Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Legitimate Software Still Sneaking on Crapware

I’m very lucky to have what might be considered a cult following for WinPatrol.  It’s essential since we don’t advertise and depend on word of mouth to let people know they should download WinPatrol and upgrade to WinPatrol PLUS. The few people who upgrade to PLUS allow us to continue giving away a free version.

One of the positive elements of our software is that we’ve never included 3rd party crap software like toolbars in our setup program. I consider this an insult to our users and while I could make a lot of money it’s just wrong. Many of you have read about my constant battle with who thinks WinPatrol should include a custom version of their search toolbar.
Read: Would you like Toolbar with your Software Order?

I continue to get requests from companies who say they want to do business with me.  They don’t take no for an answer and don’t realize one of the main reasons to have WinPatrol is to remove their junk software which sneaks on to computers. It’s bad enough when software like MP3 players or Image editors install software you didn’t ask for but when security vendors push unnecessary additions it’s bad news. Still, once a day I get an offer to be rich by including their software.

There are some online good guys who keep track of unacceptable installs and document the bad guys. One of the best sites is known as the “Calendar of Updates”.  COU also lets users know when there’s a new version available of their favorite legitimate software.

Recently we lost one of the founders of Calendar of Updates. Donna Buenaventura consistently won a “Most Valuable Professional” award from Microsoft and helped thousands of computer users asking nothing in return.  Donna also introduced me to the “Installers Hall of Shame”.  A quick look at this list shows you just how many vendors are more interested in profit than keeping you as a customer.

donna Donna Buenaventura was certainly one of good guys who won’t be forgotten. Donna may not have been wealthy when she passed but she was rich with love from the folks she helped.  I hope to be as lucky when my time comes.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Most Dangerous Words on the Internet

There are many forms of security intrusions on your computer and you should be aware of all of them. Sometimes you don’t have to do anything you would normally think would infect your computer. Infiltrations can happen without any action on your part. You don’t have to click or download programs to lose control of your system.

Here’s a tip you may not have heard. Don’t click on any ad. In your Email, on Google or even Facebook don’t click on advertisements. You’d think big companies like Google or Facebook review advertisements that appear on their websites. You’d be wrong. Some of the most dangerous links appear as advertisements that look like search results on Google or product recommendations by your friends on Facebook.

If you click on an ad the most danger words you’ll ever see online are “FREE, You may be a winner”. If you see those words or anything similar use Ctrl-All-Del and close your browser. Web sites don’t give away Apple iPads. If they do the chances you’ll win isn’t worth the risk.

freeMy mother always said, “You get what you pay for”.   She was a smart lady.  She also said, “If it seems to be good to be true, it probably is”.

If you see this message, press Ctrl-Alt-Del and kill your
browser. There’s no other safe way out of this dangerous message.

What you always need to do is take security seriously. Pay attention to any changes in behavior and make sure you have updates to all your software including system updates. Pay special attention to updates from third party software from companies like Apple and Adobe.

You may not care if your computer is infected but here are some examples of why you still need some kind of security on your computer.

  1. Sensational Headlines
    You were tempted by a salacious headline. What happened when you clicked may vary but everyone in your contact list will receive the same headline and they’ll want to click. If they do, they’ll get the same attack you received and all their contacts will get the message as it spreads to all everyone’s friend. If you’re a Facebook user I’m sure you’ve seen this happen more than once.

  2. Key Loggers
    There’s a program running on your computer that tracks each mouse movement and keystroke and sends it to an online server that may be monitored by many of the bad guys. This kind of infection is often called a key logger. In some cases a key logger may be installed by a controlling domestic partner or even your boss.  Key logger programs are sold openly disguised as ways to monitor your children. Everyone knows these programs are misused and often used in domestic violence cases.

  3. Bots
    There’s a program running on your computer called a “bot”. You may never know it’s running. It just uses your computer as a tool so a police investigation will be directed to your house and not someone on the other side of the world. Someone controlling the bot could do everything from participate in denial of service attacks to hack into someone's bank account.  Don’t expect a CSI team to come in and clear you.  Not long ago bots were used to shut down nuclear computers in Iran. Chances are in our future they’ll be used against more sensitive sites in the U.S.

  4. Credit Card Info
    You sent your credit card to a popular online store that doesn’t have the best security plan.  The latest example of this came from online store Zappos. This happens more than you can imagine and on rare occasions companies like Zappos will make the effort to let their customers know and encourage them to change their passwords. While most people fear credit card information will be stolen using the internet, an equal danger exists calling a company on the phone and giving them your credit card number. Monitor your credit card usage regularly and keep track of your purchases.

  5. Scareware
    According to security friends rogue software or “scareware” is now the most common security threat. A message appears letting you know your computer is infected and for a fee they’ll remove all the viruses, Trojans horses, and tracking cookies that supposedly exist. 
    No matter how much you pay you won’t receive any help. As time goes on the infection will get worse and your computer will only get slower and slower 

So what else can you do?  Most people blame it on their kids or spouse. Many install 3-4 different anti-virus programs because they think the more protection they have the better. When it comes to security programs, I usually recommend one good AV scanner to back up WinPatrol and help clean up any garbage left by the infection.

When it comes to real “protection” I continue to stress a single, regular solution that will provide multiple solutions. Backup, Backup, Backup!
It’s that time of year when I remind readers they need to take doing regular backups seriously. Instead of blindly depending on security software invest your money in a good backup plan.

If you haven’t reviewed backup solutions in a while you’ll be surprised at what’s available. While I don’t currently recommend any single solution check out cloud backup services or invest in a media safe that keeps media protected during the hottest fire. Create a good backup policy and you will be a WINNER!

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