Software scams, Baitware, Phishing…

It seems like nearly EVERYTHING you install these days comes with a catch.  You need to be careful not to do an “Automatic” or “Full” install of anything, because they means “go ahead, install everything”, or “go ahead and install whatever you want”, and that will almost always get you in trouble.  Even totally legitimate applications and the big-name software makers will do this now, which makes it very annoying all the way around, and actually ends up getting me more side work….Cleaning up users’ PCs when they slow way down or start getting uncontrollable popups.  This is not a good thing.  Sure, I could always use the work, but I’d rather not have to clean up after these program vomit their garbage all over a customer’s hard drive.  Users have enough problems without adding all this mess, and it only causes them more frustration, sometimes ending with them hating Windows or their computer manufacturer for giving them all of these headaches. Make sure to get a file recovery software to keep all your documents safe.

If you’re careful though, with each and every install and mouse click, you can minimize your chances of having these problems.  It’s the same with the web and junk e-mail.  Be careful what you click one and don’t believe everything you read.  Scams are everywhere.  Anything that ever makes someone a little profit is exploited as much as possible.

Make sure you have an antivirus installed.  But even if you do, these days that’s not enough.  Malware is not considered a virus, so clicking something bad on the web or simply visiting a bad website will often result in malware being installed on your PC.  You need to either run a malware scanner regularly or install one that constantly monitors your PC and catches them immediately.  The latter is usually only available as a paid service, however, usually as a “pro” or “advanced” version of a standard malware scanner.  Keep in mind that all of these, as well, are also used to scam users.  Some malware and viruses appear as popup notices explaining that you’re PC is infected with many bad malware programs or viruses and offer to fix it for you, sometimes for a fee.  This usually results in an even worse infection on your PC, or nothing at all, as they are usually only there to inject themselves deeper into your system, or worse yet, to scam you out of your credit card information, giving you nothing in return as they sell your information to make their money.

Personally, I use Microsoft Security Essentials and Malwarebytes Antimalware.  As of Windows 8, Security Essentials is built in, which is a great step forward.  Many will insist this is only “basic” protection and users need a much better application, or suite, to protect them…usually for a price, of course.  This may very well be.  Just be careful and make absolutely sure you’re choosing a legitimate solution and not just another elaborate scam.  As I said, those are what I use, and I rarely have issues.  They’re both free, though Malwarebytes does have a “pro” version that monitors your PC live just like an antivirus program, and supposedly catches malware before it infects your PC.  I haven’t tried it though, so I can’t say how effective it is or isn’t.

A Windows 7 Family

I spent the weekend installing Windows 7 on all 3 of our PCs at home. I went with the “Family Pack” of Windows 7 Home Premium for $149. That’s an awesome price for 3 copies of Windows! It took me a while to find one in Kenosha, because everyone else was sold out, but OfficeMax had a few left Friday evening. A single license for Home costs about $109-$119. Each install took less than an hour. You can do a clean install using the upgrade version with no prompting for any type of proof that you own a previous version. I had been running Windows 7 RC on two our PCs for a few months, and there was no pre-purchased version of Windows installed on these PCs. For the clean install, it automatically takes your entire previous Windows installation and moves it into a folder called “Windows.old”, and Microsoft wisely recommends a fresh install and not an actual upgrade from your current installation. This results in a much cleaner, faster-running, and fully functional installation without carrying over any existing problems from your previous installation of an older operating system or having any compatibility issues. There are several differences between Home and Professional, but none of them were worth the extra price for me. The main piece not in Home Premium is the “Windows XP Mode” (which is a virtual XP machine that runs inside Windows 7) This would probably be the only feature in Pro that I would ever use, but I’d still probably very rarely use it, so I’ll go without. Windows 7 is much faster and much less buggy than Vista, requires fewer system resources and can even give you back 30-35% extra battery time on laptops! So far it’s running great, though it’s only been a few days since I installed it. I did use the Windows 7 Release Candidate version for 3 months prior to this though, and even that has run great for me. If it hadn’t, I would have hesitated a while longer before taking the plunge””maybe until the first service pack is released, like a lot of other people (and businesses) do. I am seeing a lot of little changes (and fixes) in the final version that I was concerned with in the Release Candidate, so it’s looking really well polished. Oh, and I also dumped AVG Free and went with using Microsoft Security Essentials, which is Microsoft’s new free Antivirus and Antispyware package, so we’ll see how that goes as well. It’s so nice to be able to spend just $50 per PC to bring it up to date and not have any monthly or annual additional fees to worry about!