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Windows Update

Windows Update can be accessed by clicking on Settings --> Update & Security --> Windows Update. There you can download critical updates, service packs, security fixes, patches and free upgrades. Security updates and patches are available once a month and there is a regular biannual schedule for "feature" updates. This is when you'll receive any big new features. Updates can also be downloaded manually.

Keeping your Windows operating system it up to date is not optional. As soon as patches and fixes are posted to Windows Update, hackers and other bad guys start writing bugs and viruses to take advantage of the problem. The easiest way to protect your system is to turn on Automatic Updates.

Automatic Updates

Windows can keep your computer up to date automatically with the latest updates. You do not need to search for critical updates because Windows delivers them directly to your computer. Windows recognizes when you are online and uses your Internet connection to search for downloads from the Windows Update Web site. An icon appears in the notification area (lower right) each time new updates are available.

How to Turn On Automatic Updates:

  • Go to Settings --> Update & Security --> Windows Update.
    Windows Update settings
  • If you want to pause Windows Update, select "Pause Updates". You can pause updates for up to 35 days. pause updates
  • You can tell Windows 10 when to avoid installing updates by clicking on "Change active hours".
  • Left-click on "Advanced options".
  • Under "Update notifications" turn on the switch that says "Show a notification when your PC requires a restart to finish updating". notifications
  • Now Windows 10 will automatically search for updates and install them. To see which ones have been applied in the past just click on Settings --> Update & Security --> Windows Update --> View update history.

Just set it and forget it. Occasionally, Windows 10 will ask you to restart your computer after an update. You can restart at your convenience -- just make sure to save any data you're working on.

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Anti-Virus Software

A computer virus is a computer program that spreads by inserting copies of itself into other executable code or documents. Viruses are one of the several types of malicious software. The term "virus" often refers to worms, trojan horses and other sorts of malware as well. Viruses can be intentionally destructive or can be fairly benign or merely annoying. The major effect of viruses is their uncontrolled self-reproduction, which wastes computer resources.

Included in the many types of viruses are:

Email viruses
An email virus will use an email message as transportation, and will copy itself by automatically mailing itself to hundreds of people in the victim's address book.
Trojan horses
A Trojan horse is a computer program that pretends to do one thing (like an image) but actually does damage when one opens it (for example, it can completely delete one's files). Trojan horses cannot replicate automatically.
A worm is software that uses computer networks and security flaws to create copies of itself. It replicates itself to new computers using the flaws and then begins scanning and replicating again.

Anti-virus software is necessary to help keep your system secure. Anti-virus software must have two types of protection:

  1. Real-time protection that monitors all computer traffic on your system and attempts to stop virus attacks as they happen. You should not run more than one anti-virus program for real-time protection at a time.
  2. Run complete scans of your system to find and remove any virus activity you may already have. These scans can be started manually but the most common choice is to set the anti-virus software to run the scans automatically at specified intervals. I recommend at least one complete scan per week. You can run as many anti-virus scans as you wish using various programs.

There are many anti-virus programs available ranging from expensive to free. Here is a brief overview of the most popular and some recommendations:

AVG Free Version
Rating: 3 stars
The old saying that "you get what you pay for" does not apply to the free AVG anti-virus program. I have used AVG for over a year and it was very effective. The first time you run AVG, it checks for updates and creates a rescue diskette for recovery if a virus renders your computer non-bootable. AVG's Control Center lets you set the program's modules. AVG works with Outlook to scan incoming and outgoing email.

Rating: 5 stars
BitDefender uses a minimum of your system resources. BitDefender Internet Security is a full security suite with spyware and anti-virus protection and the firewall protects against outside attacks. It features a spam filter that watches for phishing attacks. It scans all or part of a system on demand and can run multiple scheduled scans at intervals ranging from hours to years. Its real-time protection eliminates most viruses the moment they appear. By default it scans accessed files, incoming and outgoing email, and downloaded files. There is a free version with limited capabilities.

Rating: 5 stars
This is the anti-virus program I use at the moment and recommend it highly. If you're going to pay for an anti-software program, this is among the best. ESET is a very effective anti-virus system that handles file scanning, email scanning and real-time protection. It is very successful at preventing installation of spyware and is easy to use.

Rating: 5 stars
Kaspersky blocks the latest viruses, ransomware, spyware & more. It delivers real-time anti-virus protection. There is a free version with limited capabilities.

McAfee Internet Security Suite
Rating: 2 stars
McAfee uses a lot of your system resources and causes your system to run slower.

Norton Anti-Virus/Norton Internet Security
Rating: 1 star
I do not recommend any of the Norton products. Norton uses a lot of your system resources, bogs down your RAM (memory) and causes your system to run slower. In addition, since Norton is one of the most widely used anti-virus software programs, hackers tend to target PCs with that software installed.

Windows Defender
Rating: 4 stars
If you're still using Windows 7, then you need to use third-party anti-virus software. But if you're on Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 and like the idea of getting very good free protection without lifting a finger, then just stick with Windows Defender. It comes preinstalled with Windows 10 and is turned on by default.

Here's a good resource for reviews of anti-virus software.

Free Online Virus Scans

The following web sites offer free online virus scans.

  • VIRUSTOTAL Online Scanner
    VirusTotal inspects items with over 70 antivirus scanners and URL/domain blocklisting services. Any user can select a file from their computer using their browser and send it to VirusTotal.
  • ESET (one-time use only)
  • F-Secure
  • Trend Micro Housecall

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Anti-Spyware Software

What is spyware? -- Spyware is software that performs actions such as advertising, collecting personal data, or changing the configuration of your computer, without obtaining your consent. Spyware that displays advertisements and tracks your personal information is known as adware. This does not mean that all software which provides ads or tracks your online activities is bad. For example, you might sign up for free online email but agree to receive targeted ads in exchange for the service. You may have decided that it is a fair tradeoff. You might also agree to let the company track your online activities to determine which ads to show you.

More intrusive programs, known as malware, make changes to your system that can be annoying and can cause your computer to slow down or crash. Programs known as browser hijackers can change your web browser's home page or search page, or add components to your browser you don't need or want. These programs also make it very difficult for you to change your settings back to the way you originally had them.

There are a number of ways spyware can get on your system. A common trick is to covertly install the software during the installation of other software. Many times misleading pop-up ads trick you into clicking on them and then spyware is installed. Whenever you are installing something on your computer, make sure you carefully read all disclosures, including the license agreement and privacy statement. Sometimes the inclusion of unwanted software in a given software installation is documented, but it may appear at the end of a license agreement or privacy statement.

Spyware also includes such nasties as:

  • Key loggers - Sometimes called a keystroke logger, key logger, or system monitor, is a hardware device or small program that monitors each keystroke a user types on a specific computer's keyboard. It's a clever of getting your passwords, bank account information, credit cards. etc..
  • Ransomware - malicious software that infects your computer and displays messages demanding a fee to be paid in order for your system to work again. This class of malware is a crime and can be installed through deceptive links in email messages, instant messages or websites.
  • Root kit - A rootkit is a collection of programs that enable administrator-level access to a computer or computer network. Typically, a hacker installs a rootkit on a computer after first obtaining user-level access, either by exploiting a known vulnerability or cracking a password. Once the rootkit is installed, it allows the attacker to mask intrusion and gain root or privileged access to the computer and, possibly, other machines on the network.

Anti-spyware software is necessary to help keep your system clean. Anti-spyware programs should provide two types of protection:

  1. Real-time protection that monitors all computer traffic on your system and attempts to stop spyware attacks as they happen. You should not run more than one anti-spyware program for real-time protection at a time.
  2. Run complete scans of your system to find and remove any spyware programs you may already have. These scans can be started manually but the most common choice is to set the anti-spyware software to run the scans automatically at specified intervals. I recommend at least one complete scan per week. You can run as many anti-spyware scans as you wish using various programs.

PLEASE NOTE: all of the 4-5 star rated anti-virus programs listed above already contain anti-spyware functions.

Many anti-spyware programs perform scans only and do not offer real-time protection. Most of these types of anti-spyware software are available free of charge.

Anti-Spyware software

Rating: 3 stars

Spybot - Search and Destroy
Rating: 5 stars

Spyware Blaster
Rating: 4 stars
Free! Spyware Blaster prevents the installation unwanted programs. Blocks spying / tracking via cookies. Restricts potentially unwanted or dangerous web sites.

Windows Defender
Rating: 4 stars
Windows Security comes pre-installed with Windows 10. You just can't beat the price. You can schedule automatic scans and choose whether to have Defender automatically apply the default action for each threat found. It will protect you from the majority of spyware.

Free Online Spyware Scans

The following web sites offer free online spyware scans.

Security - Part 2      Return to top      Security - Part 3

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