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Tech-Friendly: Upgrade Windows anti-malware software

July 31, 2013

By Paul Gorski

I briefly listed two Windows malware programs in my “Tech-Friendly: While not common, Mac malware exists,” July 3-9, 2013, issue (http://rockrivertimes.com/2013/07/03/tech-friendly-while-not-common-mac-malware-exists/). I’d like to expand on that discussion.

First, though, to recap, “malware” is used to describe multiple classes of computer threats: virus programs, malicious Trojan programs, drive-by attacks and more. The software used to protect your computer against these attacks may be more efficient at protecting against one class of attack than another. Also, while anti-malware program may be effective against these attacks, it may also bring your computer to a crawl or make it cumbersome to use.

One of the most common anti-malware programs is Microsoft’s Security Essentials (MSE) (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/security-essentials-product-information#tabs1=overview). However, MSE doesn’t always get great reviews for being effective against the latest threats. Here’s one article on that topic: http://www.ibtimes.com/microsoft-security-essentials-fails-antivirus-certification-test-second-time-row-microsoft-disputes.

So, what is an average user to do? Well, be wary of old reviews of anti-malware programs. As these programs evolve, their effectiveness and usability can change. A useful, if not somewhat confusing, site to help sort out the good and bad anti-malware programs is hosted by AV-Test, an independent IT security group, http://www.av-test.org/en/tests/home-user/windows-8/janfeb-2013/.

After reviewing your options, you might consider disabling MSE and installing one of the “better” anti-malware programs. “Better” is relative, as there’s always a compromise between protection and computer usability.

The Ad-Aware and Norton Internet Security programs that I noted in my previous column rank higher than MSE, but Avast! Free Antivirus 7.0 and AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2013 both rank higher than my recommendations, according to AV-Test and are popular programs, too.

I’ve installed Avast! on two older Windows XP computers and found it slowed the computer down quite a bit on start-up, but not so much once the initial security scan was done. I’ve had problems installing AVG, so that’s why I went with Avast! and Ad-Aware on a couple other PCs. Your mileage may vary on your specific computer.

Windows PC users need to have an anti-virus/anti-malware program installed on their computers. Microsoft Security Essentials, which is free and can be installed under Windows Vista, 7 and 8, is the bare minimum protection that you should have. While very easy to use and not too hard on your computer’s speed, MSE may not be the best solution for detecting the most current threats, and you should consider upgrading to more an effective anti-malware program.

Paul Gorski (www.paulgorski.com) has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple IIe.

From the July 31-Aug. 6, 2013, issue

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