What's the first thing you're going to do after installing the Windows 7 operating system? If you live in Japan, perhaps you'll go celebrate your new, wallpaper-shifting desktop with some cardiac arrest. If you're one of the stalwarts still clinging to your XP or Vista operating system, well, you're probably going to spin your chair around in smug defiance of Microsoft's latest bit of software. And if you're a Maximum PC reader, I would hope that you're going to treat your fresh new installation of Windows 7 as an October spring cleaning of-sorts.
In fact, I urge you to. One doesn't often get a chance to reinstall an operating system from scratch. Or, rather, it's always easier to think of the hundreds of reasons why it's just not the right time to wipe-and-reinstall the contents of your primary hard drive. Resist the temptation to take the easy route. Backup your drive, give it a good format, and install Windows 7 onto your clean-as-a-whistle partition.
And once you've done that, read the rest of this article. While my colleagues at Maximum PC have given you some good first steps into your new Windows 7 world post-installation, I'd like to go one bit further and list out my typical post-installation routine for any Windows operating system. There are a number of key freeware choices that you'll want to slap onto your system to establish a baseline environment that's as efficient as it is secure--that, and you should really take this time to establish preventative measure that will keep your PC as clutter-free as can be throughout its new Windows 7 lifespan.
The price of a fake security software program usually hovers between $30 and $100. But the hidden costs seem to be greater. Installing rogue security software can not only wreck the system but it also makes the owner vulnerable to identity theft. Deceptive ads linking to rogue software appear on both malicious and legit sites. Cybercriminals are also using search engine optimization (SEO) and social media tricks to ensnare even more people.
AVG Technologies today announced the newest version of "the world's most popular free anti-virus software," AVG 9. For several years, AVG freebie security software had been a favorite in the enthusiast community (and among several Maximum PC staffers), but many -- us included -- felt that version 8 was a step in the wrong direction. In our antivirus roundup from a year ago, we noted that AVG Internet Security 8.0 (the full fledged paid security suite) consumed more RAM and dragged down system performance more than any other AV program we tested.
Performance shouldn't be a problem with AVG 9.0, at least according to AVG's claims. The AV maker says version 9.0 runs 50 percent faster than the previous version, while also improving performance and ease of use.
"AVG 9.0 will provide home computer users with a more powerful and more streamlined solution that adds protection without impacting user experience, taking us back to our core strength of low impact, high performance security," said J.R. Smith, CEO, AVG Technologies. "We've always believed that everyone has the right to a safe online experience. With AVG 9.0, we are providing first-class assistance to our users in their development of tools and measures for their safety from all of the threats posed by cybercriminals and identity thieves, whether they'r working, playing, banking, or shopping on the Web."
AVG cited scan optimization as a top priority for its latest release. Taking a page from Norton Internet Security 2009/2010 and a handful of other AV programs, AVG skips safe files in subsequent scans to improve performance unless the file structure changes. This is what accounts for the up to 50 percent faster speed, as well as improvements of up to 10 to 15 percent for boot times and memory usage, AVG says.
AVG 9.0 paid versions are available now. The freebie version will be made available within the next two weeks.
Microsoft opened its gates to public beta testers for its free antivirus solution, Microsoft Security Essentials, on June 23, 2009. Within a day, it managed to get rid of the 75,000 public beta downloads it had made available on a first-come-first-serve basis in the United States, China, Israel and Brazil.
“The final version of Microsoft Security Essentials will be released to the public in the coming weeks. If you are running the older version of the beta (1.0.1407.0), we encourage you to upgrade to a newer version of the beta (1.0.1500.0),” Microsoft informed testers on Sunday.
New Research by Trend Micro suggests that some malware infections hang around for as long as two years in some circumstances. This new data refutes previous estimates that the infection limit was approximately six weeks. Their research consisted of the analysis of over 100 million compromised IPs where they found that four out of five machines remain infected for longer than a month.
They concluded that if machines were not disinfected quickly, that those infections would linger until the machines were disconnected altogether, speculating replacement as the eventual solution.
After further investigation into network botnets, Trend Micro was also able to pinpoint that the majority of identity-theft reports traced back to three agent strains: Koobface, Zeus/Zbot and Ilomo/Clampi. In particular, the hysterically named Koobface botnet updated its infrastructure to use proxies and relays making it nearly impossible to eradicate.
Symantec announced the newest version of its popular Norton security software. In particular, they elaborated on Norton 2010’s new file analysis technology codenamed “Quorom”.
The new technology attacks the problem faced by most security software: the overwhelming abundance of unique malware applications. Malware creators are able to churn out innumerable amounts of unique malware based on similar vulnerabilities and exploitations in hopes of bypassing standard signature and behavior-based detection. Quorum aims to use the uniqueness of the software as a means of threat detection itself.
Further, the new software was developed to maintain its light footprint and quick operation. Passmark Software benchmarked Norton Internet Security 2010 and its competitors. Norton reportedly installs in less than 60 seconds and occupies less than 10 megabytes of operational memory.
Norton Internet Security and Norton Antivirus both support all versions of Windows 7 and Vista (32-bit and 64-bit) as well as Windows XP SP2. They are currently available for purchase in the United States.
According to IBM's semi-annual security report, hackers and other cyber miscreants are spending fas less time phishing as they shift their attention to other technologies to swipe your personal data.
"The decline in phishing and increases in other areas (such as banking Trojans) indicate that attackers may be moving their resources to other methods to obtain the gains that phishing once achieved," IBM said in its Internet Security Systems 2009 Mid-Year Trend & Risk Report.
Trojans, which include downloaders and info-stealers, are now the most commonly used tools of the trade accounting for 55 percent of the new malware seen, says the report. That's an increase of 9 percent over last year. The rise can partially be attributed the existence of "public-available toolkits" that malware distributors advertise as being easy to use.
Some Apple iTunes users who have AVG installed were in for a bit of surprise last weekend when the antivirus app alerted them to the presence of a Trojan in their music software and blocked it from loading. If you're one of those users, rest assured it was a false positive.
"Unfortunately, a recent virus database update resulted in iTunes being detected as a Trojan by AVG security products," the company explained in a statement. "We can confirm that it was a false alarm. AVG immediately released a new virus database update (definition file 270.13.29/2260) that corrected this issue."
The update came just five hours after the false positive was first reported and was "automatically released to all users by 5:30AM CET," AVG says. Prior to the update, AVG had placed several iTunes DLL files in quarantine, which prevented the music service from working.
If for some reason iTunes still isn't working after applying the update, AVG suggests restoring the deleted iTunes files from the AVG Virus Vault. To do this:
Open the AVG user interface
Choose "Virus Vault" option from the "History" menu
Locate the iTunes file that was incorrectly removed and select it (one click)
Microsoft recently made the Microsoft Security Essentials beta available for download. When Microsoft first announced that it had a free antivirus software in the works, Symantec and MacAfee shares immediately plunged. Both the antivirus developers are not ready to acknowledge MSE as a threat to their paid offerings.
David Hall, a regional product manager at Symantec, unleashed a diatribe against MSE while speaking to BLORGE. He believes MSE is not a consummate product and cannot fully protect users. “If you are only relying on free antivirus to offer you protection in this modern age, you are not getting the protection you need to be able to stay clean and have a reasonable chance of avoiding identity theft,” Hall said. He even ridiculed MSE as “a stripped down version of the OneCare product.”
Many of our readers were taken off-guard when we rated Norton Internet Security 2009 a 9/Kickass in last year's antivirus roundup, and we even admit to being surprised at Norton's transformation from a resource-heavy sloth to a lean and competent antimalware package. We hope the trend continues, and we'll have a chance to see if it does now that Symatec has released beta versions of its upcoming 2010 releases to the public.
The new version features a new protection model codenamed Quorum and will put a heavier focus on reputation-based malware detection. While it won't replace existing signature-based detection for known threats, Norton says the reputation model can detect zero-day malware that's never been seen before.
"Our new approach changes the rules by both enhancing traditional security techniques to make them more aggressvie and by making it dramatically more difficult for attackers to evade detection by simply changing their malware," said Rowan Trollope, Symantec senior vice president, Consumer Business Unit.
Other features include an overhaul to parental control and spam filtering, more detailed information provided by Norton Insight, which identifies known good programs for faster scanning, and a new feature called Autopsy, which is designed to help the user understand what just happened when Norton automatically removes an infection.