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> What is malware and how can we prevent it?
James (Jim) Hill...
Jun 2 2009, 01:16 AM
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Malware is a portmanteau of the two words malicious software and is a general term encompassing all the known types of infections; rootkits, trojans, worms, spyware, adware and, of course, viruses. At the outset, viruses were the main source of infection and were purely destructive, often rendering the host machine unusable. Then the smarties realised that they could attack machines for purposes other than vandalism. They could advertise products, spy on your activities, glean private/personal details and more....so new forms of malicious software began to appear and they rapidly expanded. These days it is generally accepted that the threat from destructive viruses has diminished while the risk of infections from the more invasive malware has expanded exponentially. Most anti virus applications are now leaning more and more toward preventing spyware, rootkits, etc.

Total protection from all malware infections is nigh on an impossibility. Unfortunately, no one program can protect you 100% from all malware variants....one may excel in certain areas, while another may offer superior protection in a different arena. Why then don't we install and use multiple applications from within the different categories? There are two main reasons; 1) Similar security applications from different publishers have a distinct tendency to conflict with one another and cause system errors/problems; e.g. having more than one anti virus program installed may well decrease the level of protection. 2) All programs employing 'real time protection' use valuable system resources (memory). Having too many installed can slow down a computer considerably. The answer is to select and install just one of each type and, hopefully, strike a happy medium. Unfortunately, this will occasionally let some malware through and that is where efficient, on demand scanner/removers such as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (free) and SuperAntiSpyware (free) come in very handy.

One of the most common and avoidable causes of infection is 'user habits' and one of the best methods for prevention is the adoption of a 'safe surfing' policy. Be careful which sites you visit and/or download from, don't be a 'compulsive clicker'...read the information carefully and make sure any link or banner you click on is the right one (the one you are after). There are a number of free browser add-ons/plug-ins available which offer safety ratings and advice for both search results and sites visited; McAfee Site Adviser, WOT and LinkExtend just to name a few. These can be a very useful and lite addition to the arsenal.*

No matter which system of protection you employ, always maintain regular backups of all your important data. Backup, backup and more backup?it may not prevent the infections but it will sure help ease some of the possible heartache.

*For more on safe surfing practices, online security and safety procedures in general please read this excellent guide from Marko Here.
 
marko
Jun 2 2009, 07:42 AM
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Nicely said Jim, I've seen many people with multiple instances of spyware programs running on their machines, usually after they tell me the computer is running like a dog!. Seems common that people will actually click on those popups which look like spyware warnings, i.e. "you're computer is infected, click here to clean it" and before you know it you've installed more spyware. It's still quite scary to see the number of people unaware of what they are clicking and installing, but my advise is always to reject anything that ask's you to install something unless you actually physically download something you want and know about.

Having antivirus, spyware and firewall as a baseline security system is sufficient, anything after that requesting installation should be rejected and even installing the WOT toolbar for Firefox HERE or Explorer HERE can help prevent most illegitimate popups from unscrupulous websites!
 
James (Jim) Hill...
Jun 2 2009, 09:00 AM
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"It's still quite scary to see the number of people unaware of what they are clicking and installing"

I'm hearing you there Marko! I go to a client's house to fix and clean up their machine and see a different/strange/unfamiliar software installed, I ask them...what's this software for? More often than not they do not have a clue what it is or where it came from....go figure!

I must say too, I am mightily impressed with WOT. I used McAfee Site Adviser for a long time but have recently been unhappy with certain aspects of that service and switched over to WOT...I'm very satisfied with the result. LinkExtend is handy too and I have both installed but I do think WOT is currently the leader of the pack.

cheers now....JIM
 
jacksbak
Jun 3 2009, 02:09 PM
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WOT is definately the better of the 2, McAfee is really slow to respond and I remember the situation with Jeremy from bitsum.com who was wrongly classified as having a dangerous site by McAfee and despite many months of people badgering McAfee they still didn't do anything about it. They have now, but a lot of damage can be caused by these people when they label sites incorrectly!
 
marko
Jun 3 2009, 02:25 PM
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Agree with you there jacksbak, I remember this also and we even tried badgering McAfee ourselves. To be fair, they labelled bitsum as dangerous because of a file they found on his site. Now this file was fine in itself, but what happened was spyware distributors found a component in this file could be useful to latch on to system processing and potentially have their spyware running as a service therefore developed it accordingly.

What happened then was McAfee found this component in many other websites as spyware and labelled those sites (rightfully) as dangerous and then found it at bitsum and labelled it also as dangerous. That wasn't my concern over the whole issue, but I found it incredible that despite Jeremy from bitsum contacting McAfee and explaining to them that his clean files had been used and adopted on other sites to distribute spyware they still refused to listen Many months passed and his site was still labelled as dangerous, and eventually he had to actually remove his genuine software in an effort to get rid of the bad label!.
 
James (Jim) Hill...
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Yep, you guys are all over it...that's what my comment about being unhappy with certain aspects of MSA was referring to, apparently this was far from an isolated instance. According to sources which I trust, the problem is caused by McAfee's tardiness in updating site ratings, up to 12 months in some cases.

Even though I would prefer any such advisory service err on the side of caution, I work on the theory that; if they are incorrectly rating some safe sites as 'red' then it is reasonable to assume the opposite may also be happening.
 
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