Antivirus Software. What to Look For

In keeping with our “Basic Internet Security” theme, let’s take a look at antivirus and anti-malware software. While we cannot possibly cover all the different programs out there, we do want to cover the basics of what you should look for in this software.

Most systems come with a trial version of antivirus software already installed. These may not always be the best choice due to cost, but considering they come with a discount code if you sign up they may be a good option. Our advice is to not uninstall these programs if you choose not to use them.

It is important to note that Anitvirus and Malware are different. I asked our technical director to give a basic differentiation between the two:

“While discussing it (the term antivirus and malware) you can use it interchangeably.”

“While talking about purchase options not so much.”  Especially with software that say one or the other in their name (ie Malwarebytes). Seeing as the differences between the two basically come down to how they infect a system not so much what they do while they are there. Virus is an active hunter effectively and malware kinda just hitches along for the ride.” (hence sometimes harder two get rid of) – Nick Chernwichan , AES Computer Tech

How antivirus software differ from firewalls is while firewalls do prevent unknown applications and programs from accessing your device, they do not identify or remove anything. They help by limiting the activity of malicious software by blocking incoming and outgoing requests on certain ports. This may not prevent a virus or worm attached as a link in an email from getting through. Phishing emails are a good example of this.

 

The “phishing” email was not stopped by the firewall. Hence it ends up in the users inbox and if the user clicks the link in the email, it sets some bad stuff loose in the form of malware or adware just to name a few.

 

This is where antivirus software takes over. The software is designed to be “on the alert” for the nasties and when it detects their presence, it captures them and moves them to a quarantined file – basically jail- for the nasties.

Antivirus will also detect items that could potentially be a problem and will quarantine these files as well. The user may then review each file to determine whether it is safe or not prior to downloading.

It is important to note that while Windows Defender that came with your computer has gotten better over the years, it is still somewhat a lower ranked antivirus software.

The question is – which software is the most suitable for your needs?  Free or paid? There are some very good free programs out there, but generally the paid products offer more features for a yearly subscription cost. You will have to decide for yourself what you want.

Below are some general guidelines to help in your decision.

Malware or Antivirus- As stated at the beginning there is a difference between the two. When deciding on a product to purchase, you want to make sure that it scans for and protects against all major virus and malware threats including ransomware and rootkits etc. Make sure you ask questions if you are not sure, as you want to pay for the features you need and not for ones you don’t.

Ease of use – Pick a product that that fits your technical capability. Some people like to adjust their settings while others want to just install and forget it.

Free trial – If a product offers a free trial, it gives you the opportunity to try before you buy to see if it is the right product for you.

High malware detection rate- You will want a product that stops the majority of malware, whether it is common malware or zero-day malware (brand new)

Email and web protection-  Make sure the product automatically screens email attachments and web pages before you open and or load them.

Doesn’t slow down your device-  Be careful that the software does not overload your computer either during active scans or while it runs in the background.

Keep in mind that with any of these products it is extremely important that you keep them updated.

Hopefully this article will give you a very basic knowledge of antivirus products and how to look for the right product. I have also included some links below which the reader may find helpful.

Happy internetting.

https://www.tomsguide.com/us/antivirus-software-buying-guide,review-3586.html

https://heimdalsecurity.com/blog/what-is-the-best-antivirus/

https://www.digitalcitizen.life/how-choose-great-security-product-thats-right-you

https://lifehacker.com/the-difference-between-antivirus-and-anti-malware-and-1176942277

https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/about/security-center/virus-differences.html

Firewalls – Keepers of the Gate

In this next writing about basic internet security, we will talk a little about firewalls.

It is common that people lump firewalls and antivirus software in the same bucket, however these are two separate items with two separate functions.

To start off, lets take a quick look at the difference between the function of a firewall and of antivirus software.

Firewalls:   These are the “Guard at the gate” so to speak. Firewalls help to minimize damage from spyware by keeping it from gaining unauthorized access to files and software. Firewalls monitors network traffic into and out of a computer or network and decides whether or not to let it in.

Antivirus Software:  Antivirus software would be the “soldiers” of the computer world. Their mission is to seek out and software, files, or programs that can harm or compromise your computer. It can detect harmful programs that are being downloaded or are already downloaded and will quarantine, remove or fix. It will also look for potentially harmful files attached to emails, or being downloaded from the internet and will remove these files and notify the user of their removal.

Now that we know the difference let’s look at firewalls.

There are 2 types of firewalls:

  • Hardware firewalls – This sits between your computer and the internet.

An example of a hardware firewall would be your router. A router may not have a built- in firewall or it may not be enabled so you will want to check with the manufacturer specs to see if it does.

A hardware firewall uses packet filtering to examine the header and decides whether to allow it to move through the system to the computer. It does this by comparing the header to a set of user created or pre-defined rules. Based on this comparison, it will allow or block the incoming traffic. If your computer becomes infected it could disable a software firewall, but it will not infect a hardware firewall as the hardware firewall sits apart from the computer.

Hardware firewalls also can provide centralized network management for multiple computers preventing individual users from having to change any settings.

 

  • Software firewalls – This sits between your computer and a network

 

An example of a software firewall would be Windows Defender.  Software firewalls, which usually come pre-loaded on your computer just as other software applications will only protect the device in which they are installed. They can often be customized, allowing the user some control over the protection features.  They may also include privacy and web filtering controls as well as other options.

The software firewall will run in the background of your computer and should always be running.

So the question becomes do you need a software firewall if you have a hardware firewall?  From what I have researched, you should run both as while they both may have redundant features, a hardware firewall should stop the barbarians at the gate while the software firewall should stop anything that may get through.

While I cannot recommend any specific firewall software, I have provided a link below that reviews the top ten personal firewall software for 2018.

http://www.toptenreviews.com/software/privacy/best-personal-firewall-software/

 

For my next post, we will discuss antivirus software. In the meantime, happy internetting.

THE IMPORTANCE OF UPDATES

We all hate that annoying screen pop up about updates.
And most of the time we click out of them, thinking “We’ll update later.” (But often we don’t)
But how important are these updates? Are they something that can safely be ignored? What are the risks?

It may be helpful to have a basic understanding of what an update is.

An update is a software file that contains “fixes” for issues or vulnerabilities that have been discovered with software or application. For security updates, these are often patches which help prevent hackers from getting into your system.

Sounds important to me.
So why do we delay or ignore these? It may be that part of the problem is that warning messages pop up somewhat randomly. Usually while we are right in the middle of that important spreadsheet, or while researching information on data breaches.
A new study from BYU, in collaboration with Google Chrome engineers, finds the status quo of warning messages appearing haphazardly—while people are typing, watching a video, uploading files, etc.—results in up to 90 percent of users disregarding them.*
Now we know what an update is and why it’s important, here’s a few tips to help in making this vital process go a little more smoothly.
• Set aside time each morning to check for updates, and if possible install immediately, before beginning your day. You will probably need to restart your computer, so be prepared for that.
• Install updates as soon as possible after being notified. This should probably be read as “Update Immediately”
• If you lack the time to manually update, use the task scheduler and have the updates installed automatically.

Updating is a very simple but critical action you need to take to help ensure the safety and security of yours and your customer data.
Need more convincing? Read this:
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-installing-software-updates-makes-us-wannacry/

Need help with the updates, here are a few links below which can help.
• https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/311047/how-to-keep-your-windows-computer-up-to-date
• https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/294871
Now get out there and update.

*(Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2016-08-people-software-percent.html#jCp)
*(Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2016-08-people-software-percent.html#jCp)
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-installing-software-updates-makes-us-wannacry/

Autostar Point of Sale partnership

Automatic Equipment Service is happy to announce its partnership with Autostar Point of Sale (POS) systems.

“It’s been 35 years since Auto-Star began creating innovative technology. Auto-Star started as an automotive company that developed inventory management software for mechanics and car dealerships. Since that time, Auto-star has evolved into what it has today, providing the best retail POS technology to the grocery, pharmacy and natural health markets.” – Autostar
Automatic Equipment Service, founded in 1997, has been an industry leader in providing service and repair to an array of restaurant and supermarket equipment. In 2003 we began to provide, install and service POS systems as a way of providing “end to end” service for our customers. This partnership with Autostar folds in nicely with our vision “to provide the highest quality of products and services to the retail & hospitality industries.”

“We believe that this partnership will enhance our strategic positioning in the supermarket POS marketplace.” “It increases our flexibility with the options we offer ensuring the best customer experience possible.” – Matt McCormick, President Automatic Equipment Service.

We are very excited to announce this partnership and look forward to the additional offerings we will be able to provide our customers.

Check out Autostar

Password Laziness- Don’t be a victim!

 

 

We all get a little lazy with passwords. We all can relate to the frustration of trying to log into our apps, websites etc. and getting the “Invalid Password” message. And then the ritual of retyping the password only to get the same message again- ugh.

This is probably why many people do not view a strong password as a necessity, but more of an annoyance.  Quite frankly, I have changed my phone provider password on multiple occasions simply because it was faster to do that, than to try to find where I had written it down.

Passwords, at their core, are designed to ensure that only authorized individuals have access to whatever data or information that is stored on a device, or in a database. To neglect setting up a strong password leaves you vulnerable to hacks and data theft. These hacks can have a devastating impact on your business, if not just be a downright nuisance.

We now live in an age where the password is a way of life, I think it wise to revisit our attitudes regarding this safeguard, particularly in regards to your business. It is extremely important that you as the business owner protect the highly sensitive data that you acquire. A strong password is the foundation for this protection.

In researching for this blog, I found some information that is quite interesting. You can find the full article at

https://www.halock.com/blog/3/article1288

  • FACT – 66% of people online utilize only 1 or 2 passwords for all their accounts!

66% is a staggering amount of people. Especially when considering how connected we all are.

  • FACT – A Computer loaded with the latest virtualization program and high-powered graphics cards can now crack an eight -character password in 5 ½ hours.

WOW- and that was in 2013! I would imagine the technology today allows for this to be performed more rapidly.

So if you are not utilizing a strong password, we recommend that you begin immediately.

Here are a few tips to help develop a strong password.

Do:

  • Mix capital and lowercase letters
  • Include punctuation marks.
  • Include numbers
  • Change at least once a year
  • Keep a written list of all your passwords for each account. Keep the list handy, but secure.

Don’t

  • Use the same password for multiple accounts
  • Use names, birthdates or any personal information
  • Use passwords that pertain to your hobbies

These are just some basic tips to help keep your online data secure.

Have a question? Feel free to contact me at davem@callaes.com