Anyone Can Pick Up Malware

The past few weeks have been hellacious at Casa de la Spera…

I’ve been in computing since 1984. I have written more than I can remember without actually reviewing the stuff I’ve written. This includes seven years of columns on CompuServe’s Computing Pro forum as well as approximately 10,000 tips for Windows (95, 98, 98SE, NT, ME, 2000, and Windows 7), Internet Explorer, Office (95/97/2000/2007) and Windows-based Hardware, for WUGNET (The Windows User’s Group Network). I’ve written COUNTLESS software reviews for both Mac and Windows platforms; and I was nominated for Microsoft MVP for Windows Mobile at least twice between 2004 and 2007.

Yeah… I’m giving you the resume more for ME than for anyone else right now.

malwareOver the past few weeks, I’ve been dealing with some hacked email accounts over here; and quite honestly, it’s been very aggravating.

It started during the middle of October. I started seeing bounce notices hit my account, and I wasn’t certain why. Not all of them, or the delivery delay notices I got had the body of the original email with them. Some did. When I was able to look at what that was, it was clear that my Google Apps based email account had been compromised.

I immediately changed my password.

However, that didn’t resolve everything.

Gmail has a few different tools to help you protect your account if you think it’s been compromised, including signing out all web sessions. I did that and then changed my password – AGAIN – and signed back in. However, by that time, the damage had been done and Google had suspended my SMTP permissions. I couldn’t send any email. According to Google, I had sent over 5000 emails in the course of a 24 hour period.

At that point, I also noticed that my contact list had been increased by over 1500 entries, as well. Many of these were simply a strange looking address and nothing more. For example:


Many of the entries had either just the full email address as the contact name or firstname<dot>lastname as the contact name. Those were easy to spot and eliminate, though I had to go through my contact list at least 3-4 times. I didn’t get all of them, and somehow, they got repopulated (with different entries) a couple times. (I’m still pulling crap out of my contacts list…)

After upgrading my Google Apps instance from a grandfathered, less than 50 member free edition to a paid subscription, AND speaking with Google on this for over an hour, I submitted a ticket to get the account reinstated. It took them about two hours, but they put me back in business, and I was able to file a couple of articles with Soft32.

Things quieted down for about a week, and then it kicked in again, though this time, I was able to go through the process again, very quickly and then cut things off before I had sent 5000 emails. This went on – this back and forth – for about another week or so, then things just stopped.

Last weekend (the weekend of 2015-11-08), it started up again, and I got more bounce notices and some forwards back from a couple of people that my account had been hacked again.

That’s when I enabled two factor authentication on my Google Apps account and domain. Two factor authentication is where access to an online account requires not only the account user name and password, but also a validation token or code, usually sent to a mobile or smartphone. The validation token can also be sent via an authentication app.

At this point, I think I have control of the account again.

The bigger problems that remain –

  1. How was the account compromised more than once?
  2. How was it compromised after implementing a 13+ character (multi-chase, letters, numbers, and special character) password?
  3. What significance did the 1500+ additional address book entries play?
  4. Was there any hidden XML payload associated with any of the additional address book entries?
  5. When I deleted them, did I get them all?
  6. Would that even make a difference
  7. Did I pick up a key logger?


A key logger…

The answer at this point is, I don’t know. I’ve ordered a FixMeStick; and while that arrived and scans a mac running OS X 10.11, it currently can’t read a Mac boot drive running El Capitan.

In fact, the boot drive isn’t even visible to the FixMeStick. Thankfully, the vendor is aware of the issue and they’re working on a resolution. FixMeStick owners will have their sticks updated automatically once the solution is published.

My other saving grace is that Time Machine apparently doesn’t have the same security measures placed on its drive as the boot drive on a Mac running the OS. FixMeStick has scanned my Time Machine backup drive and hasn’t found any malware.

The big point that everyone needs to understand, however, is that anyone and everyone can get malware from just about anywhere on the internet. Ad networks are a huge problem. Malware can flow through those and can infect your computer even from a site you know and trust. Products like FixMeStick are helpful ; but you’ve got to be careful, especially right now.

Both Windows 10 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan are new operating systems. Existing anti-malware products may not work correctly on these operating systems as of this writing. They may need some updates.

You may also have issues with anti-malware products that run while your computer is running from its boot drive. It’s very possible that malware on your PC may hide from your scanner – no matter how good it is – and it either may not be detected, or may not be removable.

Unfortunately, this isn’t like the 1990’s. Getting malware today can be devastating and life altering, if not life ruining. Phishing attacks and other data breaches can lead to identity theft, and some of the damage related to it, may be difficult to come back from.

The lessons learned here should be multi-fold:

  1. Mind where you surf
  2. Have some kind of malware scanner running, regardless of platform, and keep its definitions current
  3. Invest in some sort of offline, self-booting anti-malware solution so that stubborn threats can be removed without being activated

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Keep your computer malware free with Avira Free Antivirus

Keep your computer malware free with this platform independent scanning utility.


Keeping your PC free of malware – either a virus or something that invades your privacy and steals your personal information – is a difficult job. The amount of malware on the internet today is staggering. Its difficult to go anywhere or do anything without putting you, your information and your bank and credit accounts at risk. This is one of the reasons why I really suggest using some kind of malware scanner with your computer.  Its becoming a must have; and applications like Avira Free Antivirus are a good candidate for bringing safety and reliability to your computing experience.

Avira Free Antivirus offers effective protection against computer viruses on a single PC or Mac workstation. The app detects and removes more than 50,000 viruses.  An Internet-Update Wizard updates both app and virus definitions. Avira’s built in resident Virus Guard monitors file movements automatically, for example, when downloading content from the internet. Heuristic scanning also provides Protection against previously unknown macro viruses.

Avira Free Antivirus runs silently in the background while stopping Internet attacks before they infect your computer. Its lightweight footprint means you’ll never have to choose between security and performance.  The app analyzes any file the system accesses and is completely configurable for on-demand searches for known viruses and malware when you suspect something isn’t quite right.

When the app does find something that it doesn’t like, the file is immediately quarantined, and offers you one-click repairs, if possible.  Avira Antivirus also has an integrated scheduler that will automate recurring tasks, like updates or scans to help insure that your computer stays bug free.

I’ve been a serious computer user since 1995. Throughout the years, I’ve had maybe, one or two serious malware infections.  I mean, who hasn’t been bitten at least once?  Most often the best course of action is to recover what you can and then blow your system and start over.  That… however can be problematic for many. Not everyone has the time, patience or skill to do that all the time.

When you don’t, its good to have tools like Avira Antivirus.  I use both Mac and Windows systems for both my day job and my night job.  Its nice to have the same branded solution on both of the platforms that I use. That’s a huge plus.  The biggest issue that you have though is cost.

On the Mac side, where there really isn’t an AV scanner at the OS level, having something on your Mac is a great idea, and important if you frequent sites that are less than on the up and up.  On the Windows side, its getting harder and harder to justify any other malware scanner other than Windows Defender, as it is free, and integrated directly into the OS.  There has been a huge push on both platforms towards unpaid malware solutions since 2009 or so.

This app is great on the Mac side and good on the Windows side as well.  Paying for the app on either platform is a bit pricey.  At €30 or $34 USD, its pricey for a paid desktop app. However, the biggest question you have ask yourself is – if I don’t have an antimalware app, is running without one worth saving $35 bucks?  The answer should be, “no;” but only you can answer that. The free version does a good job, and is worth using.



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Keep your Windows PC safe with Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014

ashampoo_antivirus_2014_logoIf there’s one thing that I really like, its options. There are a lot of different kinds of malware out there, and finding and USING a malware scanner that works the best for you is important. This is one of the reasons why I like Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014. It’s a really cool virus scanner for Windows.

There’s a lot of malware out there. A lot of it effects Windows PC’s and that’s a problem, because a lot of people use Windows PC’s.  However, Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014 makes computing a lot easier. The nice thing about it is that once the app is installed, you don’t have to configure it.  It blocks malware right out of the box.  If that’s not, “set it and forget it,” then I don’t know what is.


If malware is found, it can be removed with little interaction from the user. In many cases, you won’t even know you got a bug. Malware is removed and removed fast.  Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014 doesn’t sacrifice speed over security.  Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014 is fast and light weight.

The bad thing about bad guys is that they are constantly trying to come up with new ways to get to your data, financials and other valuable information.  Thankfully, Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014 has daily AV signature updates.  That way, you stay ahead of the curve.

Unfortunately, getting malware on your PC appears to be a part of modern computing. However, with Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014, you can stay protected and malware free. With its daily signature updates and set it and forget it feature set, it protects your PC in the background with little or no intervention from you. Ashampoo makes some of the best software on the internet today, so trust Soft32 when we tell you this is one of the best apps in our catalog.

download Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014

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Keep your PC safe with one of the best security app – AVG Internet Security

AVG Internet SecurityComputing is complicated these days. With viruses, worms, phishing and all other kinds of malware out there, keeping your PC clean and your private data private, isn’t easy. That’s why I really like AVG Internet security. It’s a PC antimalware and security app for Windows.

AVG Internet Security provides 100% virus detection. Its scanning engine has received numerous awards for its detection of previously unknown viruses. Its unique combination of detection methods provides full protection against viruses, worms and Trojans.

AVG Internet Security has cutting-edge anti-spyware technology. It uses the latest, state-of-the-art detection technology, so spyware, adware, DLL-Trojans, key loggers, and much more don’t live long on your PC. Malware hidden in data streams, archives, or the Windows registry are also detected. Its powerful Resident Shield provides maximum protection by scanning every file opened, executed, or saved. It also prevents the opening or executing of infected files. For your protection, files can be included or excluded from being scanned based on individual file extensions; and can handle exceptions for potentially unwanted programs such as adware.

AVG Internet Security

AVG provides full email protection and checks every e-mail sent or received. It can protect your computer from any and all e-mail-borne threats; and includes spam and phishing protection and filtering. AVG supports all leading e-mail clients, including MS Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, The Bat!, Eudora, and all other SMTP/POP3-based e-mail clients, such as Outlook Express; and supports encrypted connections using SSL.

AVG Internet Security is one of the best internet suites available on the internet today. If you’ve got a home network, you have complete control over all network access. Its built in firewall monitors all communication to and from your computer, blocking external attacks and preventing Trojans from stealing confidential data. Its configuration wizard automatically creates access rules for all popular software and can switch profiles automatically, based upon the current connection type (LAN to Wi-Fi and back), ensuring seamless changeover for notebooks. If you don’t have an internet security suite, this is a great choice.

Download AVG Internet Security

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Keep your PC free from malware with IObit Malware Fighter

Anti-malware apps want to be free.

It’s true. I really believe that anti-malware apps want to be free. Serious security vendors provide free apps that can hold their own against just about any bug that hits the internet. Their premium version adds, in my opinion, convenience features that make the paid version that much more of a value-add, so the purchase is a natural extension of continuing on with use of the app. However, for that to really work, the free version needs to hold its own. This is the major reason why I like IObit’s Malware Fighter. It’s a free anti-malware app for Windows.

IObit Malware Fighter is an advanced malware removal utility. It detects and removes the deepest malware infections, and protects your PC from potential spyware, adware, Trojans, key loggers, bots, worms, etc. With its improved, unique “Dual-Core” engine and heuristic malware detection, Malware Fighter is tough to beat.

Malware Fighter has IObit’s unique “Dual-Core” engine; and improved program core structure. It now delivers more comprehensive and deeper system scans to find the deepest system infections. It removes or quarantines them, protecting your PC from more security threats and privacy compromises. IObit Malware Fighter can assist your antivirus to defend against tricky and complex threats. However, please note, that no solution, despite vendor or technology used, offers a 100% effectiveness rate for detecting viruses and malware.

Malware Fighter’s enhanced real-time protection provides you with tools to keep your computer secure all the times. It uses the latest Cloud Computing and Heuristic Analyzing technology to analyze the behavior of the malware it detects a fully automated mode. It’s fast, light weight, and easy to use.

Read full review | Download IObit Malware Fighter

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Protect and maintain your PC using Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus 2012

Keeping your PC free of viruses, Trojans and worms isn’t always an easy thing to do. There’s a great deal of malware out there, and not nearly as many antivirus and antimalware apps. Finding the right one for you can be a bit of a chore. This is one of the reasons why you might like Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus. It’s a system utility suite for Windows.

Based on both BitDefender antivirus technology and the IObit anti-malware engine, Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus incorporates top anti-virus capabilities with an already proven comprehensive PC tune-up utility. With its real-time antimalware protection and powerful tune-up and cleaning functionality, Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus provides always-on, automated, all-in-one protection against all kinds of security threats, system slowdowns, freezes and crashes. It ensures PC security, and maintains maximum computer performance automatically without a performance hit.

Besides its newly built-in antivirus functionality, Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus includes all of the PRO features of Advanced SystemCare. It features one click to clean functionality to root out hidden and stubborn Viruses, Trojans, worms, spyware, and adware. It also provides rapid virus database updating.

Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus’ proactive virus control technology monitors process behavior in real-time. It scans files shared with email and blocks possible threats. It’s already proven, powerful, PC tune-up utility unleashes the full power of your PC; and its ActiveBoost feature, your system resources are intelligently managed.

Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus is a decent utility suite. It’s all in one design insures that your PC not only runs at peak performance, but that it stays malware free. The only issue we found with it is its non-standard interface, which requires extra resources to run. However, given the amount of benefit you’ll receive from the app, you may not notice or mind the minimal performance hit you may take.

Download Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus 2012 (beta)

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Norton Internet Security 2012 – one of the best security suites available today against online threats

You’re gonna hear me say this a lot here. Soft32 is serious about security software, and keeping your computer safe from malware. All of our downloads are certified malware free, and you’re going to hear us talk up anti-malware and Internet suites quite a bit. Case in point – Norton and Symantec are synonymous with security and safe computing. This is why we love it for both on Windows and Mac machines.

Norton Internet Security for Windows runs on Windows XP SP 2 or later, Windows Vista SP 1 or later and Windows 7. The Mac versions runs on OS X 10.4.11 to 10.7; and it includes versions 4.x and 5.x so it runs on both Intel and PPC based Macs. Version 5.x is for Intel multi-core processors only. If you have an early Intel based Mac or a PowerPC based Mac, then Version 4 is for you. However, both will provide you with advanced security options and will protect your home network and your data from malware.

NIS protects you while you surf with Norton Safe Web. It proactively protects you while you surf by identifying and blocking unsafe and fake websites right in your search results. However, this feature requires Mac OS X 10.7 if you’re a Mac user. Its anti-phishing technology blocks fraudulent phishing websites trying to steal your identity and your money. Its Smart Two-Way Firewall prevents cybercriminals from hacking into your machine, and from stealing your personal information and messing with your data.

The best thing about NIS is that its location aware. It lets you adjust your level of protection depending upon where you’re using your Mac.  It has settings for at home, the office, the local coffee shop, on the road, etc.

Read full review | Download Norton Internet Security 2012

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Anti-Malware Programs Should be Free

Based on what’s available, you should never HAVE to pay for your anti-malware app.

I’ve been a freelance technology journalist for over 15 years. I’ve written for CMPnet, AOL/CompuServe, UBM TechWeb and for a number of print publications, including a local Chicago paper that is part of the SunTimes family. I’ve looked at a boat load of malware scanners over the years; and its clear, you have to have (and USE) one on your computer. You just do… Unfortunately, there’s really no way around it.

However, just because you have to have and use one, doesn’t mean that you have to pay for it. And you certainly don’t have to pay yearly subscription fees after your initial purchase. There are a number of scanners out there that are really very good, and are free.

Any and all of these are GREAT scanners, and more importantly, they’re all free, and don’t come with any kind of strings attached, such as subscription fees for updated AV definitions. I’ve used all of these at one point or another for both Windows and Mac, and highly recommend all of these. Most scan for viruses, worms, Trojans and the like, and may even help with phishing scams.

If you don’t feel comfortable with a free solution, or prefer the additional or advanced features of a pay or subscription based product, that’s fine. In the end, you just need to find one that seems to work the best for you…and then USE it. Let it run, regardless of WHEN it wants to run its scans. Let its definitions update. The utility can’t protect you if you don’t let it scan your PC and/or let its definitions update itself. Most modern PC’s have multi-core processors. Any performance hit you take is going to be minimal, and should be tolerable. Besides, any performance hit you take is well worth the benefit you receive.

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