How to Protect Yourself Against Malware

July 2, 2014
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I get asked about Malware a lot. The problem, however, usually comes down to you and your habits. First and foremost, most victims are people who don’t install updates to plug security holes. I’m not talking only about Windows but also Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, and particularly Oracle’s Java, and others. Often it’s simply because they’re not downloaded properly. Read the instructions! It never ceases ton amaze me just how many folks download programs onto their hard-drives where they sit, having not been correctly installed. Other folks don’t run anti-virus software and firewalls. Bad are virus signatures that are not kept up to date. Doubly bad is installation of pirated software. Worse by far is getting suckered into social engineering tricks, where you’re the schmuck who installs viruses hidden inside email attachments, bogus Flash updates, or through downloading Twitter and Facebook links.

I’m sorry to come off like your elementary school teacher, but you asked for it! Urgent #1: Download only updates from what you are certain are official sources. If you’re not sure that it’s, say, the Adobe or Paypal website, go in another way. In the case of Adobe and Paypal you need to be aware that criminals are relentlessly trying to attack them. Be sure to keep altering the passwords you use with them. It’s just good common sense!

How to Protect Yourself Against Malware

Urgent #2: Anti-virus program can’t catch everything. It’s the nature of the beast that criminal hackers come up with new ways to break in. Some are quicker to update than others. The best one in my experience is VirusTotal. Just be aware that the picture alters daily and that you must be vigilant. According to Wired, Microsoft says that in the fourth quarter of 2013, its software removed malware from 1.78% of PCs worldwide, with Tunisia having the worst infection rate at 4.95%. Sounds good, right? Just don’t be one of the 1.78%.

As you are honest and naïve about these things, keep in mind that you are dealing with the criminal hacker mind, which, to accomplish its goal must be able to enter your hard drive without being detected, shut down, or deleted.  Most commonly, malicious programs come dressed up as something which seems normal – say a $200 credit for shopping at Macey’s if you “help us with a survey on your shopping habits” – and innocuous. This is the Trojan-Horse technique. A Trojan Horse being any program inviting a user to run it while hiding a malicious executable code. The code may take effect immediately or lie dormant long enough to encrypt user files and download other malicious functionality software. In the case of the latter, after a malicious program is installed on a system, it is essential that it stays concealed, to avoid detection. Rootkit software packages make the malware invisible to the user. Most malware infections are repeat offenders. They exploit the same security holes that have been fixed. In layman’s terms: Old wounds remain vulnerable!

Did you know that Microsoft releases patches on the second Tuesday of each month? Set your PC to install them as soon as they pop up on your desktop, or be vigilant enough to check what’s new weekly. Malware programmers are bastards. If a patch is released, their very first move is to reverse-engineer the fix, find the old security hole and open it again. As most of you aren’t vigilant enough and you are too lazy to practice what I preach I unequivocally recommend you install and use Firefox and Google Chrome browsers. They do the hard work for you, installing patches automatically.

How to Protect Yourself Against Malware

Another product I recommend installing is Securia’s Personal Software Inspector. Securia check every bit of all software on your PC, informing you which programs need updating and will then install them, or instruct you when programs require a manual update. It will also catch many of the common installation mistakes Windows often makes. Be aware that installing PSI can be a hassle. Read the instructions fully and use the Windows’ customizing option. The icon in the System Tray notification area will show up on the right side of the task bar. Place the mouse pointer over the icon to get your required information.

There are certainly better ways to keep your software up to date than using the poor excuse for security that’s in Windows 8.  Better to go with Avast 2014, which is far faster and superior when it comes to updates, which Microsoft have a history of always being lackadaisical about. Avast 2014 is free and its anti-virus program offers the very latest in anti-rootkit as well as anti-spyware. Yes, among the free ‘foist ware’ that comes with it are the likes of Google Chrome, but you’re an adult. You can use the customization option by your own bad self, can’t you? For additional information’s sake, I would add that there is other free antivirus software in AVG Free and Bitfinder. It’s just that Avast 2014 is a whole lot better.

Be aware also that, although lots of fundamental anti-virus software is free, they will work diligently at selling you upgrades for denser, industrial-style comprehensive security suites. Avast’s Premier edition includes a SafeZone for protecting your banking and accounting, a firewall, express email checking to detect spam and phishing attacks, automatic software updates, data shredding, and so on. Such suites are useful but more or less unnecessary, depending upon how byzantine your personal business dealings actually are.

If byzantine and complex business practices are indeed your true thing, I would urge you to splurge $34.99 (per PC) on Kaspersky Pure 3.0 Total Security, which is way beyond adequate for home and business users. It’s very simple to use and written by folks with the rare gift of communication. It comes with a firewall, file shredder, safe money and anti-spam/phishing features, Total Security additionally includes keyboard protection, a neat little password manager which helps you think of new ones in a savvy way, encryption, banner ad blocking, backups and parental controls. The how-tos on encryption and parental blocking are actually quite well written and useful

How to Protect Yourself Against Malware

Do not pay money for redundant, but brand-name old-school software like those suites still produced by Norton and McAfee. I know some of you received them pre-installed in your brand-new PC, but they are child’s play for hackers to infiltrate. Get rid of them. They are antiquated and useless. It will give you extra memory space! Of course, to the villains out there, this is all sport. You can’t catch them all. It’s wise to double-check, provided you don’t try to run things simultaneously. Malbeware Anti-Malware (MBAM) has been pretty effective as well as Kaspersky’s Security Scan.  You might also sample SurfRight’s HitMan Pro, which is a breeze to install on a USB thumb drive. All three scanner programs work highly effectively if your main AV program gets punished. Indeed, utilizing HitmanPro along with Kickstart on a USB enemy stick means that, should you be surprised by infection, it will still have the ability to load quickly before the virus can take over.

This is where your brilliant purchase of the Kaspersky Pure 3.0 Total Security shows how ahead of the game and loaded up for bear you are. After all, you’ve already created a Kaspersky Rescue Disk having downloaded and burned an iso file long in advance of any emergency. On the other hand, if you erred and bought a PC minus an optical drive, guard your Kaspersky kit well as it may be the only thing that keeps you from the rank embarrassment of getting locked out of your own PC. It’s just plain common sense: Be prepared in advance!

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