Data Doctor: Don’t count on one-size-fits-all tool to fight viruses - East Valley Tribune: Business

Data Doctor: Don’t count on one-size-fits-all tool to fight viruses

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Posted: Monday, June 20, 2005 10:45 am | Updated: 7:36 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Q: Which utility suite is the best one to use for protecting my computer? — Shane

A: To better understand how to protect your computer, a simple revisionist’s history of the evolution of malicious software and hacking may be in order.

In the very beginning, the only utilities that were used in personal computing were performance enhancing programs, mainly dealing with reorganizing data on disks.

The first computer viruses appeared "in the wild" (outside of controlled lab settings) in the early 1980s and targeted the Apple operating system.

They spread via floppy disks in what is called the "boot sector," which is the first thing that is read by the computer when the disk was inserted.

As the virus problem grew, companies began marketing antivirus software to detect and remove known viruses.

This battle of the virus writer vs. antivirus software continued and was the center of protection utilities for many years — until something called the Internet appeared on the scene.

Before the Internet, the most common method of spreading a virus was via a floppy disk that would infect a machine and then infect every disk inserted from that point on.

The Internet is essentially the world’s largest computer network, which means that we are all connected to each other.

This new playground gave malicious users unlimited ways to wreak havoc on the world of personal computers.

Not only could they deliver their viruses via e-mail, they could plant malicious code on Web sites so that unsuspecting visitors would be infected simply by visiting a Web page, or, better yet, they could access millions of unprotected computers in real time right across the Internet without the user ever knowing.

With the power of the Internet working so well for the "dark side," it is imperative that we all get our shields up!

Here are the primary items that you MUST continue to monitor and update if you are connected to the Internet:

• Operating system (Windows, Mac, etc.) security updates, which are free

• Some form of firewall, hardware or software or both

• Antivirus software

• Spyware and Adware prevention and removal software

I am not a big fan of the one-size-fits-all solution known as utility suites, because most of them do a good job in one area and not so good in another.

The other more intrusive problem is the noticeable degradation in performance when these behemoth programs are installed.

Over the years in our service centers, the number one software category that has caused problems has been these utility suites that claim to protect and fix any problem that you can ever have!

Most users purchase these packages to "fix" an existing problem, which becomes very risky because of the all too common misdiagnosis. They work best if they are installed prior to having a problem.

Our company’s recommendation on various individual utilities that are low cost or free and do a great job of protecting users is located at: (click on the approved software banner). It also provides solutions to other common nuisances such as pop-ups and spam.

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