers or between paid-for or free. A number of the free ones do have ocassional pop-ups trying to nag you into buying a paid for version, but Microsoft Security Essentials does not do this and is free. Other effective free ones, albeit with nag screens, are Avast, Avira, PC Tools and AVG.
One aspect that some paid for products claim to be better at is discovering “Rootkits” (a particularly pernicious form of infection) and the free products (e.g. Blacklight, or Rootkit Revealer) are not always so easy to use.
Occasionally anti-virus programs can make a mistake and identify as a virus something that isn’t. If you are reasonably confident it is mistaken the you can submit the item to a website called VirusTotal.
Finally it is important for your anti-virus program to perform a scan every so often (say weekly or fortnightly). This is because you may a picked up a virus that has only just started to spread, and thus has not yet been analysed and included in the AV signatures. It is highly probable that it will be added to the signature list a few days later, and hence the AV program will then be able to identify during the scan even though it did not block it earlier.
Beware of unsolicited attempts to get you to buy anti-virus products; these are often attempts to get you actually install a virus. Similarly with some clean-up tools. Safe clean-ups include CCleaner, NCleaner and Revo Uninstaller.
Not strictly malware, but sometimes a nuisance / invasion of privacy are tracking cookies then the favourite free package to deal with them is SpyBot Search and Destroy from www.safer-networking.org
Finally, a brief return to the April topic. A large number of Yahoo mail, and this includes BT internet and Sky, users have found that their email accounts have been compromised. This is a world-wide problem, and if you haven’t already changed your email password, you definitely should do so.
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