Microsoft Security Essentials: Microsoft’s Free Anti-virus Hits v4.0

Microsoft has released a new version of Microsoft Security Essentials, the free anti-virus/anti-malware program for Windows PCs. The MSE 4.0 release is available via the Microsoft Download Center and the MSE Web site and also made available to existing customers automatically through the Microsoft Update service.

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Interestingly, this version has been in beta since late 2011, and the last released version was 2.1. There is no indication of the need to skip v3 and the jump to v4; the latest build being 4.0.1526.0. The participants in the beta program who are subscribed to automatic updates will be upgraded to the final release of the latest version of Microsoft Security Essentials after they agree to a new license agreement. You can also do a manual upgrade from v2.1 or the beta release without uninstalling the previously installed version.

Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home or small business PCs (up to 10)  that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. MSE is designed to be simple to install and easy to use. It runs quietly in the background without annoying notifications or interruptions. It is available as a free download from Microsoft for genuine Windows users, in both x86 and x64 editions.

Microsoft Safety Scanner Scans Your PC For Virus, Spyware and Malicious Software

Over the past couple of years or so, I have used Microsoft Security Essentials as my only virus and malware protection tool. The Free Antivirus tool from Microsoft is definitely worth installing on your PC.

Microsoft Safety Scanner

If you are someone who does not like to install Antivirus on your PC or just want to check whether your current Antivirus is really working well, a new tool from Microsoft will come in handy.

Microsoft Safety Scanner is a free security software from Microsoft which provides users with on-demand scanning while allowing users to remove viruses, spywares, Trojans and another malicious software from their PC. Safety Scanner works along with your current Antivirus software, so you don’t have to uninstall your current AV protection to use it.

One of the bad things about Microsoft Safety Scanner is that it expires every 10 days. Users will have to download a new version to scan your system every ten days which could be annoying considering that it is around 70MB in size. A simple definition update should be added so that users don’t have to download new versions every 10 days.

Users must also note that unlike traditional Antivirus systems the Safety Scanner does not provide continuous protection and should not be used as a replacement for traditional Antivirus software. Microsoft Security Scanner should only be used to additionally scan your PC. If you intend to replace your current Antivirus you might check out our Free Antivirus section to find a suitable alternative.

Additionally, you may also want to read the following articles related to :

Download Microsoft Safety Scanner

Spybot Portable – a Great Way to Search and Destroy Spyware

spybot-sd-icoBack in 2000, a software engineer, Patrick Kolla, created the basis of a tool for dealing with spyware. This tool, later named Spybot Search and Destroy, was one of the first effective freeware apps for the removal of many kinds of adware and malware that were infecting PCs. Since then, millions of people all over the world have used it at one time or another. To this day, many people consider it an essential part of their PC defenses.

Patrick’s work on Spybot hasn’t stopped, and it’s been updated several times over the years. Today Spybot-S&D can repair or remove:

  • Bad registry keys
  • Winsock LSPs
  • ActiveX objects
  • Browser Hijackers
  • BHOs (Browser Helper Objects)
  • Tracking cookies
  • Trackerware
  • Homepage hijackers
  • Keyloggers
  • Trojans
  • Adware
  • Spyware
  • Rootkits
  • other kinds of malware

Here’s a screenshot of Spybot as it scanned my laptop yesterday.

spybot-sd-portable

Typically, I use Spybot as a secondary scanner, to catch things that my antivirus and other defenses have missed. However, the TeaTimer portion of Spybot can be installed to watch over your computer continuously in the background.

Another great feature of Spybot, is it’s ability to add immunizationsagainst some common weaknesses in Internet Explorer and other areas of your PC.

Spybot can be updated every time you use it, by clicking the update icon. Always check for new updates before running a scan.

I prefer to have most of the programs on my PC, set up as portable applications. I was happy to find that Spybot is also available as a portable app.

arrow-down-double-3Download Spybot S&D Portable

earth-globeSpybot S&D Home Page (full installed version)

Techie Buzz Verdict:

Spybot is one of those apps that have proved themselves over years and years of use. It’s always been free, and it’s probably saved millions of people headaches from re-installing their OS after an infection. It deserves to be highly recommended.

techiebuzzrecommendedsoftware1

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2011 is Now Available

avg-logo On September 28th, AVG announced the release of their 2011 suite of anti-virus and anti-malware programs. Included with this release is the ever popular free edition of AVG Anti-virus and the free LinkScanner application.

Even though AVG’s offerings have slipped some in the AV testing results, it’s still a great option for protecting home PCs. The addition of the LinkScanner, which warns you about your current web pages, bad links in web pages and risky links in email, seriously improves your chances of staying trouble-free.

As an added bonus to the entire web community, AVG has also unveiled AVG Threat Labs, a search engine which gives short reports on the safety of any web site or link.

A quick look at AVG Anti-Virus Free edition:

While installing, watch out for AVG’s offer to install a toolbar and change your home page to Yahoo. I said no to that. Be sure to uncheck those check-boxes if you feel the same way.

avg-install-3rd-party-options

Next, be prepared to wait. After the initial agreements, AVG will download about 130mb of data, to finish the install. With lots of others downloading the same data, you may not get a good download speed. I was definitely bored at this point.

After the download and install, the last screen will ask for your name and email address. If you are shy, you could type anything you want in there. You’ll also want to be aware of the very last check-box, which is set to allow AVG to collect anonymous information to help them improve the product. Uncheck it if you are paranoid.

Finally, here’s your first peek at the new AVG interface.

avg-main-interface

As you can see, the main two functions, Scan and Update, are on the left. Naturally, a free product is an opportunity to advertise, and you’ll see an Upgrade button and a large ad at the bottom. I don’t mind, but some people might.

I’m not going to go into any details on how to use AVG, it’s like most other anti-virus apps. Install it, do a few scans now and then, but mostly forget about it until a problem pops up.

AVG LinkScanner

During the installation of the anti-virus, I choose the Quick Install method. If you choose to customize your installation, you can select not to install some of the services such as LinkScanner. In previous versions of LinkScanner, there were some problems in certain web browsers, but those issues have been largely fixed. I recommend allowing it to install with the anti-virus. You can always disable it later if needed.

If you are using some other anti-virus product, you can install LinkScanner all by itself. There’s also a version for the Mac now.

Here’s what AVG says about the LinkScanner:

LinkScanner ® keeps you safe wherever you go online by actively checking links and web pages in real time the only time it matters – before you click that link. LinkScanner ® also places safety ratings next to your search results, allowing you to assess the safety of a site before visiting it.

The service it offers is similar to that offered by McAfee’s SiteAdvisor and WOT (Web of Trust), which I also recommend. I don’t believe it’s necessary to run more than one of these at a time, so pick one and try it out.

Once you start seeing link ratings in a web search, you’ll understand how it can keep you out of trouble.

linkscanner-ratings

download AVG Free Download AVG Anti-Virus 2011 Free Edition

download LinkScanner Download AVG LinkScanner

arrow-right-double Visit AVG Threat Lab to find out if sites or links are risky


Techie Buzz Verdict:

AVG’s free anti-virus products have always been good. However, due to recent results in AV testing, I’ve lost some of my faith in it. It’s still good, but not as good as some of the other free AV applications. However, the LinkScanner tool and the new AVG Threat Lab site have my hearty recommendations.

On a final note, my wife is a loyal AVG user and it’s always kept her safe. If you’ve been using AVG, and it’s been working well for you, there’s no reason not to upgrade to the 2011 version right now.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)


A Review of Emsisoft Free Emergency Kit

icon120_free

[Windows Only]  Emsisoft isn’t a big name in the anti-virus, anti-malware industry, but they are well respected and they’ve been offering great products since 2003. When I first ran into them, they were offering one of the best anti-trojan scanners, named A-Squared. Recently, they’ve come out with a new bundle of anti-malware called Emsisoft Emergency Kit, and it’s completely free.

The first feature of this software kit that I liked, was the fact that it’s also portable. This means that the files making up this bundle can be copied to a CD or a USB flash drive, so that it can be used easily on any PC. All you have to do is download the Zip file and extract it to any drive you want. Below is a screen shot of the files included in this package.

em-kit-files

To start up Emergency Kit, simply double click the start.exefile.   This launches a selection screen and you can choose one of the four main programs included in the kit.

em-kit-selection

Below is a list of the programs in the kit and a brief description for each.

• Emsisoft Emergency Kit Scanner

Search the infected PC for Viruses, Trojans, Spyware, Adware, Worms, Dialers, Keyloggers and other malign programs.

em-kit-scanner

• Emsisoft Commandline Scanner

This scanner contains the same functionality as the Emergency Kit Scanner but without a graphical user interface. The commandline tool is made for professional users and can be used perfectly for batch jobs.

• Emsisoft HiJackFree

HiJackFree helps advanced users to detect and remove Malware manually. With HiJackFree you can manage all active processes, services, drivers, autoruns, open ports, hosts file entries and many more. It’s a tool very similar to the old and much revered HiJackThis, except that it offers more information and the ability to consult an online analysis tool for advice.

hj-free-processes_220 hj-free-ports_220 hj-free-autoruns_220 hj-free-services_220 hj-free-addons_220 hj-free-hosts_220 hj-free-quarantine_220

• Emsisoft BlitzBlank

BlitzBlank is a tool for experienced users. BlitzBlank deletes files, Registry entries and drivers at boot time before Windows and all other programs are loaded.

Here’s the Emergency Kit home page for more details and the download: http://www.emsisoft.com/en/software/eek/

Note: Another great tool from Emsisoft is the well known Online Armor firewall (free version).

. . . . . .

Techie Buzz Verdict:

I tried out Emsisoft Emergency Kit briefly and I was not disappointed. Even though most of the tools in this kit are for experienced users, the Scanner alone can help almost anyone. It’s not a small download, but it’s portable and most importantly, it’s free. I give it a big thumbs up.

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Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)


SpywareBlaster – Low Impact Malware Protection

[Windows – all versions]

spyware-blaster-icon

Way back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, one of the first security apps I’d install on a PC was SpywareBlaster. These days, I don’t use it as often, however, it’s still excellent PC protection, especially if you are using Internet Explorer as your default web browser. Here’s what the website says about this application:

Multi-Angle Protection

Prevent the installation of ActiveX-based spyware and other potentially unwanted programs.
Block spying / tracking via cookies.
Restrict the actions of potentially unwanted or dangerous web sites.

No-Nonsense Security

SpywareBlaster can help keep your system secure, without interfering with the “good side” of the web. And unlike other programs, SpywareBlaster does not have to remain running in the background. It works alongside the programs you have to help secure your system.

spyware-blaster-main

Here’s a list of web browsers that can benefit from SpywareBlaster’s protection:

Internet Explorer
Mozilla Firefox
Netscape
Seamonkey
Flock
K-Meleon
and browsers that use the IE engine, including:
AOL web browser
Avant Browser
Slim Browser
Maxthon (formerly MyIE2)
Crazy Browser
GreenBrowser

SpywareBlaster does not have to run continuously in order to do it’s job. It simply applies a few registry settings to your PC and your browser that will help prevent drive-by downloads and bad ActiveX scripts. After you’ve installed SpywareBlaster, all you have to do is to enable the protection on the main screen.

spyware-blaster-all-protections

The free version of SpywareBlaster requires that you update it manually, however, there is a pro version that can update itself automatically. If you can remember to update it, the free version is fine for all users. The manual update process is very simple.

spyware-blaster-updates

There are a few other tools bundled in with SpywareBlaster, one of them is the System Snapshot. If you ever find yourself having a few problems with your web browser, restoring one of these snapshots may be an easy fix.

spyware-blaster-sys-snapshot

Another tool is Hosts Safe. Windows uses the HOSTS file to provide system shortcuts to various websites and some malware programs take control of this file to force your PC to places you’d never go on your own. You can create backup copies of your HOSTS file easily with this tool in SpywareBlaster and restore them later if needed.

spyware-blaster-hosts-safe

The last tool I’ll mention is a IE Settings section. As you can see, it offers two or three settings that can help you protect Internet Explorer.

spyware-blaster-ie-settings

Please note that SpywareBlaster is not a replacement for Firewall, Anti-Virus or Anti-Spyware tools. However, it’s normally quite safe to use it in addition to the tools you already have installed.


Download SpywareBlaster: Download.com

SpywareBlaster Website: javacoolsoftware.com

Techie Buzz Verdict:

SpywareBlaster is a great way to add an additional layer of security to your PC. I like the fact that it does not have to run continuously in the background in order to work. It’s been around for over 10 years and I’ve never seen any serious complaints about it. I can easily recommend it.

techiebuzzrecommendedsoftware1

Techie Buzz Rating: 4/5 (Excellent)

Is Cyberdefender a Scam?

no-go-ico On March 24, 2010, lawyers representing the Cyberdefender Corporation issued a ‘take-down’ notice to Allen Harkleroad. The take-down notice claims that Allen published false and potentially defamatory articlesabout their product and sales practices.

The Contenders:

Cyberdefender is advertised as an easy solution for PCs that are running slow or are infected with spyware or adware. You may have seen the television advertisements for MyCleanPC.com and DoubleMySpeed.com. Visits to both of those websites will prompt you to install Cyberdefender software. It looks like Cyberdefender is the owner of both of those sites.

Allen Harkleroad is a well known consumer advocate, who has taken on some pretty big names in business, such as Dell, AMD, ATI, UPS and FedEx, to name a few.

The Contention:

Allen claims that Cyberdefender is a scam and has posted several articles in his websites, supporting those claims. Here’s one of them:

Beware of MyCleanPC.com and DoubleMySpeed.com Same Scam, Same Company

Here is a copy of the legal take-down notice from Cyberdefender’s lawyers:

CyberDefender Corp, MyCleanPC, DoubleMySpeed and Catanese and Wells

At one point, Allen says that he:

I installed the MyCleanPC software on a fully patched Windows XP machine that I rarely used just to see what happen. Other than installing software I use nothing else had been installed and no software had been uninstalled on the machine. It does have anti virus software on it. The CyberDefender software found over 3,000errors on a machine that runs perfectly fine, never had software uninstalled and rarely was on the Internet.

I’ve heard others claim that Cyberdefender isn’t worth the asking price. I decided to try it myself. I used Microsoft Virtual PC, with a copy of the IE6 test virtual machine. This allows me to run a clean, new, fully patched copy of Windows XP. It doesn’t have anything installed on it, not even an anti-virus program. The advantage to using a virtual machine is that I don’t have to worry about messing up a real computer.

Below, I have created a short slide show, which gives the results of my simple test.

Go here if you can’t see the embedded slideshow.

Conclusion:

Let the buyer beware. If I see over 300 errors reported on a clean PC, I have serious doubts and would never buy the software.   What do you think about DoubleMySpeed and MyCleanPC? Would you buy them?


How to Find Out Who Is Spying On You

spying-on-you[Windows Only] Today, I found out that my computer at work had a trojan infection. Most of my co-workers would never have noticed the bug, but a little luck and the right tools made my discovery possible. Since I discovered the infection early, I was able to quickly  remove the malware. Do you know if evil computers are connecting to your PC? If you really want to find out, I recommend that you try two utilities from NirSoft.

Download and Install:
CurrPorts and IPNetInfo are both portable applications that are offered as ZIP files. You can unpack these ZIP files anywhere on your hard drive or even onto a flash drive to use them. CurrPorts and IPNetInfo work best if you put the files from both programs into the same folder. After I downloaded and unpacked them,   I ended up with the following files in my CPorts folder.

currports-file-list

Run CurrPorts:
You can run CurrPorts by launching the cports.exe file. It will scan your computer and display a list of processes on your PC that are using the network and internet connections. The list contains the following columns of information on each connection.

Process Name *
Process ID
Protocol
Local Port
Local Port Name
Local Address
Remote Port
Remote Port Name
Remote Address *
Remote Host Name
State
Process Path *
Product Name
File Description
File Version
Company
Process Created On
User Name
Process Services
Process Attributes
Added On
Module Filename
Remote IP Country
Window Title

Search the information:
The most important columns to pay attention to are the columns described below.

Process Name is the name of the program or service on your PC that is making the connection.

Process Path tells you where the program or service is located on your hard drive. It’s important to know this location if you suspect that you have a spyware, virus or trojan infection.

Remote Address is a set of numbers that is often called the “IP Address”. This address is needed to identify the computers connected to you by the internet.

Many of the connections you’ll see won’t even have a remote address and you don’t have to pay as much attention to them. In order to unclutter the list and concentrate on the remote IP addresses, you can use the Options menu and uncheck the item labeled “Display Items without Remote Address“.

currports-display-options

Identify WHO IS connecting:
Now that you have some IP addresses displayed, you can find out more about them by using NifSoft’s IPNetInfo utility. When you right click on any remote address shown in CurrPorts, you can find out more about it by choosing the IPNetInfo option. IPNetInfo will pop up and give you the WHOIS information if it’s able to.

currports-with-ipnetinfo

Here’s an example of the WHOIS info for a Google page in Internet Explorer.

ipnetinfo-report

IPNetInfo.exe can be run all by itself by launching the ipnetinfo.exe file. When it’s running this way, you will have to paste in the IP Addresses manually to initiate WHOIS searches.

Stop the Spies:
Once you’ve identified all the owners of those remote IP addresses, you should have a better idea about who they are. You can usually find out more about them by using the company name in an internet search. If you are still suspicious that the IP addresses you are seeing are from the bad guys, you can check in several places to find out if they are on a watch list. I recommend that you search for malicious addresses at hpHosts. Just paste the remote IP address into the search box.

If you’ve identified a connection you don’t want, you can right click on entries in CurrPorts and either “Close” the connection or “Kill” the process on your PC. If you have a process running on your machine that continues to connect to IPs that are suspect, you should probably save an HTML report as shown below, then run an Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware scan. I recommend using MalwareBytes or one of the other good free spyware removers. If that doesn’t do the trick, get some help from one of the Anti-Spyware forums. I always visit Temerc.com‘s forums when I need help.

If you wish to ask me about some of your remote connections, you can select one or more items in CurrPorts, click on “View” > “HTML Report – Selected Items”. When the report pops into your web browser, you can copy and paste the information into the comments below this article. You can also save the report from your browser using the File > Save menu.

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Have a good day and surf safely!

Download IObit Security 360 Pro for Free

Looks like Santa Claus has arrived earlier this year. We have seen many popular software companies giveaway paid softwares for free. IObit the creators of the popular malware and spyware removal tool, are also offering a free license of IObit Security 360 Pro for Free.

iobit_security_360_pro_free iobit_pro_free_license

IObit Security 360 PRO is an advanced malware & spyware removal utility that detects, removes the deepest infections, and protects your PC from various of potential spyware, adware, trojans, keyloggers, bots, worms, and hijackers.

IObit Security 360 Pro usually sells for $29.95. However, users will be able to download a full version of the software with a free license till November 11th, 2009. No free technical support will be provided for the software.

Download IObit Security Pro 360 Free [Link disabled due to allegations by Malwarebytes against IOBit]