All this week, I’ve been talking about how unwanted applications can “suddenly appear” on your system and how you can get rid of them. For this final installment, I want to discuss what you can do when the bad boys infect your system.

There is a popular misconception that you have to download and install some too-good-to-be-true-and-absolutely-free software application to your PC in order to infect your system. Friends, that is not the case. In some instances, all you have to do is visit a page on a website in order to be dumped on. This is what is known as a “drive-by infection”. You could try to prevent this by doing things like:

  • Turning of JavaScript
  • Disabling Java – This is different than and separate from JavaScript
  • Not accepting cookies

The trouble is that by configuring your browser(s) in this way, you will miss out on much of the rich content on the web as well as features on legitimate sites that you have come to depend on.

There are, of course, other ways to protect yourself. Your first line of defence should always be a good firewall and anti-virus. There are more products out there than I have time to mention so we’ll leave that for another day. All I will advise at this point is that you find a good package and then keep it up-to-date. You will probably have to pay a bit as there’s no such thing as a free lunch but the small outlay will be much less than calling Dr. Data so he can tell you that your PC is hosed.

Another good toll is McAfee Site Advisor. There is both a free-ware and paid version available. While the paid version has more features, the free version is still quite worthwhile as it will flag both trusted and untrusted sites when you do use a search engine like Google.

Unfortunately, the bad guys are always one or two steps ahead of the good guys and sooner or later, your system will probably be attacked via a website that has not yet been classified or infected via malware for which there is no known signature. So, what do you do?

There are several tools out there – bot free and paid – that can help you keep the bad guys out or at least help you clean up the mess.

  1. Spyware Blaster – This is a free tool that helps prevent spyware, etc. from taking up residence on your system by using the methods available in your browser. It does not take up any memory and is quite easy to use. If you want automatic updates, the paid version will take care of that and also help fund the war effort. The only downside is that Spyware Blaster does not protect Google’s Chrome browser. 🙁  Nonetheless, you’ll most likely wind up using Internet Explorer or FireFox on occasion so it is worth your while to use Spyware Blaster.
  2. Spybot Search and Destroy – This is another good tool that is available as free-ware. It both scans your system for spyware, malware, adware & other bad stuff as well as remove anything it finds. Spybot Search and Destroy will also immunise your system against future threats from the web. There is a paid version that provides automatic updating.
  3. MalwareBytes – If you buy any protection tools then this should be one of the first. It does an outstanding job of finding malware on your system and removing it.  MalwareBytes also actively protects your system by scanning items as they come down from the web. There is a 30-day trial version that is good if you think that you have an infection because your system is running slow, etc. The paid version, which also provides proactive protection, is a small monetary outlay but it’s less expensive to pay MalwareBytes now than pay Dr. Data – or somebody like him – later.

You will probably notice that there are overlapping features between the above products. While each may claim to be the best at what they do, the reality is that no protection software can be all things to all infections. Using two or more of these products improves your chances of thorough protection. There may, of course, be some products out there that are better than the ones I’ve described but, through my long experience, these are the ones I’ve come to rely on.

A Tip from Dr. Data:  When using MalwareBytes  and/or Spybot Search and Destroy, be sure to run repeated full system scans until they come up clean. Sometimes, malware, etc. can mask other infections.

Another Tip from Dr. Data: The above tools are great but they will only work if they are used and updated regularly.

Dr. Data™ is a service mark of Parsonage Data Services.

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