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.
Have you checked your bank account balance online lately? If so, you may want to consider verifying the numbers with a paper statement, because what you see on your computer screen might not be indicative of banking activity that's occurring right under your nose, according to a new security report.
Hackers have a new piece of malware to play with, one which not only picks your online pocket, but also hides the evidence of any wrong doing by rewriting online bank statements on the fly. Once the Trojan horse infiltrates a user's PC, it goes to work by altering the HTML coding before it's displayed in the victim's browser, making sure to erase any evidence of money transfers or other unauthorized transactions.
"The Trojan is hooked into your browser and dynamically modifies the text in the HTML," said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CTO of computer security firm Finjan. "It's a very sophisticated technique."
A gang targeting customers of leading German banks first began employing the ruse in August and managed to steal Euro 300,000 (about $440,000 USD) in just three weeks. Finjan estimates that the gang using the scheme could potentially steal about $7.3 million annually.
While so far relegated to German banks, Ben-Itzhak warned that this technique is likely to spread to other countries.
Google has confirmed that the error messages people received on Thursday when searching for details of Michael Jackson’s death, was initially perceived as an attack. Searches between 2:45 and 3:15pm were returned with "We're sorry, but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now."
The error messages lasted for about 25 minutes on Thursday, just long enough for Google to confirm what was actually going on. The search giant noted that the amount of traffic it saw on this topic was unprecedented, as millions around the world scrambled for accurate information, seemingly all at once. Yahoo has also confirmed that it hit an all-time record for unique visitors with over 16.4 million following the story. This blows away the previous record held by the Obama election day, with a paltry 15.1 million uniques.
The outpouring of sympathy online has been astonishing, and I’m sure Google will learn its lesson on this one.
After nearly three years of development, Panda Security today released the public beta of its Panda Cloud Antivirus, which the company claims is the first free cloud-based antivirus thin-client. By taking AV duties to the cloud and combining it with local detection technologies, Panda says it can do a better job at protecting your PC than a traditional virus scanner.
"Thanks to Panda Security's Collective Intelligence malware and goodware online database, Panda Cloud Antivirus detects more malware than traditional signature-based solutions which take longer to detect the most recent, and therefore most dangerous, variants," Pedro Bustamanta, Panda Senior Research Advisor, wrote in a blog entry.
The local portion of the program takes up roughly 50MB of hard drive space while consuming about 17MB of RAM, according to a Cnet report. By the time Panda Cloud Antivirus exits the beta stage, Bustamante hopes to have the RAM consumption down to 12MB.
One potential downside to relying on the cloud for antivirus protection is that your PC would be left vulnerable without an internet connection. But not to worry, says Bustamante, who clarified that a local cache copy of Collective Intelligence is kept on the PC for just such scenarios.
Malware is everywhere. You can't browse on any Internet tech forum without someone mentioning this word (with disdain), usually in search of a remedy after being infected with spyware. No matter how careful you are, we’re guessing that many of you have had malware inadvertently installed on your system and may have even ended up reformatting your computer as a last resort. While that may have been the most thorough solution, it is in a sense admitting defeat. Or worse yet, you took your computer to get cleaned and was charged anywhere from $50-300 -- a high price for humiliation. But don't fret, because you can actually purge your system of malicious software for free! Just follow our comprehensive guide.
Behind every piece of malware—be it a virus, spyware, or any other form of hostile, destructive code—is a sneaky, scheming scoundrel, oftentimes someone you’d never suspect. Antivirus suites promise to defend your PC against all the baddies. We test 10 of the leading products to see which ones are best at keeping your PC safe.
Gamers have enough trouble trying to come up with a game plan to beat pesky end bosses and single-handedly defeat armies of mutant soldiers. Saving often gives gamers an endless advantage and cheat codes can help in a pinch, but neither of these tactics will do any good against an increasing amount of real-life threats the online gaming scene.
More than just an annoyance, time spend in virtual worlds like Second Life can translate into real currency and it's attracted the attention of organized criminal gangs. According to security software vendor ESET (best known for its NOD32 Antivirus products), "high volumes of malware intended to steal passwords for online gaming and virtual worlds" have been detected since 2007, resulting in a "dramatic upsurge."
The alarming news comes courtesy of ESET's mid-yearly Global Threat Report, which focuses on broad trends in malware over the past six months. In addition to an upsurge in attacks against gamers, ESET notes that malicious software that tries to use the Windows Autorun facility to self-install from removable media continues to flourish.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the company reports email bound malware is in "dramatic decline," at least when it comes to dirty attachments. Malicious URLs passed through email messages have taken the place of attachments.
Further reading to keep yourself (and your virtual self) protected:
Ars Technica reports on a case coming up in Connecticut, in which a fired CEO is taking his former employer to court for accessing his personal Yahoo account. The CEO’s former employee's access to his Yahoo account netted them over 10,000 e-mails which included privileged communications between him and his attorneys regarding his plans to sue regarding his firing. Given the recent ruling from the 9th Circuit Court that indicated personal messages sent via work equipment were off limits to search unless the employer had a policy of regularly accessing the equipment. It might seem a slam dunk for the fired CEO.
The New York Times seems to think otherwise saying that because he accessed it from a computer that wasn’t his own, and he left it open in plain sight to transmit company documents (a violation of terms of his employment contract) the company may have been justified in investigating further.
The turn out of this case may have an effect on the previous ruling, and might want to give you pause about accessing your personal email from work!