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If you're looking for some computer help, then I highly recommend by starting with my first part in my series:
Computer Advice Part 1 of 9 - Hardware Terms

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Computer Help Part 6 of 10 - Protection Software

If you didn't start reading from Computer Help Part 1 of 10 - Hardware Terms, then I highly recommend starting there first before continuing on...

Computer Help Part 6 of 10 - Protection Software

Here's some interesting information about "badware" (as I personally call it, which is anything nasty you don't want on your computer, also known as "computer infections" or "malware"):

Malware: http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malware
Types of Computer Malware Infections:
Virus: Most often does anything to try to bring your computer and it's Internet connection down, to a complete halt. They also like to hide inside of another file (such as a music MP3 file), making them somewhat "stealthy".
Worm: Replicates (copies) itself quickly to other computers (even with external hard drives, flash drives, and over computer networks), and may contain other malware (computer infections) with it.
Trojan horse: Most often just called a Trojan, these often open a "back door" through your computer security (such as your firewall) to let either other people (hackers) into your computer or download other malware (computer infections) in the background without you being aware of what's happening. They often take over your internet connection, getting full access to it while leaving you with little or none.
Keystroke Logging/System Monitors: Mostly known as just Keyloggers, these keep a log file of every key you press on your keyboard, and often times sending this information to someone else over the Internet. If you have a keylogger and log into your bank's website, using your keyboard to type-in your login and password, guess what? Someone else now has your bank's login and password! Very nasty! A lot of identities have been stolen using keyloggers.
Spyware: These "spy" on your surfing habits, and often times sending this information to other people or companies to find out what websites you frequent often.
Adware: Simply put, it displays ads while you're trying to surf the Internet, and they often work in "harmony" with Spyware, meaning that once people and companies find out what websites you frequently visit, then they'll often send you advertisements and pop-up windows based upon the websites you visit the most often. So, for example, if you like to shop for shoes often on different websites, and you have Spyware and Adware on your computer, the Spyware will send this information to people or companies, who will then in-turn send you back shoe advertisements to buy their products. Spyware and Adware working together, and most often, they are one and the same.
Rootkit: The primary purpose of a Rootkit is to effectively hide the other malware (computer infections) from anti-viruses and anti-malware programs, and that's pretty much it. A stealthy program that does nothing but hides other malware (computer infections) from being caught by your protection software. Very sad, eh? And very bad, indeed. Some of the best computer protection software, while fully updated, may catch Rootkits' devious acts at work.

Always keep in mind that all of these computer malware infections are nothing more than software programs that someone wrote, just like any other software program. These people can vary from the bored punk teenager next door, 3rd party companies trying to make a quick buck selling private information to other companies, to even governments using malware to infect another country they're at war with. Our U.S. government have even used computer viruses and worms against other country's governments to bring their computers down! These days, many of these different types of computer malware infections are bundling themselves together, thus spreading quicker and also making them harder to detect and remove. I've seen recently where a simple piece of Adware/Spyware, that used to be easy to remove back in its earliest variant (version), now comes with a computer virus to take over your computer, a worm to duplicate itself to other computers quickly (including over a secured network or sending itself in an e-mail to people in your Address Book/Contacts), and a Rootkit to hide itself from your computer protection software! The people who make these nasty computer malware infections are getting a lot tougher and a lot smarter!

"No Spywares Were Founded"
I couldn't resist using the title above because there is a "rogue" (fake) program called Zinaps floating around out there on the internet that actually gives you this message once its "scan" is complete and "says" your computer is clean. Since the program is a fake, it's not a real scan, and it's actually Adware/Spyware that tries to get you to buy their fake program, and is a complete waste of your money. Unfortunately, there's a lot of these "rogue" programs out there, so always do the research before downloading and installing any type of protection software programs! Throughout the rest of this section, I'll mention protection software programs, both free and pay-for, that I trust and use daily and weekly. At ANY TIME you get a pop-up message or an advertisement while visiting a website that says your computer has an umpteen amount of infections and to install their software to remove them, LEAVE THE WEBSITE IMMEDIATELY, preferably by closing-out your web browser! The web page is trying to install "rogue" programs which will download and install Adware and Spyware, which then snowballs into other worse computer infections! Once you get one computer infection, it often downloads and installs other computer infections in the background without notifying you whatsoever. The next thing you know is you start getting multiple pop-ups ads, your computer runs slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter, and then any kind of private, personal data on your computer could be vulnerable and sent to other people who you REALLY don't want to have this valuable information! Bad stuff, indeed. If I only had a quarter for every person who said, "I'm not on the internet very often, and don't go to very many places" as I'm looking at their poor, sad computer eaten-up with several Trojans, Viruses, Adware, and Spyware.

There's literally millions of different computer infections, including different variants (versions), out there on the internet, and the most common ways of downloading any of them can vary from e-mail attachments, "questionable" websites and web pages, downloading illegal media (music, movies, and programs), or what have you. There's hardly any way of telling where they may came from, but that they're just there. I will say that almost all of the computers I check-in daily at the Geek Squad that's infected (which is at least 80% of our business, no kidding!) usually have some sort of file-sharing program on them, such as LimeWire or BearShare. Not that these file-sharing programs themselves contain computer malware infections, but many of the things you can download from other people on the internet may contain malware while using these file-sharing programs! So, unless you know what you're doing, I wouldn't recommend doing ANY file-sharing! The only difference between the "paid-for" version of file-sharing software programs and those that are free are the lack of advertisements you'll get while using the file-sharing program. Otherwise, you're still downloading illegal stuff from "Joe Schmo" across the country or across the world. And just use "common sense" when browsing the web and checking your e-mail. There are a lot of people with ill-intentions out there on the internet, and using "common sense" goes a long way. Most people get infected from downloading illegal music or software programs for free. Almost all "keygens" (key generators) for illegal software programs have a Trojan hidden inside of them. I can honestly say that about 99% of the "keygens" I've scanned with various protection software programs will find a Trojan hidden in there.

And speaking of "common sense", if it's "free", it's probably bad. This also includes wireless hot-spots. I've seen a few laptops come in loaded with infections where the customer had connected to a "Free Wi-Fi Internet" wireless network. Most of these "free wi-fi internet" wireless connections are someone else's laptop, posing as a free internet hotspot for laptop users. When you unknowingly connect directly to their laptop or their wireless router, they have free reign on yours, and they will often load Trojans to give them backdoor access anytime they want anytime you're on the internet anywhere, a Rootkit to hide the Trojan infection they installed from your protection software, along with other infections, depending upon what their intentions are. Also, stay away from any wireless network that has the word "hoc" in it, which is also the same thing as the "Free Wi-Fi Internet" wireless connection. But public places such as airports, book stores, coffee shops, hotels, and motels are usually safe, as long as you know you're connecting to THEIR business wireless internet connection and NOT SOMEONE ELSE'S!

Now, how do you protect your computer from infections? Read a little about it here first:

Computer Security Software: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Security_software

Protection software is like a suite of armour for your computerAlthough there are many, many trustworthy programs out there to help protect your computer, I'm only going to talk about the ones I like to use, and popular types of protection programs I don't recommend.

First of all, most people are "drawn" to just running an anti-virus or an "internet security suite", which often claim to "protect you against everything", and there's a lot of debate about who's the best! However, I've read many reviews throughout the years and most of these programs usually protect you very well against viruses and Trojans, and they may provide a better firewall than what comes with Windows, but are only mediocre when it comes to protection against other types of computer malware infections, such as Adware and Spyware. I've seen many computers come-in infected with several Adware and Spyware infections while running the most current and updated version of an anti-virus or internet security suite. Also remember that you can only run ONE anti-virus and only ONE firewall, or an internet security suite that contains the both of them, at a time, or they'll conflict with each other. So better make it a good one, and choose wisely.

Most people think that "freebies" (referring to free protection programs) are as good as the ones you have to buy every year. If this were true, then why would anyone ever buy anything?! However, this is NOT true! For anyone who says otherwise or tells me that they've NEVER gotten an infection running these "freebies", I'll be more than happy to show you several different reviews written by several different independent companies, along with all of the infected computers we currently have checked-in running these free protection software programs (ironically, is usually most of them). Running free protection programs is better than nothing, but not much better, and I only run free protection programs myself just as extra "safety precautions". There's no such thing as "perfect" protection programs, even with the best rated protection programs out there, so it's not a bad idea to run other, free anti-malware programs (remember you can only have ONE anti-virus installed on your computer or internet security suite that contains an anti-virus), just to be sure. But I will say this – I can run several scans with each of the half-dozen of trusted, free anti-malware programs I use until all of them says my computer is clean, and still find several infections with my paid-for protection programs afterwards. You simply just can't beat paid-for protection programs, and is worth the cost every year versus paying us at the Geek Squad $200 to $300 each time your computer gets infected. Hmmm… $50 to $70 each year versus at least $200 each year or more… it's your choice. Even under any warranties, we still have to charge at least $130 for virus removal (at the time of this writing), since software issues (such as computer malware infections) are NOT covered under MOST warranties. Remember when I mentioned earlier that there's no such thing as a "perfect" protection software programs that exists? The biggest difference between running really good protection software programs versus the freebies is that the really good protection may let one or two infections slip through, versus the 10 or 20 infections the freebies may let through. If an infection slips through, the really good protection software programs may or may not be able to remove the new infection, but they usually do a good job from keeping the new infection from downloading other computer infections in the background. Remember the snowball effect I mentioned earlier? Most of your freebies aren't able to do this very effectively, and many computer infections just punches a hole right through the freebies' defenses to let other infections download and install onto your computer. I, personally, would rather deal with one or two computer infections versus 10 or 20! Also, it's been proven time and time again that the paid-for protection programs updates more frequently than the free stuff, and that is what you mostly pay for is the frequent updates. New computer infections are released continuously on a daily basis, and it's a "cat-and-mouse chase" for these protection software companies to keep-up with the newest threats. You pay for the frequent updates of your paid-for protection software program. The freebies may only update when they get paid from their advertisers from the advertisements on their websites.

Kaspersky Internet Security Suite The only internet security suite that has had really good reviews for the past several years against just about anything nasty out there on the internet is Kaspersky's at http://www.kaspersky.com/ and BitDefender's at http://www.bitdefender.com/. Kaspersky is located in Russia, which is where many of computer infections originate from. They usually update more frequently than most of your other protection software companies, since they see many of the newest infections before they even hit the United States. I've seen Kaspersky update as many as three times in a single day! However, there is a program I love and use on my personal computers that contains both a very effective anti-virus AND anti-malware, is Webroot's SpySweeper with AntiVirus at http:///www.webroot.com/. BitDefender Internet Security SuiteAn easy-to-use program with really high reviews for the last few years that don't nag you constantly about everything, and the license usually covers up to three computers! So, terrific protection for up to three computers… terrific deal! Since WinXP with SP2/SP3 (Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or Service Pack 3, abbreviated) and Microsoft Windows Vista already contains a firewall that's usually effective enough for most average, ordinary home users, this single program protects against almost everything I need for it to on my personal computers. Webroot SpySweeperHowever, for business users who keep extremely confidential, private information on their computers, including people's social security numbers, then I would highly recommend using Kaspersky Internet Security Suite, since it has very good anti-virus, anti-malware, and a firewall that's "above and beyond" what comes with WinXP SP2 and Vista.But the program tends to nag you more than what Webroot's SpySweeper with AntiVirus does, something I wish Kaspersky would fix out-of-the-box. I just want a protection program that just does its thing while I'm doing my thing without little or no hassle or "know-how".

What if your computer is already infected? Chances are, it's nearly impossible to remove already-existing computer malware infections with a single piece of protection software. The reason why is that most computer malware infects itself into Microsoft Windows in such a way that Windows thinks these malware infections are legitimate, important system files that are needed for Windows to work and run, and Windows won't let computer protection software remove these files. So when Windows starts loading after you turn-on or restart your computer, it automatically loads the computer malware infections along with its other files needed to run. I've seen many computer malware infections load even in Safe Mode (a diagnostic mode for Windows), which is suppose to only load the very basic, necessary system files for Windows to even work! It's usually best to backup your data immediately and do a full Operating System Recovery (discussed in Computer Help Part 5 of 10 - Recovery Discs). You can also bring your computer into the Geek Squad, and for $200, we can remove the infections with the several anti-malware utilities we use. If you also want recommended protection software installed and updated after we remove the computer malware infections, then you're looking at an additional $100. BartPE Live CD However, if you consider yourself very computer "savvy" (an expert, if you will), a really handy piece of FREE software that has really high success rates at removing computer malware infections is UBCD (Universal Boot CD) at http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/, and UBCD4Win (Universal Boot CD For Windows, a graphical version of UBCD) at http://www.ubcd4win.com/. What makes these tools so effective against removing computer malware infections is that you load the OS (Operating System) from the CD and NOT from the internal hard drive, so that the computer malware infections aren't loaded at all, thus making the infections a lot easier to remove using different anti-malware programs. However, these utilities aren't for the weak at heart, and you'll need a bit computer "know-how" on how to make and use them!!! These utilities come with a lot of software that can easily erase your hard drive if you aren't careful!!! Always backup your important data before using any kind of utilities such as these (discussed in Computer Help Part 4 of 10 - BackUp)! If you are able to use these utilities effectively, then please donate to them so the software writers are able to continue their free projects. At the Geek Squad, we use a utility similar to this, but using several commercial (paid-for) anti-malware programs instead, that automatically downloads and updates their newest definitions, in which guarantees us about a 99.99% success rate of removing all computer malware infections from just about any computer running Windows. And if we find a piece of computer malware that won't remove from our utilities, we also have our "secret ways" that requires a bit of "know-how" and research to remove them, but definitely a bit too complex to discuss here, since it's many different, various methods depending upon the type of computer malware infection it is. But when in doubt, just backup your important information, format (erase) the hard drive, and start over from scratch doing a full Operating System Recovery (discussed in Computer Help Part 5 of 10 - Recovery Discs). This removes all computer malware infections 100% of the time.

However, if you would like to attempt to remove any computer infections hat you may already have, but you still have a working broadband internet connection (such as cable or DSL), please give my CmdLnScn utility a try.  To learn more, please visit:

Microsoft Windows Updates
Windows UpdateAlso, another way to protect your computer is keeping your Microsoft Windows fully updated. Following these steps to do Microsoft or Windows Updates (basically the same thing):
  1. Left-click on the Start Menu in the bottom-left corner of your screen.
  2. Go to "All Programs".
  3. Click on either "Microsoft Updates" or "Windows Updates", usually located up towards the top of the All Programs menu if you use Microsoft Windows XP, or down towards the middle of the All Programs menu if you use Microsoft Windows Vista.
  4. Since this process is different depending upon your version of Windows, read carefully and select options where you can download updates for all Microsoft products installed on your computer.
  5. Again, read carefully to select to download all available updates for your computer.
Depending upon how fast your internet speed is and how many updates you have, downloading and installing Microsoft/Windows Updates may take several minutes to several hours!

Recommended Software Review Websites:
Why get stuck with purchased protection software that you don't like or doesn't protect your computer the way you need it to? Make an educated software purchase with confidence by visiting these websites first:

Recommended Software Download Websites:

Now, onto Computer Help Part 7 of 10 - Free Software...
  1. Computer Help Part 1 of 10 - Hardware Terms (Start)
  2. Computer Help Part 2 of 10 - Software Terms
  3. Computer Help Part 3 of 10 - Upgrading & Maintenance
  4. Computer Help Part 4 of 10 - Data BackUp
  5. Computer Help Part 5 of 10 - Recovery Discs (Previous)
  6. Computer Help Part 6 of 10 - Protection Software (Current)
  7. Computer Help Part 7 of 10 - Free Software (Next)
  8. Computer Help Part 8 of 10 - Not-So-Free Software
  9. Computer Help Part 9 of 10 - Scheduled Tasks
  10. Computer Help Part 10 of 10 - Quick Fixes (End)

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