Panda shredded every threat we threw at it with the ferocity of, well, anything but a panda bear. Spyware, Trojans, potentially unwanted programs (PUPs)—you name it, Panda pounced on it like a hungry dog that had been thrown a meaty bone.
This particular Panda can also be a little bit needy. By default, Panda alerts you to every activity under the sun, even benign attempts by your home network to connect to your PC. Over time, the pop-ups settle down considerably, and for the ones of a more serious nature—like those alerting you to a real threat or virus attack—Panda makes it easy to adjust both the transparency and longevity of the pop-ups. Still, we wish Panda would take more initiative and not bother us with so many alerts.
Ever been blindsided by what you thought was love at first sight, but turned out to be just another pretty face? Eventually you find yourself at a crossroads having to decide whether to break things off, or stick around for the fast ride and ignore the flaws.
Such is the position BitDefender puts you in, and you’ll ultimately have to make the same decision. Right off the bat we encountered a couple red flags of things to come, including a somewhat lengthy install time requiring a restart, and mandatory registration in order to activate the license.
Once we got past the initial awkwardness, BitDefender proceeded to sweep us off our feet by tailoring itself to our needs. BitDefender’s configuration wizard asks you to select from four different layouts based on what type of user you are, including Typical, Parent, Gamer, or Custom. Should you later change your mind, you can rerun the wizard with a click of the mouse.
When McAfee told us it completely re-engineered its security suite from top to bottom, we agreed to include it in this roundup knowing full well we had probably been duped like the guy who drives off the used-car lot without a warranty. We were wrong.
To our eyes, this is a completely revamped McAfee. MIS 2010 rolls off the lot with a much-improved UI over previous versions, and manages to balance ease of use with a high level of customization. For those who care to do so, McAfee makes it easy to dig deeper into each of the main menu’s modules, but you’ll never feel lost or overwhelmed.
Underneath the hood sits a more performance-oriented engine than what you would expect from a McAfee product. Where last year’s version felt like a dilapidated Pinto, the 2010 model has all the makings of a sporty sedan. To reduce the time it takes to scan a system, McAfee caches files and puts together a white list of files it can safely skip. Depending on how clogged your hard drive is, McAfee claims this can result in up to eight-times-faster scans (we saw a 50 percent improvement).
Our last experience with Avast! left us utterly annoyed, and for good reason. It was slow, resource-heavy, and seemed to suffer from an identity crisis, with a quirky user interface that looked more like a media player than an AV scanner.
That was the free version we looked at, and this year, we put Avast!’s full-blown security suite under the microscope. A close inspection reveals that some of our previous complaints remain, but there have also been a handful of welcome improvements.
For starters, Avast! sports brand-new digs, and it’s never looked better. Gone is the goofy media-player façade, replaced by a sleek UI that’s easy to navigate. All the controls are clearly labeled, so you won’t spend time fumbling around looking for things like the IM shield or firewall.
We took some heat after awarding last year’s version of Norton Internet Security our coveted Kick Ass award. Some of you were baffled at how Norton, a notorious resource hog and semi-effective scanner, could turn things around in such dramatic fashion. Others questioned our geek cred, while a few of you even accused us of being on the take—ouch. But the truth is, Symantec deserved every accolade it received. Could this be the dawn of a new AV dynasty in the Norton camp?
We’re not yet ready to anoint Norton the savior of security software, and we’ll tell you why in a moment. First, let’s focus on what NIS 2010 does right. This year’s update continues NIS’s reborn legacy as a lean and fast scanner. We remain particularly impressed with Norton Insight, which dramatically reduces system scans. The first time NIS sweeps through your system, it examines every file. Each time thereafter, the scanner skips files that have been validated by Symantec and deemed trustworthy. The result? After an initial scan time of 16 minutes, 18 seconds, NIS then scurried through our data in just four minutes, 47 seconds, finishing long before our coffee break did.
Google’s move was spurred by a highly sophisticated cyber-attack on it, and a number of other companies, that originated in China. One target of the cyber-attack was the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Google initially went against its corporate ethos is agreeing to censor when it set up Google.cn, but the subsequent cyber-attacks looks to have forced Google to rethink its digression.
The response from China? “The Chinese government administers the Internet according to the law and we have explicit stipulations over what content can be spread on the Internet,” said Jiang Yu, spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry. And Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information Office said, “Effective guidance of public opinion on the Internet is an important way of protecting the security of online information.” In plain-speak: We like censorship. Censorship is the law. Violate the law and you’ll be punished.
Huang Jing, a visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, said, “The Chinese government may want to give Google’s high-profile move the cold shoulder. Given the reason Google cited in its announcement--that Google.cn can no longer put up with Beijing’s censorship--the CCP leaders are afraid that it could set a dangerous political precedent should they compromise on this one.”
Google’s only other option would be to walk away from the Chinese market, something Google says it is prepared to do. At present that wouldn’t be much of a hit to Google’s bottom-line--it is reported to have earned $350 million in China in 2010, or about 1.5 percent of its total revenue. The future, however, is another matter.
Malware is no easy thing to get rid of--bandwidth-hogging botnets in particular. One small chink in Internet security armor is all it takes for malware to thrive. Recognizing that no one entity can combat malware alone, the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), the Association of the German Internet Industry (eco), and German Internet service providers (ISPs) have come together to establish a malware clean-up helpline for Germany.
The three groups will work together to identify malware and remove it from the system. ISPs will be on the frontline, hunting down infected computers. ISPs will inform the owner of a machine suspected of infection, and direct her to a website with information on how to cleanse her computer. If the website’s advice doesn’t resolve the problem, the computer owner will be directed to a call center where realtime help will be available.
Germany’s need for the service is a great one indeed. Germany ranks third on the international scale for the number of infected computers. This new venture, according to eco, has raised safety awareness among German computer users. With the addition of professional support to remove malware, eco hopes to see Germany out of the top ten.
McAfee used its SiteAdvisor technology to crawl the web and test domains for security threats--a total of 27 million domains in all. Overall, McAfee reports that 5.8% of them were a problem. The percentage of risky sites is up over 2007 and 2008, but, McAfee says, because of a change in methodology it’s not possible to say the Internet has become more risky.
The places to avoid? By Top Level Domain (TLD) they are .CM (Cameroon), with a risk factor of 36.7%, .COM (Commercial), 32.3%, .CN (People’s Republic of China), 23.4%, .WS (Samoa), 17.8%, and .INFO (Information), 15.8%. For downloads the worst place to be is .RO (Romania).
The safest places to play on the Internet (and perhaps the least interesting), are .GOV (Government), .JP (Japan), .EDU (Education), .IE (Ireland), and .HR (Croatia).
The Untied States sits toward the top of the risky list, ranked 17th, with a risk ratio of 3.1%.
McAfee also says the likelihood of receiving spam if registering with an email address has dropped from 7.6% to 2.8%. And the percent of sites delivering viruses, spyware or adware has edged down, from 4.7% to 4.5%. (McAfee cautions that this last finding doesn’t mean there are fewer Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) in the tubes, but rather they are getting harder to detect using standard procedures.)
Overall, sites registered in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa are relatively safe. Sites registered in the Asia-Pacific region are not.
Human ingenuity is endlessly fascinating. Offer a guy a penny to do a task, and he’ll turn you down, no matter how simple. But give him a computer and let him write some code that will do it automatically, and he’ll take you to the cleaners.
Botnets, those pesky little creatures that perform automatic tasks, are not only becoming more commonplace, they are becoming more sophisticated. These nasty little beasties are now being used in ever more cunning ways to suck income out of unsuspecting advertisers and search engines through click fraud. According to Click Forensics, botnets accounted for 42.6% of all click fraud in the 3rd quarter of 2009--a near double increase over the same period in 2008.
You have to admire the ingenuity. One botnet, “Bahama,” carefully mimics natural searches to make them look real, and hence harder to detect. The botnet’s name comes from it redirecting traffic through some 200,000 parked domains in the Bahamas. Ultimately, the origins of the botnet was traced to the Ukrainian Fan Club, known as “online fraudsters,” and most likely comprised of guys hygienically unable to date.
Most botnet activity comes from outside the United States: the United Kingdom, Vietnam, and Germany being the top three. Germany and Vietnam I can understand, but the United Kingdom? I’ve been there. They aren’t that clever. They put a lemon wedge in a Corona.
Malware is the vile scourge of the internet. It invades your privacy, tracking where you’ve been on the internet to sell to marketing companies interested in your browsing habits. It invades your computer, sending pop-ups for products you don’t want, or it tricks users into buying some bogus program to fix nonexistent problems with their PCs. It steals resources from your computer, taking up CPU time, RAM and drive space. Being a malware programmer must rank up there with pimp-meister for jobs that you don’t tell friends and family that you do.
It used to be that you would pickup malware from ending up on a bogus site someplace, but it turns out that it is coming from almost everywhere now, according to a Websense report. About 75 percent of it comes from legitimate sites that have been compromised. That is an almost 50 percent rise over Q3 & Q4 of 2007. Of the top 100 websites on the internet 60 percent either hosted malicious content or contained a redirect to lure victims to malicious sites.
Always have your protection when surfing the internet boys and girls and not just FireFox like in the poster image below. An up to date Internet Security Suite is a must have.
You can visit the complete Websense report here for all the latest info on the filth lurking on the internet.
What do you do to protect your computer from Malware? Wrapping it in latex doesn't count.