By John Rudy
Unfortunately, this is a subject that must be discussed with some frequency, and no matter how conscientious you are, there are still risks. So, my objective here is merely to provide a bit of education.
- Can I get infections on both PCs and Macs? Some years ago my son, who had a Mac, said that there were no viruses on Macs. He was partially correct. The bad folks who were writing malware (and that is a VERY BROAD WORD and I will not discuss the subtle differences between different kinds) concentrated on PCs. Why? Because there were more of them, and they were densest in government and large businesses. If ones objective is to cause problems, go after the folks with lots of computers. In recent years, there have been some changes; Apple now holds about 13% of the PC market.
- It is very important that you have anti-malware software on your computer. Most computers come with decent packages. With Windows 10, you now have DEFENDER which, when it first came out, was fairly weak. Now it considered to be quite strong. So you might think you’re OK.
- In general (there are a few exceptions), you cannot run multiple anti-virus packages simultaneously. They conflict. That means that, if you purchase Norton and install it, Defender will be de-activated. Every year, several organizations rate the packages that are available, and the popular ones are generally quite good. Some vendors provide a free version as well as one you can buy. The free one always has less capability. Stick to the one you purchase.
- When a new virus appears, all the vendors work very hard to upgrade their products to address it. But there will always be a lag. One source says “More than 317 million new pieces of malware — computer viruses or other malicious software — were created last year.” Many are very similar and can be addressed in bulk, but take my word for it that there are a lot out there. You want to deal with a large company with sufficient staff to address this.
- Some bad actors address bugs in software. When vendors are made aware of such a problem, they fix it and put out a new release. This can take some time. My rule of thumb is to keep all my software, not just the operating system, as up-to-date as possible. Many products, when they are installed, give you the option to automatically download new releases when they become available. Some pros disagree with this because sometimes new releases have new holes. But unless you plan to keep up with all this, just keep your software up to date. Think of this as closing your door each time you are told it is open.
- There are a number of other products that are useful to run periodically because they provide some other protections. I’ll address them another time.
- When you get an email from an unknown source beware. Every email system is different, but usually on the top line it will show the email address from which it was sent. Today, I received one from email@example.com. I happen to know that Goldstar is a company from which I buy discount tickets, so I opened the URLs that were referenced. But if it had come from “goldstam.com” I hopefully would have noticed the typo and just deleted the message. Recently, I got an email that looked like it came from Fidelity. The address was something like firstname.lastname@example.org. I know that if Fidelity is sending me an email that the name after the “@” sign will be Fidelity, and it would not be coming from Comcast. Thus, I deduced that this message was bogus. The message said that I had an account problem and it wanted me to click on a url to verify some data. I didn’t. I just discarded the email. Occasionally, I have gotten a note that looked suspicious, and I called up the company at a number I knew was good (not the one they supplied on their message) to find out if the note (paper or email) was legit. Recently, I received something from one of my credit card companies that looked funny. I called the number on the back of my credit card and to my surprise found that the document I received was legitimate. But I’m glad I did the extra checking.
Bottom line: be wary.
A long-time technology expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature. In the comment box below, provide John with questions, comments, or suggestions future tech items to cover.