New for 2011

Looking back over the last year, some things have changed in the world of PCs, but many problems remain pretty much the same!

Malware — viruses, trojans, spyware and the like — continues to be a big problem. I still see a lot of PCs infected with various trojans designed steal information or money from the unwary. The writers of this stuff are very professional, so I assume there is big money behind it.  The most common still seem to be the sort that tells you that tour PC is “at risk”and invites you to download some software to cure it. Invariably the software “finds” lots of things that aren’t really there, and then invited you to register if for about $49.95 to enable it to remove them.  If you ignore it, it will get ever more persistent, until the PC becomes unusable.

Sometimes these types of software claim to find viruses or other infections, sometime “memry problems”, “registry errors” and so on.  Of course, there are quite genuine and very useful products that do all these tasks, so it’s hard for the normal person to tell the genuine and useful from the fake and harmful. Sometime these fake products every have professional-looking websites (but almost always without traceable addresses or contact details).

An example of a fake product is here.

A simple tip: before you download any software, search for its name on Google.  Ignore any sponsored links, and if almost all you find in the search results is people asking how to remove the product, and reputable sites (such as bleepingcomputer.com and techguy.com) offering removal instructions, then tread very carefully!

A new development in 2010: three of my customers who had infected PCs received a phone call to the home numbers from the “Windows Support Group” telling them their PC was infected and offering to remove the infection at a price. It wasn’t clear how their phone number had been obtained (all had their phone numbers in at least one document on their PC, though), who the caller was or who he represented, or how much this “service” would cost. Very suspicious indeed.

Everyone should have a good and up-to-date antivirus program. Two good ones (both free) are the free versions of AVG 2011 from here or (my current favourite) [Update October 2017] Microsoft Security Essentials from here. Windows 10 has a built-in anti-virus program, Windows Defender, which is at least as good as any of the free programs. [End of update]

Happy new year to all.