Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

I Answer A Common Question

Is antivirus “X” better than antivirus “Y”?

Both in my “real job” as a Support & Repair Tech, and as a World Renown Tech Blogger (Ahem), I am frequently asked about various programs folks can use to prevent computer infections, or clean up an infection up after “my teenage son/grandson downloaded something.” ¹

If I had a nickel for each of the times I have been asked “is antivirus “X” better than antivirus “Y”? ” and/or “which anti-spyware do you use, Paul?” it would have added up to a pretty nice pile of nickels.
Like.. maybe.. oh.. twenty gazillion dollars worth.

Identity Theft Yes. I get asked a lot. But I don’t mind and I don’t charge a nickel. Because there’s an organized, criminal enterprise bent on using the Internet to turn our PC’s into spam “bots” in a “botnet”, steal our personal information (“identities”), and are always hoping to hit the jackpot by recording a bank login and/or credit card number.

[Fact: Online crime is bigger than the global drugs trade. The Internet shadow economy is worth over $105 billion/year.  No country, no person, no business and no government is immune from Cybercrime.]

I hate repeating myself, so I refer the askers to Top 10 things you should do to your computer and Basic Steps For Protecting Your PC. But they come back with, “yeah, yeah, yeah, but I want your private and personal recommendations.”

So.. always give the same baseline answer — if you connect a Windows computer to the Internet you should have:
1) a firewall turned on (just one).
2) an up-to-date antivirus (just one).
3) One up-to-date anti-spyware with “active shielding” (heuristics)
4) One “passive”, up-to-date, anti-spyware that you run once a week to catch what the other one misses.
5) A healthy stock of “paranoid common sense”. (No. You did not just win the Irish E-mail Lottery.)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but I want your private and personal recommendations.

Well, folks, Okay. I will tell you about a tool I use that I haven’t mentioned here before. It is an anti-malware scanner that I use on the job, and on several of my own machines. And I install it on the PC’s of my friends and family. And, I’ll tell you why — it’s simple and it’s effective.

Typically, I install the free version to use as a “passive” scanner. On the job, I use it as one of my “go to” detect-and-remove tools. And to my clients and friends, and since prevention is better, I reco’ that they purchase the Professional version so they can have the real-time (“active”) protection and auto-scheduling — set it and forget it. (Another reason I do this is because this tool “plays very nicely with others”.)
This has been true for years.

The program I’m about to name will be (um.. should be) familiar to my geekier readers, but many folks have never heard of it — it’s called SUPERAntiSpyware (aka “SAS”). I  am not going to run through it’s details here (this post is already lengthy) but instead refer you to this Bill Mullins article, SUPERAntiSpyware Professional – The Name Says It All!

I also want to say that I admire the people behind SAS, and they get a big tip of my geek hat. They are hard working and generous and they know their stuff. Their motto is “Remove ALL the Spyware, NOT just the easy ones” and I like that attitude!SAS_shrtcut_icon

Tip of the day: The good folks there at SAS have generously donated five Professional licenses to me, “lifetime” licenses no less, to award to my readers. I sincerely thank them for that. So I am going to do a random drawing from folks who “enter” by posting a comment (below). The drawing will be held early next week, so act now.
Simply click on “comment”, and enter a name and valid e-mail in the form. Actually commenting is optional. And, I shouldn’t have to say this, but multiple entries will result in disqualification.

Today’s free download: Why not get a jump on the game and download a trial version of SUPERAntiSpyware Professional today.. you just might get an “activation” as a winner. And if not, you can either purchase (if you do, I advise getting the lifetime upgrade) or it will revert to the free version. Check it out here.

¹ I use quotes, because, well, that sounds a bit like “the dog ate my homework” to a tech.

[update: The contest ends today (Sept. 10th) at 12 noon, Pacific. Winners will be posted at 5pm.]

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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September 4, 2009 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, computers, cyber crime, firewall, how to, Internet, PC, security | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

How To Cure A Malware Infection

3 Easy Methods

What do you do when your PC is displaying all the signs of having been infected and/or hacked but your antivirus and anti-spyware scan reports come back clean.. or fail to remove the infection?

This was the case for a fella who called me for advice recently. He had done things ‘right’ — and by that I mean he has a firewall, he keeps his antivirus definitions up to date, sick and he runs a couple of anti-spyware applications — but suspected his machine had been hacked anyway.

He couldn’t do things he was used to doing (like deleting a file) and his machine was “really slow.” But according to his scanners, his machine is in perfect shape!
He was right, btw, he was infected.

Tip of the day: If you should find yourself in a similar situation there are several steps you can take to help resolve your questions and (hopefully) fix your machine without taking the drastic step of wiping your hard drive, formatting, and reinstalling Windows.

The first step is to use a scanner that isn’t installed on your machine. Here’s two ways to do that: one, if your antivirus allows it (and most of them do these days), follow its instructions and make an antivirus recovery disk. This is a bootable disk that scans your system before Windows loads.

[note: for a quick method to create an AV disc, keep reading..]

To use one, put it in your CD tray and restart your machine. A plain-text sentence will appear* telling you to “press any key to boot from CD…” When you see it, hit your spacebar or, well, any other key, and then follow the instructions. When it’s finished, remove the CD and restart your machine again. (* If you don’t get a “press any key” prompt, you need to set the boot order in your BIOS. For instructions, click here.)
[note: you may also use a properly prepared USB thumb drive. Click here to read my article on how to do that.]

A second method is to use an online scanner. I have a list, with links, of several good online scans on my website, here. (My reco is Housecall) Quite a few of the online scanning tools will try to sell you their full application, but you’re under no obligation to buy. The big advantage to these two methods lies in the fact that they have not been compromised, or altered, and the files and scanners on your machine may be– the modification being done by the virus or hacker specifically to thwart your removal attempts.
[note: most modern malware blocks access to these sites. If that happens, do the repair found here, Can’t Download? Reset IE, and then try.]

Another thing to do is scroll down to my “Today’s free download” and download HiJack This!. Run it and dump the result into a .txt file (there’s instructions for this) and then register on one of the HiJack This! forums (there’s instructions for this too) and post your results there. Before too long, an expert anti-malwareologist [don’t bother looking: I just now made that word up] will have looked over the intricacies, and will post their analysis and instructions. These folks are really, really good at what they do, and you can trust their answers. These volunteers get a big tip of my hat.

Hopefully these efforts will be rewarded with a rejuvenation of your machine, and you will be back in business again.  If not, you have my sympathy. You may have a rootkit and then your best solution is to re-format your hard drive and reinstall everything, or enlist the aid of a professional. There’s no shame in that last — the modern versions of viruses and worms are devilishly difficult to remove.

Today’s free downloads:
HijackThis™ is a free utility which quickly scans your Windows computer to find settings that may have been changed by spyware, malware or other unwanted programs. HijackThis does not clean infections, but creates a report, or log file, with the results of the scan. A large community of users participates in online forums, where experts help interpret the scan results to clean up infected computers.

Avira AntiVir Rescue System This is a small download that, when launched, will create a self-contained anti-virus disc with the latest definitions. All you have to do is insert a blank CD. (You may have to go to an un-infected machine to do this..) It will boot even if your machine won’t load Windows. Avira gets a big tip of my hat for offering this free tool, too!

Today’s recommended reading: How to Protect Your Child on the Internet

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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January 27, 2009 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, computers, how to, PC, rootkits, software, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments