Leo's Answers #222 – March 16, 2010

[raw]
A Weekly Newsletter From
Ask Leo!
Leo Notenboom

Hello!

Do you have a question for me? Don’t hit reply! Head instead for the Ask Leo! home page and search the site first – seriously, around half the questions people ask are already answered there. You can also browse the archives, past newsletters and more. (The “ask a question” form is temporarily disabled while I’m on vacation. More on that below.)

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*** New Articles

What’s the difference between a “quick” and a “full” scan, and which do I want?

Should I be running a ‘Full Scan’ or a ‘Quick Scan’ on my various anti-spyware, anti-malware, anti-virus software? The options, and their differences aren’t always clear to me – when would one be more suitable than the other, and what might be the dangers of running the wrong one?

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Naturally the answer changes slightly depending on which program we’re talking about, but ultimately the software giving you a pretty basic choice:

Do you want the scan to be quick, and pretty good? Or would you rather it take much longer but also be much more thorough?

Of course it all depends on what I mean by “pretty good” and “much more thorough”.

I’ll outline what they usually mean, and then which I suggest using and when.

Continue reading: What’s the difference between a “quick” and a “full” scan, and which do I want?
http://ask-leo.com/C4218

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How do I make something run automatically when I log in to Windows 7?

Running Windows 7, I’d like Internet Explorer to start automatically when I log in. How do I do that?

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As is evidenced by all the malware that does it, making something start when Windows starts or when you login is actually pretty easy.

I’ll show you one of the simplest approaches.

Continue reading: How do I make something run automatically when I log in to Windows 7?
http://ask-leo.com/C4216

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Why are emailed attachments larger than the original file?

Why are email attachments in general much larger than the actual attachment sent? Is something added to them by the email client?

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I wouldn’t say that anything is “added” to the attachment other than perhaps some administrative data like its name – the attachment is still just the attachment.

However, something is done to the attachment that will most definitely make it larger.

And it all has to do with the fact that the technology behind email is, basically, older than dirt. (In internet terms, of course.)

Continue reading: Why are emailed attachments larger than the original file?
http://ask-leo.com/C4215

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How do I get rid of all this spam?!?!

If it seems like the amount of spam you’re seeing has been getting worse that’s only because it has. Spam in all its variants has only been increasing, and attempts to legislate a solution appear to have had little if any impact.

So what’s a poor user to do?

Continue reading: How do I get rid of all this spam?!?!
http://ask-leo.com/C1880

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What are (and how do I get rid of) “Antivirus 2010” and “Vista Spyware 2010”?

We’re seeing a rash of Internet Antivirus 2010 and Security Center malware installations in customer computers. Do you have any information concerning where these infections are most likely coming from (email, web browsing, etc) and what are the best recommendations for catching infection attempts before they wreak havoc?

Hi Leo, Can you please tell me what is this “Vista Spyware 2010”. It seems like an unwanted program and shows me messages every now and then claiming my system is infected and I should subscribe their software.

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What they are is pretty easy: malware.

As these two questioners point out, there’s been a rash of infections related to both of these two. In fact, it’s looking like an annual event, since we seem to have seen an “antivirus 20xx” every year for the last few years.

The good news is that they’re fairly easy to prevent with a little diligence on your part, and several reputable anti-malware tools will also remove them.

Continue reading: What are (and how do I get rid of) “Antivirus 2010” and “Vista Spyware 2010”?
http://ask-leo.com/C4209

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*** Comments

A sampling of some of the comments that have been posted recently on Ask Leo!

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Do I need a firewall, and if so, what kind?

Brian writes:

If you don’t have file sharing turned on, and you know the things to avoid on internet such as popups, then I fail to see the justification for a firewall. This seems to me to be one of those forms of brainwashing that’s occurred in the computer world where due to typical user stupidity, people are absolutely convinced that this is therefore their “internet condom”. Can you provide any more plausible/logical reason on *why* this is even helpful if you know your way around a pc backwards-and-forwards?

There have been vulnerabilities – both as bugs and as configuration choices – in network-facing protocols other than file sharing that have allowed malware to infect a system not protected by a firewall – even for systems owned by people who claim to know their way around a computer backwards and forwards.

-Leo

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How do I know what to believe on the internet?

Mark writes:

Here’s my unsolicited testimony. Try the WOT (web of trust) plug in for Firefox and IE. It’s a user rated service that warns about untrustworthy websites. It’s not perfect but it’s a good tool in avoiding scams. BTW they give Ask Leo an excellent rating. 🙂

The concern I have with sites like WOT is that you still don’t know who’s writing the opinions – they could, in fact, be fake, or have a hidden agenda. I’m not saying that they are. But if I piss someone off with a review or opinion they disagree with, one way they could “get back at me” would be to go fabricate a negative review of my site. Or consider a site that plans to cause trouble in the future – all they need do is seed sites like WOT with (fake) glowing reviews to give people a false sense of safety. WOT and sites like it are a fine resource, but sadly they, too, must be taken with a grain of salt.

-Leo

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I have a massive malware infection, should I just get a new machine?

Charles Tilley writes:

In the first place, prevention is always less expensive than cure. You don’t have to pay big bucks for prevention, in fact, I’ve never spent a cent in my entire computing life towards it. For a long time, I used Avast, along with SuperAnti Spyware for a second scan. I do these twice weekly. There’s also Windows Live Safety Scanner, they have XP & below and a Vista / Windows 7 versions. Then(if you’re a legit Windows user), you get a free tool from Microsoft every month, their Malicious Software Removal Tool. This runs automatically, but you can run it manually. In Vista / Windows 7 click Start, type “mrt” w/o the quotes, you can run the scanner how you want. Since I’ve moved to Windows 7, I’ve made only one change, I switched to Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), as my main anti-virus. You have every tool here to keep your system clean, if only you will USE them along with smart computing practices. No Pirate Bay, P2P sites and so forth. We can talk cure all we want, prevention is the key. And whatever browser you choose (that’s your preference), keep it updated to the latest version. By doing these things, you shouldn’t need to worry about a malware infected PC, and enjoy your cyber life.

*** Leo Recommends

RoboForm
Password Manager and more

I think that I have about 80 – 100 passwords that I use on a regular or somewhat regular basis. I always remember my network and computer logon passwords, but beyond that I often have to check my a) Outlook notes on my PC at work, or b) when at home on my Mac, my little black notebook stuffed in the bottom of drawer.

Is storing my passwords on Outlook notes safe for my bank and tax filing accounts? Are online password managers or ‘safes’ secure? Do you have any suggestions for how best to manage the proliferation of passwords for online accounts?

I don’t really have a good cross-platform solution for you, though I do have a couple of odd ideas.

However, I have developed a very strong recommendation over the past couple of months for a product called RoboForm – which happily includes a free version!

Let me touch on your first two questions first…

Continue reading…

RoboForm Password Manager and more
http://ask-leo.com/C2827

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Each week I recommend a specific product or resource that I’ve found valuable and that I think you may as well. What does my recommendation mean?

*** Popular Articles

People share computers all the time without realize that anyone with access to that computer has access to everything on it. Yes, unless you take explicit steps, everything. If it’s not physically secure, it’s not secure.

How do I keep my information on a shared computer private?

I share a computer and I want to know how to keep my information private.

Ultimately … you can’t. At least not easily, and even then it depends on the data that you’re attempting to keep private, and the technical savvy of the individuals that you’re attempting to keep it private from.

There’s nothing like your own computer. But if you have to share, there are a couple of things that might help. A little.

Continue reading…
How do I keep my information on a shared computer private?
http://ask-leo.com/C2959

*** Thoughts and Comments

Wow! Thanks for all the great ideas for “swag” that you gave me out on my Facebook Fan Page. It was incredibly helpful.

I’m picking John Fitch’s sticky note suggestion as my “winner”, and have contacted him to arrange getting him that 500GB external drive. And yes, I’ve got a test run of sticky notes already in production!

Here’s the problem, though … there were so many great ideas, I couldn’t stop at just one. So I’ve got a couple of others also in progress. These require a little “testing” before I commit to them, so I’m not going to announce what they are just yet. If things pan out, I’ll announce here in a few weeks, and the folks that suggested them will get one of the items that they suggested as a thank you.

And thank you again to everyone who participated!

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I need your help again, though this time in a slightly more serious endeavor.

Earlier this year, I announced that I’ll make grants totaling $10,000 (USD) to as many as four non-profit organizations involved in computer and/or English literacy.

I also mentioned that I’d be asking for your help suggesting whom those recipients might be.

That time has come. I’ve written up the basic criteria, and created a form where you can submit your suggestions for which organization supporting computer and/or English literacy I should consider.

The nomination period runs through June 1, 2010, and I’ll remind you here again as the deadline gets closer.

Read the criteria, and submit your recommendation if you have one at http://go.ask-leo.com/survey3.

Thanks!

’till next week…

Leo
Leo A. Notenboom

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