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January 2011


 This Issue's Bit Of Savings

Unfortunately, trying to clean up a virus infection on your own is next to impossible. Modern computer viruses are adept at avoiding detection even by careful users, and often can easily avoid off-the-shelf anti-virus and spyware programs once properly insinuated into your computer. Imberi PC techs are armed with experience, advanced tools, and expert advice to keep on top of even the newest and most stubborn computer viruses and malware.

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Move Over AVG, There Is A New Kid Town

By Jonathan Imberi 

If it is not broke...do not fix it! Well, that has been the case with AVG Free since 2007. However, all good things must come to an end. In its most recent update to AVG Free 2010 the program makes use of, for lack of better words, some rather malicious scanning techniques to make you think your computer is in need of a tune up. AVG calls this scan the PC Analyzer. In our studies, the issues highlighted by the PC Analyzer were actually created by the program itself and were not the result of normal PC degradation. If you happen to click on the Fix My Computer link it directs you to a page for purchasing AVG PC Tuneup. If you do not click on the link the incessant pop-ups begin, constantly alerting you to this false issue.


I believe that software designed to keep you safe and protected should be FREE. Now, I fully support those free solutions using ads to cover their costs and even to promote their paid versions. However I have to draw the line when a company resorts to trickery and deception in order to make a buck. It is time to search for another security solution.

That being said, those of you who have already upgraded to AVG Free 2010 by using our instructions have nothing to worry about. We had you disable the PC Analyzer portion and as for the rest of AVG, it remains top notch.

I searched high and low to find the best FREE solution for all of our security needs. There were many contenders, but when it came down to the results Microsoft had the upper hand.

Microsoft has officially released Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), its free, real-time consumer security solution for fighting viruses, spyware, rootkits, and Trojans. MSE is yet another layer of defense Microsoft is offering to help its customers fight the threats that plague Windows PCs.

MSE should not be installed alongside any other security application. It builds upon Windows Defender by offering both real-time protection and on-demand scanning for all types of malware. Although you will not be asked for personal information or to register for anything, you will need to pass the Windows Genuine Advantage validation to install MSE. Now that you have got the necessary background information, let us take a closer at the different features of MSE.

The Graphical User Interface (GUI)

Microsoft Security Essentials GUI uses the “Keep It Simple” methodology and is not something I would call "bloated" or even “intrusive” like so many of the security products currently on the market. It may not be what you would call pretty, but then again pretty and fighting all the nasties out there really do not go together. A good security solution needs to clearly communicate important information when you are using it; and unless it needs interaction from the user, it should make itself scarce.


MSE makes sure that users know that their PC is safe and protected with green highlighting across the program window and a green taskbar icon.


If the user needs to take action, MSE makes sure users know with red highlighting across the program window and a red taskbar icon.


Microsoft Security Essentials updates itself very quietly in the background. In fact, I was never once bothered by its updating system; the only prompts I received were when the application actually needed my attention, like when it detected a threat that needed to be cleaned. Signatures are updated daily through Microsoft Update, with new signatures being published as often as three times a day. The core security engine is scheduled to update itself with new features and bug fixes on a monthly basis.


The History tab is useful for reviewing how well the program is working, and modifying decisions you have already made on previous detections. It gives you a great overview of what the program has found and also gives more information on each potential threat.


Considering the simplicity of the product, MSE has a surprising number of settings to work with. Power users will enjoy having tons of features to tweak, and I think they will be satisfied with the settings that can be changed in MSE.



Detection

MSE is the first Microsoft security product to make use of the company's new Dynamic Signature Service (DSS). When MSE detects that a file is making suspicious actions (such as unexpected network connections, attempting to modify privileged parts of the system, or downloading known malicious content) and it has no virus signature for it, MSE will send a profile of the suspected malware to Microsoft's servers. If there is a new signature for it, one that has yet to be sent out to the MSE client, MSE will be told how to clean the file. In this way, DSS helps ensure users stay protected by the most current virus definitions available without having to wait for the next scheduled download.


The EICAR Standard Anti-Virus Test File was developed by the European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research, to allow people, companies, and programmers to test their antivirus programs without having to use a real computer virus. There is not a single reputable security product in the market that cannot detect the EICAR test file. I used this test file to demonstrate MSE abilities. The top window is the prompt you get when you try to download the file and the second one you get after you hit the "Clean computer" button.


The threat above was detected while I was browsing the Internet. I did not notice anything odd until MSE told me it had found something and needed a single-click to confirm that I wanted it to finish its job. It did, and I continued browsing, virus-free.

As I continued testing MSE, it either caught threats after they were downloaded and executed, or blocked them from getting onto the computer in the first place. It would be impossible for MSE to have a 100 percent detection rate, but when I uninstalled it and scanned my PC with all of our security scanning tools, they all came up with nothing. Based on my findings, MSE was definitely doing its job well.

Performance And Unobtrusiveness

It should be noted that MSE installs very quickly and is very small. The program's folder takes up only about 13MB. MSE sports a single tray icon (hidden by default in Windows 7) that indicates it is running. The software does not add any browser toolbars, desktop gadgets, or additional bloatware during installation. 
An Internet connection is required for installation and to download the latest virus and spyware definitions.

MSE includes three features to keep it light: CPU throttling (the system will remain responsive to the user's tasks), idle-time scanning (scans and updates using a low-priority thread and only runs when the PC is idle), and smart caching and active memory swapping (virus signatures not in use are not loaded into memory).

Conclusion

Based on what I have seen so far, I have to recommend that everyone currently using free security software should give MSE a shot, and those with paid solutions should think about taking MSE for a spin before renewing subscriptions.

It should be noted that removing or uninstalling security software can be very tricky. These programs tend to leave all sorts of loose ends behind reeking havoc on your system. The techs at Imberi PC are trained in the techniques used to sucessfully uninstall your old security software and install and configure MSE for your PC.


Tired Of Taking The Long Way Home? Try These Shortcut Keys Instead. (continued)

By Jonathan Imberi

If you missed last issue's article about shortcuts you can read it here. Here is this issue's continuation of Windows shortcuts:

 Alt + TabSwitch between open applications.
 Alt + Shift + TabSwitch backwards between open applications.
 Alt + double-clickDisplay the properties of the object you double-click on. For example, doing this on a file would display its properties.
 Ctrl + TabSwitches between program groups or document windows in applications that support this feature.
 Ctrl + Shift + TabSame as above but backwards.
 Alt + Print ScreenCreate a screen shot only for the program you are currently in.
 Ctrl + Print ScreenCreates a screen shot of the entire screen and copies it to the clipboard
 Ctrl + Alt + DelReboot the computer and/or bring up the Windows task manager. 
 Ctrl + Shift + EscImmediately bring up the Windows task manager.
 Ctrl + EscBring up the Windows Startmenu.
 Alt + EscSwitch Between open applications on taskbar.
 F1Activates help for current open application.
 F2
Renames selected Icon.
 F3Starts find from desktop.
 F4 
Select a different location to browse in the Windows Explorer toolbar.
 Alt + F4Closes Current open program.
 Ctrl + F4Closes Window in Program.
 F5Refresh Contents to where you were on the page.
 Ctrl + F5Refreshes page to the beginning of the page.
 F6Move cursor to different Windows Explorer pane.
 F10Activates menu bar.
 Shift + F10Simulates right-click on selected item.
 Alt + Space barOpen the control menu for the current window open.
 Alt + EnterOpens properties window of selected icon or program.
 Shift + DelDelete programs/files without throwing them into the Recycle Bin.
 Holding ShiftWhen putting in an audio CD, will prevent CD Player from playing.
 EnterActivates the highlighted program.
 Alt +  
Display all available options on drop down menu.
 
  

Shortcuts For Number Pad Keys

 *Expands all folders on the currently selected folder or drive in Windows Explorer.
 +Expands only the currently selected folder in Windows Explorer.
 -Collapses the currently selected folder in Windows Explorer.
 Ctrl +  ‘+’Automatically adjust the widths of all the columns in Windows Explorer

Random Byte Of Knowledge

Malware, pronounced male+ware, is short for malicious software and is software designed to secretly access a computer system without the owner's informed consent. Malware includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, adware, scareware, crimeware, most rootkits, and other malicious and unwanted software or programs.