Microsoft Security Essentials alerts – don’t call “Microsoft”

Last Tuesday night my oldest son came into the room and told me he thought one of our computers was being hacked. So I kicked into incident response mode and walked into the other room to be greeted with a computer loudly telling me that Microsoft Security Essentials was unable to clean a virus and to immediately call Microsoft.

Instead I immediately shut down the computer. Here’s why.

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Simple tips to prevent ransomware

Last week at work, I noticed some odd events in an event log, and when I investigated them, I found they were part of a failed ransomware attack. This got me thinking about how to prevent ransomware at home.

Ransomware, if you aren’t familiar, is an attack that encrypts your data and demands a ransom, usually around $300, in bitcoins, and you get a short deadline until it destroys your files. More often than not, paying the ransom is the only way to get the files back, so it’s much better to prevent it.

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Windows Vista’s market share is growing. After seeing 8.1, I know why

I installed Windows Vista last week. I need a legal copy of a supported version of Windows to use to VPN in to work and run the corporate Citrix client. Vista fit the bill. It’s better than 8.1, and it’s supported until April 2017. I always hated Vista, but 8 and 8.1 made me realize it could have been a lot worse, and on recent hardware Vista does OK. It still prompts you for admin rights too much and too slowly and makes you work too hard to click yes, but at least you can find stuff. Read more

Rick Broida thinks he doesn’t use antivirus software

C’mon. You knew I’d get around to writing a response to Rick Broida’s claim that he doesn’t use antivirus software.

Actually, he’s not nuts. But he’s also mistaken if he thinks he doesn’t use antivirus software. His editorial is kind of like saying, “I don’t use a web browser. I use Internet Explorer.”

Although he’s mistaken that he doesn’t use antivirus software, and not all of his advice is spot-on, you can do a lot worse than follow his advice.

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What I did for Mother’s Day

Last month, Rapid7’s Trey Ford appealed to security professionals:

You have an opportunity to be an ambassador. When you see XP out there, have an adult conversation, educate in terms that others will appreciate. Your actions and words reflect on the entire community.

As the family CIO/CSO – look for the smart investment. There are options that will make your life easier. A small investment is a lot easier to stomach than compromised shopping/banking/credit card credentials (or identity theft.)

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Things to do for your relatives’ computers this Christmas

I wish I’d posted this last week, since many of us see one set of relatives at Thanksgiving and a different set at Christmas (and perhaps New Year’s). Here are things you can do as preventative maintenance for relatives whose computers could use a little help. Read more

Give your antivirus software a workout

Via PC Magazine, I found the AMTSO website, which is designed to test your antivirus software for proper operation. I think this is good for two reasons. One, it gives you a chance to see if antivirus software is operating properly. Two, it gives you a chance to see how your browser and antivirus software behave when something bad is going on. Read more

This “Computer Maintenance Department” sure doesn’t know much about computer maintenance

“Peggy” from “Computer Maintenance Department” (1-645-781-2458 on my caller ID) called again. Lots of people are aware of these phone calls. They call, make vague claims about receiving a report that your computer is running slow and giving you errors, and are very careful not to say who they are or who they work for. Usually I just do whatever I can to get them off the phone.

But after having lunch with some other computer security professionals last week, a couple of them talked me into finding out how these guys operate. So I fired up a PC that turned out to have a real, legitimate issue. After resolving that issue myself, I turned the caller loose on my semi-functional PC so I could see what these scammers actually do. He had me connect to Teamviewer.com and run their remote access software. I followed his instructions, watched him connect, then slyly unplugged my network cable.

When my network connection dropped, “Peggy” quickly transferred me to a “senior technician” who used the name “Roy.” Read more

Antivirus progress

When Microsoft Security Essentials first came out, it was an improvement in antivirus performance. Now, it’s middle of the pack, according to PC Magazine. That’s great. Vendors are finally taking performance seriously.

What that means is that by replacing MSE with F-Secure Anti-Virus 2013, Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2013), Sophos Anti-Virus 10.2, ESET NOD32 Antivirus 6, Norton Antivirus (2013), Avast Free Antivirus 8, or Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2013, you can speed up your computer. Considering Norton Antivirus was once bottom-of-the-barrel in the performance arena, I see this as a good thing.

Of the bunch, Avast is the only freebie. Though if your ISP offers one of the others as part of your subscription, or you don’t mind paying for antivirus, the others are an option. But maybe, just maybe, if I replace Microsoft Security Essentials with Avast, Peggy will quit calling me at dinnertime and telling me my computer is slow. But I doubt it. Read more

Some computer maintenance for the upcoming family get-togethers

If you’re like me and do some computer maintenance for families during holiday weekends, the time to plan Easter computer maintenance is now.

Here’s some stuff I recommend doing to keep your non-computer-enthusiast relatives’ systems running smoothly. Be sure to bring your own laptop along, just in case. If a computer is too broken to get online or to get online safely, nothing beats a working system for downloading the stuff you need to fix it. Read more

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