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Issue #180: January 2, 2011

Happy New Year all my fellow Geeks!  May your 2011 be filled with speedy computers, fast downloads, and may your viruses be few and your malware easily removed.  Speaking of which, keep your eyes open for nasty software arriving on new platforms this year.  The Geek-grapevine tells me that we will see an increased attempt at spreading malware via smartphones in the coming year, including iPhones, Android, and Blackberry.  At this point, I don’t have a firm line on what actions any of the big service providers are taking to try and keep this problem to a minimum.  Rest assured, I’ll keep you informed if I hear more.  In the mean time, don’t relax your guard on your PCs!  I myself was hit with a rather nasty rootkit infection in December and it took me a bit of time to solve it.  But I do have a solution!  So, if your system is acting odd, including not being able to access the Microsoft Update website, and mystery ads popping up, write to me.  I may have a solution for you.

Q: I was running McAfee with my dial up (yes I know, but it’s only 9 bucks a month and I’m not in a big hurry) and it always caused my computer to run slow normally and extremely slow when updating. It always got to an almost unusable state right before subscription renewal. This time I didn’t renew and removed all McAfee programs from my computer. Now, it runs as fast as it did when new, but I’m concerned about protection. I don’t click on questionable sites and use CCleaner before every shut down. Is there something more compatible with dial up? Free stuff would be nice. 

– R. K.
Mossy Head, Fla

A: Well that’s an interesting conundrum.  With the virtual explosion of cheap broadband available these days, the vast majority of people are no longer using dial-up, so I can’t say that I’ve seen any virus scanners that are specifically targeted to using the type of low-bandwidth you’re talking about.  So please allow me to give you a couple of suggestions.  First, look into bundled services (i.e. – getting telephone, cable/satellite, and internet all from the same provider).  You might find that you can go broadband without significant additional expense.  Second, CCleaner is not a virus scanner.  According to the publisher, Piriform: “CCleaner is a freeware system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. Additionally it contains a fully featured registry cleaner.”  That makes it a handy tool to have around, but you shouldn’t count on it to protect you from stuff that virus scanners do, such as viruses infecting files on your attached storage devices, or viruses coming and going from your computer via e-mail.  I’m not saying that scanning with CCleaner is a bad idea, but relying on it along is not particularly effective in keeping malware off your computer.  A good free route is AVG.  They recently released AVG 2011, and it includes a free edition that offers good basic protection, including real-time scanning of files.  Finally, although you may not be in a hurry, your slow speed connection prevents you from using some of the Internet’s trove of rich content, such as streaming media, downloadable movies, and even large file attachments in e-mail.

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