Friday 22 June 2012

Good tools, or just a hinderance?

I've lost count how many times I've been given a computer to fix where the user is complaining of speed issues.  "It used to be fast, when we first got it, but now it just crawls along. Do you think I need a new one?" is often the comment.

Upon booting up the slow and laggy machine, I often find many a tool installed designed to "optimise" and many toolbars installed on the explorer window - often so many that the browser window is barely visable.

Are these things a false economy?

In a word. Yes. But they have their place.

First rule is to make sure you KNOW what you are installing. There is countless SAFE software that you can install that will also install a tool bar onto your browser.  IT SHOULD give you the option to NOT have this installed, but if it doesn't, then uninstall or disable to tool bar straight after. It's not really that necessary.

Everytime a tool bar is installed, in increases the running size of the browser window, and every tab you open after that multiplies the size, this will cause system drag on the memory.  Ask yourself how many times you've used that toolbar, and ask yourself if you really need it, or so many of them.

Optimise programs are quite ok, but don't let them run in the background.  Oddly, they'll SLOW your system down, because they have to run in the background to see if your systems running slow... called the "observer effect".

Run them once, get them to optimise your system, then uninstall them after.  Keep your system clear of programs you don't use. Know what you install.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Avoid Getting Burnt

There has been a real buzz on the inter-tubes recently about a virus going by the name of Flame. Actually, 'virus' doesn't really do it credit. This thing is massive - for malware - coming in at around 20MB and sends all sorts of information back to locations undisclosed. It seems to be aimed at Middle East countries and is realistically unlikely to bother you. Still, it does raise the issue of how these things spread.

We've covered the importance of running an up to date antivirus program before. In addition to that is one other line of defence...common sense.

Viruses and malware have one barrier to get on a modern operating system. They have to get your permission to install. Of course, if it said 'Hi, I'm a virus. Can I install please?' you would quite rightly say 'Kind offer, thank you, but no.' So instead they take the guise of valid, useful software.

If, out of nowhere, you get told that you have a virus by software other than the AV program that you installed, then that is probably malware itself. It's purpose? To convince you that you have a virus that only it can uninstall for the bargain price of £x. After purchase it tells you what a good job it's done, having done nothing. And you're £x out of pocket. And no-one has £x to give away nowadays.

Or your web browser informs you that you have to install a small program to view this web page. 'Just say yes and everything will be fine' it says. Alarm bells should be ringing. Loudly.

The only software you should give permission to install is software that you are 100% confident you want installed. Do your research. Should I install Flash? Java? A 30-second check through Google reveals that all is well. Power Antivirus? Sounds good, but a moment's research reveals that you would be in trouble if you let it in. The time you spend beforehand will pay off in spades compared to the time it would take to get an infection out.