How to clean viruses off your computer for free

Whether you’ve gotten a tech support scam phone call or not, it can be helpful to know how to clean viruses off your computer for free. And yes, I do mean free.

A lot of people get ripped off due to virus scares and it makes me mad. I’m a computer security professional. I advise large companies on computer security for a living. Today I’ll take a few minutes to advise you.

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Best free antivirus

What’s the best free antivirus? I have an answer that may surprise you. I also have a supplement that may surprise you. And I have a third supplement you already have but probably never heard of.

Keep something in mind. I don’t like using words like “good” and “best” in the same sentence as antivirus software. Imagine a college graduating class whose valedictorian is Chris Farley’s character from the movie Tommy Boy. What you want from your antivirus software is something that doesn’t do a lot of damage.

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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

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