For those of you who thought that having Norton installed on your computer was enough protection, I have some unpleasant news.
All those antivirus programs that you may be paying up to $80 per year to renew, are not very effective at catching today’s threats. Most hover around the 50 – 60% effectiveness range. It’s not because the programs aren’t good, it’s because they are written to look for known viruses. But malware authors these days create code that changes multiple times in a single day — there’s no way your virus signatures can keep up. A rep from Sophos told me that 85% of the viruses they see are new code.
So how can you protect yourself? Technology only goes so far and if you rely on it completely, it will fail you. The best protection is education and discretion. Before you click on that funny looking email link from a friend, ask yourself if your friend would send you a link with no explanation. Or if UPS really has your email address for that package.
Searches have become another favorite target for malicious hackers. Typing in something as innocuous as golden apple can bring up results from infected web sites, tailored just for you. Pay attention to what you’re about to click on! Google shows you the URL for each result in green below the title of the result. Check it before you click on it.
Modern browsers also have a feature that highlights the web site (URL) you are on in dark type. That should help you figure out if you’ve been redirected or hijacked. Is it effortless? No. It takes some work on your part, but trust me, it’s worth it.
This isn’t to say that there’s no technology that will help. UTM routers, such as SonicWall or Fortigate (full disclosure: LCP is a reseller for Fortigate products and a SonicWall partner), look for behavior, not just known code, and they have shown themselves to be an effective first line of defense. I also like to install AdBlock Plus, a free add-on for most browsers. In Firefox and Chrome versions, it has a malware blocking feature as well which has to be manually activated.
In addition, “second opinion” antimalware products are becoming popular – I recommend Malware Bytes and Hitman Pro. Both can be run for free and are very effective at removing infections that get past your old school antivirus. Neither is a replacement for antivirus, however.
But in the end, it relies on you. Just as you lock your house or your car, don’t leave your computer unlocked – use strong passwords and common sense. And call us at Local Computer Pros if you have questions!