This blog is all about the big picture when it comes to cyber terrorism, computer worms, viruses, security, and related subject matter. However, I thought it would be useful to share my own personal “weapons” in defending myself from the many malicious programs that can find their way onto your computer or the computers of those close to you. With this guide, you should be empowered to defend your PC against viruses and malware. Before jumping into this guide, it should be mentioned that choosing anti-virus software is largely a matter of preference and different pieces of software are better than others at different times. This has to do with the databases the software uses to find viruses on your machine.
Viruses and malware defense is most important to Windows machines – if 70% of the houses in a thief’s neighborhood use lock type A, 25% use lock type B, and 5% use type C, the thief will learn how to pick lock A. This means that because Windows still has the largest market share, most viruses and malware are designed for Windows. There are a few more technical reasons for why Unix based operating systems don’t get as many viruses as Windows machines, but we’ll leave those for the comments. A decent anti-virus program for Apple/MAC/Linux/Unix, if you’re looking for one, is Clam AV.
In addition, it is not advisable to have more than one constantly running anti-virus program. (For instance, running Symantec and AVG and Avira all at the same time) This is much like having several mean, dangerous dogs to guard your house. Having one is useful and makes you feel safe. When you have two or three, they begin to fight each other and wreak havoc. However, you may install and run all of the following programs. This is recommended.
Finally, make sure all of these scans are updated with their latest versions and definitions before you run scans. The databases these programs use is their biggest strength, and without the latest data to run scans with, you are essentially cutting the legs out from under these programs.
All of the following programs are FREE unless marked otherwise.
Learn how to install and run scans with MSE here.
This program is the latest and greatest in anti-virus software and is developed by Microsoft to work in harmony with Windows. If you are running genuine Windows, I can’t imagine many situations why you would want to run something other than MSE. (Microsoft Security Essentials) It will form the backbone of our defense against anti-viruses, giving us live protection and running constantly to alert us to when something is wrong. Why is it great?
It consumes VERY FEW system resources, leaving your computer fast and snappy.
Very good filters for finding viruses, even viruses that it does not have active definitions for.
Updates automatically for free as long as you have genuine Windows.
Run quick scan 1/week if desired, after CCleaner
Lifehacker has an article that sites why MSE is the best “free” anti-virus program out on the market now.
Good alternatives to MSE: Avira (free), F-Secure (paid)
Learn how to install and run scans with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware here.
When it comes to free defense against malware, you want Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware (mbam.exe). Malware can include viruses, but also includes malicious software such as rogue anti-virus programs, scareware, crimeware, and more. I would recommend that you run Malwarebytes once a week, after running a scan with CCleaner, a program I’ll discuss in a moment. It will scan your machine for malware and viruses and remove them, showing you a useful logfile of what exactly was removed from where. Make sure you update before running a scan.
Free anti-malware defense
Run quick scan on demand, ~once per week, after CCleaner
Update before running
A review of Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware can be seen here.
Good alternatives to Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware: Super Anti-Spyware
Learn how to install and run scans with CCleaner.
CCleaner (short for “Crap Cleaner”) is not technically an anti-virus or anti-malware program. However, it will significantly speed up the scans you run in Malwarebytes or in Microsoft Security Essentials. In general, it will speed up system performance noticeably for many machines. The program analyzes the software installed on your machine and removes temporary files associated with this software. For instance, it will clear out all unnecessary data from Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office, Windows, and more.
Cleans cookies, temporary files, and other garbage from your computer without removing anything you actually want
Run scan on demand, ~once per week, before any other anti-virus scans
Registry scanner is also very good.
CCEnhancer is a plugin for CCleaner that allows CCleaner to clean temporary files from over 400 more applications.
HijackThis is a free tool built by Trend Micro. It is quite complex and extremely powerful. Essentially, it looks at everything running/installed on a computer and finds programs or items in the registry that might be malicious. It uses ratings from its advanced users and anti-virus definitions to determine what is malicious. I would recommend running it only when you have already detected a virus or intrusion on your machine and are looking to completely squash the virus. If possible, it would be useful for you to grab your techy friend at this point to help you run HijackThis. If not, the following should do the trick:
Download the executable file from HijackThis’ website here.
Run the file.
Click the button that says, “Do a system scan and save a logfile.”
When the scan is finished, a text document will appear. Copy and paste its contents into the box at http://hijackthis.de/ and click the analyze button.
If HijackThis.de tells you an entry is malicious, cautiously research more and/or click the checkbox next to the entry in HijackThis
Once you have checked all the entries that are malicious, click “Fix Checked.”