READER PROBLEM

It turns out McAfee isn’t the only anti-virus company that wants to charge you big bucks whenever you have a problem. A reader alerted us that this happened with Avast, the free anti-virus we have often recommended.

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HACKERS WIN

Hewlett Packard recently sponsored a hacking contest in Vancouver, Canada, to see if anyone could break into “unhackable” programs, web sites and browsers. It may come as no surprise that there were people out there who were fully capable of hacking into the unhackable.

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DIRE PREDICTIONS

Here are some scary predictions for 2015 from MalwareBytes, makers of a free popular anti-spyware solution. We have used it for years. — “File-less Payloads” We’ll see an increase in malware that isn’t an actual file on your computer but runs only in your computer’s memory. These are real tough to get rid of. — “Ransomware” This is malware that messes up your phone and the party who placed it there demands a payment to remove it. Of course, if you’ve backed up your phone’s data, you can revert to the original factory condition and then re-load. — “Wallet Malware” Using your phone to pay at the counter is just one more function that makes your phone vulnerable to attack, […]

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WE GET SCAMMED

It happened like this: Joy got one of those Roku sticks you plug into your TV set so you can get dozens of extra channels. It didn’t work. Joy said it must be a problem with the Sony TV. So Bob, ever helpful, went on the web and searched on the term “Sony support.” He clicked on the first one that came up and dialed the number for Sony Support. Boy, was that a mistake. The smooth-voiced gent that came on the line advised us that we had a bad virus situation and took control of our computer with one of those remote control programs that let you do that. The screen began to fill with hundreds of error messages […]

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WHY WINDOWS SEEMS SLOW

Our favorite question-and-answer site, Quora.com, recently posted a message from David Seidman, a Microsoft employee, on the question of why Windows gets so slow after just a year of use. First off, he says, if you never install any software, except security updates, and leave lots of free disk space, it will never slow down. On the other hand, if you have lots of programs, you should run the “msconfig” utility to keep so many from loading at start up. In Windows 7, get to msconfig by clicking “start,” and “run” and typing “msconfig.” In Windows 8, get to the startup tab by right-clicking your taskbar and choosing “task manager.” Seidman says that Windows 8 runs many fewer services at […]

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A READER QUESTION

A reader wrote to tell us he loves Microsoft’s free anti-virus software, “Microsoft Security Essentials,” and has been using it for years. But it doesn’t come on his daughter-in-law’s Windows 8 machine; Windows 8 comes with “Microsoft Defender,” which is only part of Security Essentials. So we recommended switching to Avast, which is free from Avast.com.

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PLAY DEFENSE

Recently, a reader asked about the program “Driver Restore.” Absolutely do not download this one. Though keeping drivers up to date is important, this program and many like it will infect your computer.

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DANGEROUS DOWNLOADS

A reader wanted to divide long audio tracks into segments for public talks. We suggested he try Audacity, a free program. It’s been downloaded over a million times. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

The reader got a virus, possibly from downloading it at a non-official site, but it’s hard to be sure. When he told us that, we tried downloading it ourselves, and, whaddaya know, our computer started acting up too. This was a new thing: we had downloaded Audacity twice before, both times on a computer using Windows 7, and never had any problems with it. This time we downloaded it to Windows 8, and had lots of problems. Things change.

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SECOND-HAND PHONES STILL HAVE STUFF

More than 80,000 used phones are for sale on eBay on any given day. The owners think they’ve wiped their personal data first. It turns out, they haven’t.

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GOING AFTER PUP DOGS

Running a malware (bad stuff) program on our test computer picked up over 950 “PUP” files. “PUP,” is short for “Potentially Unwanted Programs.” This triggered the computer to go wild, filling out web addresses with bizarre characters and slowing everything to a crawl.

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