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# Saturday, June 30, 2012

Viruses, worms, bots, spyware, adware, keylogging devices. One of the most common causes of a sluggish PC is malicious software infection. From hijacking your machine and using it to pollute the web with spam, to cluttering your registry with bogus functions, bad code you pick up from web surfing or downloading software is the number one culprit behind PC slowdown.

Chances are, you already have a decent antivirus program – but chances are, the subscription has already expired. As our friends at Shadowserver – a nonprofit made of volunteers who fight malware – always remind us, hundreds of new viruses are created each day. If you don't have an up-to-date subscription, you might as well not have the program running altogether. Besides, a year's worth of protection will only set you back between $16 and $50 dollars.

What to look for in an anti-malware program

Before you renew your subscription or buy a new program, make sure you're protected by the right software. A good, all-purpose anti-malware program should:

  • Update with fresh malware signatures every few minutes. (Yes, minutes - you don't want to get caught by this morning's bad code floating around the internet.)
  • Protect you from toxic sites while browsing. Sophisticated criminals have made bad websites that can hijack your CPU after you simply click on their site.
  • Thwart phishing. Some malicious programs trick your browser into thinking it's landing on a real site – such as your bank's – when it's really a dummy site created by criminals, who then steal whatever personal information you send them.
  • Offer "whitelisting," a memory-saving feature that puts reliable files on a safe, or "white," list, so it doesn't have to scan them as often.
  • Get good marks from or, two highly-respected independent anti-malware testing organizations.

Recent winners from

Saturday, June 30, 2012 11:38:14 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] -
antivirus | malware | slow pc | viruses
# Monday, May 4, 2009

Many PCs are slow for innocent reasons: not having enough RAM or having too many programs installed. But sometimes slowdown is a sign your computer has been hijacked and forced to join an army. A zombie army.

It sounds like the plot of a direct-to-DVD horror movie, but it's actually the latest, and most dangerous, threat to emerge from the internet criminal underworld.

How Your Computer Becomes a Zombie

Zombification, just like in the movies, happens quickly. According to Sophos, a security firm, it only takes as little as five minutes of internet exposure for unprotected computers to catch the infection.

It happens like this: criminals create programs that scan the internet for vulnerable computers. Once they find one, they release 'bots' – programs that infect your computer. These are extremely sophisticated and hard-to-detect nasties that exploit weaknesses in Windows that make them incredibly hard to find. In one study, a top-of-the-line anti-virus program missed a whopping 80% of all infections.

After bots hit your computer, they... kill other bots or infections. That's right, most bots carry their own anti-malware code to eliminate all rivals. Once they're the only ones left, the real damage begins.

Getting Drafted

Bots make your zombified computer (also known as a drone) join up with other zombie PCs, to create an undead army known as a botnet. These botnets are controlled by a botnet herder - think of him as a zombie master – who often has hundreds or thousands of computers at his command. With this unprecedented computing power at his fingertips, he's ready for some serious criminal mischief.

What's So Bad about Being a Zombie?

Botnets are responsible for almost all of the illegal spam cluttering the world's inboxes, and they do everything from stealing financial information to shutting down websites by overloading their bandwidth in Distributed Denial of Service Attacks.

You won't know this is going on, but since your computer is busy committing crimes, it'll be a lot slower doing all the legitimate stuff you want it to do.

Worse still, the bot is probably spying on you. Most of these programs record keystrokes (it's called keylogging) so they can steal passwords. Keylogging is usually triggered by certain actions – such as when you visit your bank's website.

Prevent or Kill the Zombie Infection

A good, updated commercial anti-virus tool can detect some of the bots and eliminate them. But the best offense is a good defense. According to Shadowserver, a respected, non-profit security watchdog group, the worldwide global menace of botnets could be stopped in its tracks if more computers were properly protected.

Here's what they recommend:

  • Turn your firewall on.
  • Use a trusted commercial anti-virus tool that routinely updates. If your subscription is cancelled, it's worth renewing it.
  • Make sure you regularly get the latest updates for Windows and all your applications – criminals are working 24 hours a day, every day, discovering new exploits to hijack your PC, and you have to be as well-defended as possible.
  • Cross your fingers. It's tough out there.
Monday, May 4, 2009 5:59:47 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] -
antivirus | malware | slow pc | viruses
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