December 31, 2012

Because I keep hearing about this - part 2

So we are moving along after yesterday's post about basic AV protection. Let's go to the next step which would be the current best anti-malware protection.

That would (of course) be Malwarebytes. They do have a free version that you can use to scan your system. However, this is one piece of software I consider well worth the money ($24.95) for the Pro version.


Well, first of all because it's a one time fee. Unlike AV vendors that want this money every year, these guys only ask for money once then you are set. There is some minor upkeep: Please be aware they do periodically require you to download and install a "new" version. You don't have to pay, but if you don't install the newest version, you aren't covered for future threats.

Also, the pro version has the ability, if you do happen to pick up any malware, to be run, even if the malware tries to block this.  That's a great thing indeed.  It means you might be able to get your system restored more easily.  For this alone, it's worth the price.  You can try it for free for 14 days.  All in all it's a good deal. (let me mention once again, that just like basic AV software, malwarebytes will not catch everything - it will get most stuff, but it's not perfect either)

In the comments yesterday VW mentioned ZoneAlarm and Net Nanny

I used to use ZoneAlarm back when the Windows firewall was not very well done (WinNT) to non-existent (Win98 ). The problem with ZoneAlarm is that it is a PITA to "train" it.  Once it's trained it's not bad, although I had periodic trouble with it when using my VPN for work.  I'm not sure how much it slows things down these days.  I haven't kept up with it because it's not really necessary on newer systems.

Then there are programs like Net Nanny that keep your kids from surfing to sites they shouldn't.  Depending on your kids and your needs, these programs might work for you or they might not. 

Some of it depends on how computer savvy your kids are.  Any program running on your computer can be circumvented by an industrious, smart, kid.  That's one reason why parents need to keep a weather eye on kids when they are online.   Check histories, log files, look over their shoulder periodically, that kind of thing.

Another way to do it is to set up Open DNS on your system.  To effectively use it, you need to set it up on your router and lock your router with a good password.  Then set up an account with them and determine the level of protection you want.  You might even use this in conjunction with Net Nanny or some of the other programs of that type and use Open DNS for logging purposes so you can really see where they've been and what links they are clicking. 

Open DNS has managed to stop some malware from getting to their clients by blocking it before it reaches the machine.  So it's worth a look even if you only use the basic DNS feature alone.  And if you are a Comcast customer (where there have been frequent DNS outages) Open DNS will keep you online and connected. 

I think that covers this little bit.  Tomorrow we'll be onto the browser and what you can do there.

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 02:02 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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December 30, 2012

Because I keep hearing about this

And it's a wave of people getting hit with virus infected computers again.  Not sure why, but it seems to go in spurts.  (at least the reportage of such things does).  If you run a windows machine, what is the best way to try and keep your computer from becoming minced-meat? 

I'm sure there are people out there who will give you all kinds of advice and say what I tell you is a load of crap.  The virus/trojan landscape is always changing and every geek has their opinion (which they insist is the only correct opinion ever).  People develop attachments to various ways to try and stay safe, whether or not those ways actually work. They seem to "know" this is the best way.  Okay fine.  I'll tell you what I think.  You may take it or leave it.  Up to you.

I spread this out over a few posts.  Mainly because I don't want one post to get too long.

Let's start with Antivirus software (AV).

First you must understand that no AV product will keep you safe.  Many people seem to think that just because they have AV on their system, they are set.  Unfortunately that is completely untrue.  AV will protect you from KNOWN viruses.  The key here is the word "known".  It will not protect you from the unknown.  It will not protect you from new viruses that haven't had signatures uploaded.  (there are 10's of thousands of new viruses released every day).  The value in AV is in stopping the older stuff from getting your system because the old stuff is still floating around the net, even stuff from the 1990's is still out there.  

So what is the best AV?  There isn't one. At any given point in time, one AV product will outperform the others.  But all of them will be behind on virus signature updates. 

What you want is something that won't degrade the performance of your machine and won't be annoying you with popups while you try to browse the web. 

The best in this category is Microsoft Security Essentials.  Yes, Microsoft have actually done this right.  It updates with system updates, it doesn't get in the way.  It does the job it's supposed to do without interfering. 

Other AV products like AVG and Avast are okay.  You can get free versions, but they tend to slow everything down and become annoying when they try to make you upgrade to the paid version.  They don't give you any better protection than MSE.

Unless you work in IT and/or must use it for work purposes, stay well away from McAfee and Symantec.  Both of these are resource hogs.  Unless you have a fast machine with plenty of RAM, they will slow you to a crawl and can be worse than having a virus on your system.  They often will not let you easily install new software.  And upon updating they will even change settings you have created (for example, if you set up to allow a vpn through, an update might just turn that off causing much angst while you try to figure out what happened).   Worse yet, to get these AV products off your system you have to download a removal tool and use that.  Very very annoying! 

So there you go.  My opinion on AV.  Understand what it will and won't do for you and you will be a bit safer. 

Next up: Malwarebytes

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 12:04 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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December 02, 2012

Those Scary Moments

After taking back the Home Phone Connect device that was not working properly, I noticed our entire home network was now having problems.  I figure the device must have caused some sort of issue with our router or modem... the problems stem from the day I started using the device. 

My iphone was having all sorts of problems sending and receiving messages whether I was using the wifi or the cell system (even after doing a restart).  There was too much lag time on my regular computers when browsing the net.  It just wasn't right.

So this morning I decided to reboot all the network devices.  Because my days are not exciting enough.

The network stuff entails just a little bit of work in my house. Unplug the cable modem, unplug the wireless router, go upstairs, contort oneself behind the sofa, unplug the cell phone mini-tower and it's wireless connector. Then go back and start plugging them back in - in order.  Let them each cycle through the restart procedure and it works... or not.

Yes, it's always good heart exercise to see that message telling you the router does not see the internet". 

What?  All the lights are up and good to go.  What's up?  Trying to connect directly to the modem is also a no go. 

Jolly good.

Ended up having to restart the modem a couple of times. Then the wireless connector for the mini-tower refuse to start at all.  It's totally dead. 

I can hear Bones saying it now:
"It's dead Jim!" 

Luckily I had an exact duplicate of the wireless connector for the mini-tower.  (thank you credit card points that were burning a hole in my pocket and saying "use me now before they change their mind and take them away!")

Eventually, after much quick thinking of "where can I buy a new..." and "I wonder how much this will cost to replace..." and "how soon can I get hold of this stuff???".  I had the network back up and online.  It's running MUCH better.

I do need to buy a new wireless connector as a backup for my cell phone mini-tower.  Just in case the current connector decides to take a nose dive too.

Ah the joys of home networks.  Considering this is a tiny home network, if you extrapolate this problem to world wide large networks, it's a wonder the internet works at all.  Ever.

Posted by: Teresa in WebTech at 02:10 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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