How to Choose and Properly Maintain an Anti-Virus Program

computer securityWhen talking about basic digital security tips and protecting yourself online, I would be remiss to not pass on wisdom on how to properly choose and maintain an anti-virus program.  Many customers of ours bring their laptops or computers in for repair because of problems resulting from the anti-virus/security settings on their computer – whether an anti-virus program is improperly installed or is not installed at all.

Here are some tips I’ve shared with customers in the past on how to choose the right anti-virus software, set it up, and maintain it over time:

  1. Download a trial versionUtilize the available versions and try out several programs before you actually buy the software.  There are a multitude of programs out there and each will bring their own unique flavor of security protection.  Trial software allows you to experience and test out the actual program without incurring the hefty prices.  Try different security packages, from different developers, and find out which one suits you best and works best on your computer.
  2. Be aware of ‘weighty’ softwareDuring the trial period watch and see how the anti-virus software affects your computer’s performance.  Note peculiarities such as speed, responsiveness, and unexpected computer freezes.  These problems can be symptomatic of ‘bloatware’ which unnecessarily slows your computer down.  Anti-virus software (especially the Norton Security Suite) can slow computers down so you will want to find the right software that fits your digital habits/needs.
  3. Buy as a Suite of Products, Not as a Single Piece of SoftwareMost antivirus/firewall programs are available as a suite of products even though you can buy the standalone copies by themselves.  Contrary to popular belief, you will get a better deal (and more protection) when you focus on a suite of security products rather than individual programs.  Software purchased in suites, especially internet security software allows you to get more features for less money.
  4. Leverage the Available Bulk LicensesMost internet security software suites come with multiple licenses allowing you to install the program on multiple machines.  Take advantage of these bulk licenses and install the security software on all of the computers in your home, such as your spouse’s laptop, the kids’ computer, etc.  Protecting your entire home network is an integral part to mastering digital security.
  5. Get the Physical Software DisksSome programs allow you to download the application but be sure to buy the actual software so you have the disks if the computer crashes.  This makes computer recovery much easier for you and the repair engineers working on your computer.  You never know when you’ll need the actual disks and you don’t want to get caught with a missing login/password or without an internet connection like we’ve happen to customers in the past.
  6. Run/Schedule Software Updates RegularlyWhen you install the program, make sure you activate and schedule the automatic updates and regularly check to make sure your program is up to date, especially if something feels out of place.  Anti-virus developers release several dozen patches a year that you need to be protected from.  Hackers will never stop so make sure you are applying updates to the anti-virus/firewall program as they become available.


So which anti-virus/firewall packages does LaptopMD like best and recommend?

We prefer and recommend Kaspersky Anti-Virus and PC Tools to our customers.  Both companies offer lightweight but full-featured software suites that we’ve seen perform well on our own computers as well as those of customers.

Share your thoughts in the comments and ask us what is still on your mind about anti-virus software.

Four Easy Digital Security Tips/Principles

digital security

We’ve all heard a lot about digital security these past few years and it always gets to me that “digital security” has remained a buzzword – often used to spread fear and panic as well as appeal to the masses as a means to sell new security products, etc.  Digital security can be boiled down into some basic principles and practices that you can do on your own (some software may be needed in certain cases but most can be done on your own).  These are basic principles but in my experience adhering to the basics will prevent major problems from occurring.

You are the first line of defense.

No computer program, algorithm, or machine has the complete ability, as least yet (!), to match the intellect of a human being in terms of digital security.  Yes, these programs can protect us much better than we can – in a lot of ways – but having an alert mind on our shoulders will make a world of defense in protecting yourself.  When you’re online remain alert and vigilant to online threats – operating with the mentality that “the internet can do no harm” is on the verge of living a fantasy.  Don’t go overboard but trust and use your natural intuition about websites, links, and attachments as you protect yourself online.

When online, be aware of red flags and recognize when things seem out of place or odd.

I have recently been receiving a lot of spam from hotmail accounts (which seems to be a favorite target of hackers these days) and the spam I am receiving is incredibly deceptive.  Spammers are now adding prefixes such as “RE:” and “FW:” to email subjects to entice individuals to open messages.  This is an example of a red flag you should be aware of – if a message seems out of place (like a “reply” to a message you didn’t send) chances are the email is spam.  Another spam favorite is the giveaway of electronic devices – now, I don’t want to seem like I’m a pessimist but if something sounds too good to be true there is a higher chance that it probably is.  I always suggest to users that they tread lightly with the “out of this world” type of promotions and have heightened senses when pursuing these types of links/sites.

Password protection is critical.

I’ve walked into many offices where passwords have been left on sticky notes underneath the keyboard because they are hard for people to remember.  Granted, techies (like myself) are often guilty of making password requirements too complex but I always discourage the use of sticky notes near the computer simply because it allows very easy access to sensitive login information.  Here are some tips for protecting your password that will save you the trouble of being hacked or having your accounts improperly accessed:

  • Make your password case is sensitive with mixed characters and letters – stay away from common English words and phrases
  • Commit to memorizing your password or store your passwords in a concealed place (and not under “P” for passwords either)
  • Change your personal passwords every 6 to 12 months or whenever you feel your digital space may have been compromised
  • Use a secure password management tool that integrates with your browser and websites/multiple passwords

Install an anti-virus program.

I keep saying this and it still amazes me how many people don’t have an anti-virus program on their computer.  Everyone, including Mac users, should have an anti-virus program or internet security suite installed on their computer.  If you’re worried about the cost of a program, I recommend the free version of AVG anti-virus or download one of the many trial versions of the security suites out there, like PC Tools or Kaspersky Anti-Virus.  But trust me, the money for such programs is worth the investment!

I realize these things may seem like common sense but, with digital security, the common sense/trivial matters do make the difference between a big computer nightmare and digital bliss!

Share with me in the comments the tips and tricks that you use online to protect yourself.

Today’s top technology myths. Fact or fiction?

Top Technology Myths
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I recently read an article, “Technology’s Biggest Myths” on MSNBC that described some of the biggest myths of technology today and assessed whether they were true or not. I was fairly skeptical but it was actually a pretty good article and cleared up a number of things I wasn’t aware of.  Go ahead, go read the article and then come back, we’ll chat then.

Back already? Wow, you’re a fast reader. Okay okay, let’s continue…

After that article I can’t help but say ‘Where to Start???’. The first thing that jumps out at me is the claim that you can’t get viruses if you only visit G-Rated sites.  In the article, Avast Software (maker of popular antivirus software) will tell you that there are 100 virus infected websites on ‘clean’ content sites for every virus on an adult based content site!

This stuck out to me because we hear this everyday in our shop. One of the most common questions we get is “Why did I get this virus??”. And unfortunately there’s no easy answer for that question. The only thing we can recommend is making sure you have a valid up to date antivirus program and that you’re being aware of any suspicious looking websites that you visit.

Computer Anti-Virus Software
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The second biggest thing that stuck out to me was the Windows Vista vs. Windows 7 speed comparison.  Now, for the not-so-techie people in the crowd, you may not have been as immersed by stats claiming this as I have. I’ve seen countless studies, tests and comparisons that make this claim so I was really interested to hear what MSNBC had to say about the topic. And low and behold, I was right!  Just like a number of other articles I had read, Windows 7 does actually outperform Windows Vista.

If you’ve been relying solely on my critiques so far, I do suggest you make your way to the article and check it out for yourself.  It not only describes the myths I’ve mentioned but also goes over whether or not your new iPhone 4 is alone in its fatal signal strength band issue or if all smartphones share its fate. Also, have you ever wondered if you’ve been getting ripped off for the price of an HDMI cable?

Check it out and let me know in the comments what stands out to you!