Anti-Virus Training

Anti-Virus 101

Preface: This commentary, Anti-Virus 101, was first published in 2011 on Even though the virus world has changed radically in eight years, the principles below are still as valid today as back then. I’ll discuss the major change in The Rest of the Story at the ending.

Virus & Spyware protection is the most important software you’ll ever install on your PC or Mac. Yes, Macs do get viruses; do not let anyone convince you they don’t. Our little shop averages over five infection clean-ups a week. These computers almost always have adequate virus protection installed, but somehow still get infected. How can that happen?

Virus protection is a complex subject: complex to the point where you could have college degrees dedicated to it, and Masters programs covering the removal of the nastiest ones. Believe me; there are certain virus types, known as “rootkits,” which are almost impossible to recover from. In fact, part of the grade in a Masters program would be to know when the situation is hopeless – just give up, back up the client’s data (twice, just in case), format the hard drive and start from scratch.

A) Your #1 protection against Viruses – automate the backup of your most important files

Interesting way to begin this article, but it simply can’t be overlooked. It happened more back in the DOS days, but we tackled a virus last month that completely deleted files from a PC. These are rare, but of course the most dangerous. A Fortune 500 company caught one of these babies, and it wiped out the data on several of the company’s massive servers. That catastrophe started at one lonely PC on the network and then spread like a Justin Bieber YouTube video.

No matter how much money you spend, you are never fully protected from the Lex Luthors who create viruses. Therefore, your only real protection is to back up your data properly and test your backups from time to time to ensure your data is safe (usable).

Properly backing up computer data is an entire degree w/Masters program by itself, but here is one tip that you need to know right now: use USB flash sticks or external hard drives. Do not use CDs or DVDs. The average usable life of a DVD burned on a PC is only two years; CDs are like seven years. You might lose half the files you burned to DVD for safe keeping within two short years… your kid’s pictures gone… what a disaster.

B) What are Viruses and who creates them?

Viruses are infections that get injected into the Operating System {Windows XP, Mac os10, Windows7, etc.} of your computer. These infections are just little sub-programs that now start automatically every time you turn on the PC. The number of documented viruses in the world hit one million in 2009. Each of these tiny programs may do different things, but all have one thing in common: they want control of your computer.

My all-time most popular question from clients on this subject is: “Who creates these things?” I always come back with my pat answer: “Some kid in Cambodia who’s perfecting their IT skills, so he/she can come to the US and make big bucks.” Substitute China, India, the Ukraine (my homeland; the best virus writers in the world come from this part of Mother Russia), and that answer becomes very valid. It is estimated that students in college classrooms have created over 50% of all viruses.

C) What is the best Virus Protection software currently on the market?

We hate Norton Security Suite. Kinda hate AVG these days; we used to like it. Always hated McAfee (we had a slogan back in the Windows95 day; “I would rather have a virus on my computer rather than McAfee anti-virus; the PC still might work with just a virus”).

Software Knowledge uses several small (free) tools, along with our favorite “always-on” protection programs. We currently recommend the combination of Malwarebytes & Microsoft Security Essentials to our clients. This is the fourth always-on protection solution we’ve used in the last seven years. You might be interested, maybe shocked, by the reasons why we keep changing…

D) What to do if you catch a Virus

Don’t panic! And please don’t break out the VISA and buy the program you see on your screen.

Close your Internet browser and open your always-on virus protection. Try to perform an update (but the best-written viruses usually break this, and you might get an error). Try updating any other anti-virus/anti-malware programs you have installed; these updates may also fail. Disconnect your LAN cable or turn off your wireless signal, reboot (restart) your computer, and then try to run your always-on AV program. If it catches something, tell it to remove, and then restart the PC again. Continue by running the next AV program you have. If you still have problems, it is best to contact a professional IT firm at that point.

One quick tip that few people think about: Get to a clean PC and change your online banking passwords. Better safe…

E) Why doesn’t your Firewall protect you?

Unless you bought a $500US hardware firewall device and then paid a firm like ours to configure & fine-tune your “proxy” settings (about another $500US), your firewall is Swiss cheese…and even if you have this level of protection {like we do}, you’re still cheese… just like us. Trust me.

In Summary:

1.   Backup your files regularly!

2.   Do not take viruses personally

3.   Run good ‘always-on’ protection & keep it updated

4.   All hope is NOT lost if you catch a virus

5.   Truly gifted people write the most destructive viruses; there will never be a cure in our lifetime…

Anti-Virus 2019

It is now January 2019. A new breed of virus has emerged: the CryptoLocker (aka Ransomware). These viruses encrypt your files and you have to purchase the encryption key to unlock them. Hundreds of new strains are released each week, and they are only going to get worse. This type of virus isn’t created to be mean. They are created to make money… and the creators have made plenty.

The funniest attack I know of to date has been on a Sheriff’s Department here in TN. Their Server got infected, and they did not have good backups of their files. They had to send thousands of dollars in “Bitcoins” to the virus writer and were lucky to get a valid key to unlock all their files. Cops forced to pay thieves… how ironic.

I hope you enjoyed this short piece. Share any questions or comments on our LinkedIn page

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To my Ukrainian family and friends: Веселого Різдва і щасливого нового року

Anti-Virus 101

Categories: Anti-Virus