Malware is absolutely everywhere these days. Even if you do all the right things like not clicking on links or opening attachments in emails, avoiding bittorents, porn sites and illegal download sites like Limewire (which is full of malware!), not clicking on pop up or banner ads, and being careful about what apps and notifications you open on sites like Facebook, malware can still sneak in. This is especially true if you are on a network. Last night while I was online I was suddenly redirected to a rogue anti-virus site. I was shocked as I am super careful. I disconnected my wireless card and started running scans-they found 5 Trojans and a rootkit on my system! Further digging revealed that my husband’s computer had the same infections plus a few more. I did some more research and asked a few questions and it seems the Trojans are the kind that search out networks and infect every computer on the ones it finds. In other words my husband’s computer was contagious! This doesn’t mean he was careless. Malware is getting so sophisticated these days that many kinds don’t require the user to click on, run or open them. They do it all themselves! This means if you accidentally make a typo and wind up on an unfamiliar site, or accidentally click on a pop up when you try to close it, that site could quietly download malware onto your computer. Many businesses buy up the misspelled versions of their domain names because they know if they don’t, scammers and cybersquatters will.
How do you protect yourself? First of all make sure whatever OS you use (and yes there is Mac malware out there!) is kept up to date and all security patches are installed. Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool is quite good and should be downloaded and run once a month. Keep your anti-virus software updated at all times as well. If you’re on a network, keep your firewall up and running at all times (My husband had accidentally turned ours off, which I believe led to the infections) and make sure your router is protected. WPA-PSK security is recommended as most hackers can easily crack the old WEP protocol. Choose a passkey that is a mix of letters and numbers and change it regularly.
There are several good anti-malware programs out there and you should be using at least one. I highly recommend the following:
This is simple, fast and powerful software that detects all kinds of malware, spyware and adware. It scans files, registry keys, boot sectors, and memory for infections. The free version is adequate but if you want real-time protection and the ability to schedule regular scans, you can upgrade to the premium version for $24.95.
Spybot Search & Destroy:
This is another great tool for finding malware, spyware and adware on your computer. It allows you to back up your registry, run scans and has a useful immunization feature that tweaks your browser to block drive by malware, tracking cookies, malicious websites and other bad stuff. The TeaTimer feature quietly monitors system processes and terminates malicious or suspicious ones and alerts you. It also alerts when a program tries to change a critical registry key.
This is a top notch anti-virus program. Unlike Norton and McAfee, it’s not bloatware and won’t hog system resources. There’s a free version and a premium “security suite” for $54.99. I find the free version to be more than adequate. The one caution I have is that it sometimes flags legit programs as viruses, This kind of false positive crippled iTunes for a short time over the summer. It was quickly fixed however.
Watch where you surf, what you click on and what you download/install, keep your network secure and your anti-virus software up to date and running at all times, and do regular scans with one of the anti-malware programs discussed above and you will spoil the fun for millions of hackers and scammers!