Can I run more than one anti-malware program or firewall? Should I?

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With regards to firewalls, anti-virus programs and anti-spyware programs; can I have more than one of each of these programs installed in my computer? For example, I run ZoneAlarm; does that mean I should I turn off Windows firewall?

In recent years this question has become more complex than ever.

There are certain types of protection you need, and getting all that protection may involve running more than one program.

On the other hand, running more than one program of the wrong type can, indeed, cause problems.

Let’s see if I can’t sort this out for you.

Read moreCan I run more than one anti-malware program or firewall? Should I?

What’s the Best Anti-virus?

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What’s the best anti-virus program? There’s been so much talk on just how each one works and which has the best protection; it’s really hard to decide which one to choose. One day you might read a review that says one thing and the next day says another, so it really gets quite confusing.

This question comes up all the time. The problem is that it’s both trivial to answer and it’s impossible to answer. There’s a strong argument that says there’s no objective answer at all.

It’s all about opinion, so let me tell you mine: there is no best anti-virus tool. There are several good ones, but none are perfect. And in fact, one that works well for your friend may not work at all for you.

Read moreWhat’s the Best Anti-virus?

Why would scanning a disk be quick, but just a file on it be slow?

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Leo, I’ve got a portable hard drive that contains various PC disk image files. All of which take up about 500 GB in total. When I right-click on the root directory to scan the portable drive with my Norton Internet Security software, the scan is completed in about 5 seconds. However, when I scan just one of the disk image files contained therein, it would take over 30 minutes which is roughly the time it takes to directly perform a full scan on the PC. The same behavior is exhibited when I scan with Malwarebytes. Why is it that scanning the entire 500 GB portable hard drive at one time is so incredibly faster than scanning just one of the files in that portable hard drive?

Your question brings up some very important distinctions about the different types of scans possible, and the different ways anti-malware tools perform them.

Read moreWhy would scanning a disk be quick, but just a file on it be slow?

How do I safely switch from one security tool to another?

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I’ve had AVG, the free version, for years. In the last two weeks or so, even prior to my update a few days ago, I suddenly have to reload my Gmail several times a day because I get a notice telling me my Gmail connection is lost and it starts a countdown to reconnect and never succeeds so I have to reload. I use Chrome and my Chrome browser is now very slow where it went lickety-split before, as recent as two weeks ago.

Now I’ve read where you recommend Microsoft Security Essentials, so I figured I would go that route assuming AVG is what’s causing all the problems listed above. My question to Google got me nowhere. It seems the root of the problem can’t possibly relate it to Gmail or Chrome. Can you tell me the step-by-step instructions I need to follow to safely remove AVG and replace it with Microsoft Security Essentials? I don’t want to leave my computer exposed to threats while I make the changeover.

I want to start by saying that there are many possible reasons for the symptoms you are describing with Gmail and Chrome. The anti-malware tool is one, but it’s not the first one that comes to mind for me. So, while I’ll absolutely walk you through the steps to make the switch (they’re actually pretty simple), I will warn you that this may not resolve your problem.

Read moreHow do I safely switch from one security tool to another?

Should I cover my webcam when not in use?

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Hello, Leo. Tonight on Dutch TV news, there was a warning that hackers can use your webcam although you do not actually use the camera yourself. It’s recommended that the lens should be blinded by means of a sticker or something similar. What’s your opinion on this?

My opinion is that this is another case of everybody getting all excited about one very specific issue.

The problem here is really much, much larger and a lot less newsworthy than getting everyone excited about their webcam. It’s essentially sensationalistic journalism.

You can cover your lens if you want to, but that really, really misses the point.

Read moreShould I cover my webcam when not in use?

How do I protect my Windows XP after they stop sending updates?

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How do I protect my Windows XP after they stop updating it?

I’m getting lots of variations on this question, as the day is fast approaching. To be clear, XP will keep on running, but any vulnerabilities that are found in it after the cut-off date will simply not be fixed. It’s kind of like your old ’57 Chevy that still runs great but for which you just can’t get any parts; not to mention leaded gas. You could drive it until it breaks, but then what?

So my knee-jerk response is to recommend that you update to something later. Windows 7 or Windows 8. Trust me, Windows 8 just isn’t that bad.

But I know that’s just not a viable solution for everyone.

Read moreHow do I protect my Windows XP after they stop sending updates?

Can I get malware from a picture?

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Leo, I am terrified of getting a virus or some form of malware by clicking on a photo on the web such as an image in Google Image Search or on a forum where someone has posted a thumbnail image to a larger photo. I frequent a photo sharing website and asked the webmaster about this and he sent me this reply: “Well, technically speaking, a picture cannot contain malware. A picture can contain malicious code, which can only be executed by computers, which are already infected with a special virus designed to execute that malicious code. The name of that virus is “Perrun” and it’s more of a proof of concept than an actual virus. If you’d like to be on the safe side, I suggest you look for a freeware online to verify that you are not affected with the “Perrun” virus. Then you can click any photo you want on the web and not worry about catching anything.”

Now I use Google Chrome as my default browser and I frequently use the right-click “Search Google for this image” feature and find the highest resolution of a photo. I have even installed the VirusTotal.com VTchromizer extension to my browser and use it to pre-scan every photo. But still, just the act of right-clicking a thumbnail image worries me. Please help me. Am I worrying for no reason or am I at risk?

This is an interesting question for a number of reasons.

The pragmatic answer is no. You’re not going to get malware from a picture and it’s not something I’d worry about at all.

However, behind that answer are a few very important assumptions that I think people need to understand.

Read moreCan I get malware from a picture?

Do I Need to Deactivate My Old Anti-virus Before Installing the New One?

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Hey, Leo. When I bought this computer, Norton anti-virus came with it. Norton anti-virus is about to expire and I don’t plan to renew it as I’ll switch to Windows Defender since it’s recommended by you and by others. My question: can I activate Windows Defender before Norton anti-virus expires or do I need to uninstall Norton first? Also, should I uninstall Norton after Windows Defender is installed? Finally, how do I activate Windows Defender? I’m running Windows 7, X64, on an HP desktop.

A note on product names: for Windows 7 what you’re really talking about is Microsoft Security Essentials. That’s the old name for “Windows Defender”, which is what you would use if you were running Windows 8. However, for Windows 7 and before, what we’re really talking about here is “Microsoft Security Essentials”.

Typically, the answer to your question is “yes”; you should uninstall the old anti-virus software before installing the new.

Read moreDo I Need to Deactivate My Old Anti-virus Before Installing the New One?

Do I really need to uninstall these programs to update my anti-virus?

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I have Avira AntiVir Personal, free edition on Vista. I was recently offered a new improved Avira program and accepted because I like all of my security software to be as up-to-date as possible. When I tried to install the new version, I was told to uninstall two programs that I’ve had for some years: Spybot Search and Destroy and Trusteer Rapport. I assume that this means uninstalling those programs permanently rather than just while the new Avira is installed. So I declined to continue with the installation of the new Avira. Was this sensible? Spybot and Rapport both seem like excellent products and it’s counterintuitive to uninstall them both for the sake of the better version of Avira. What do you think the problem is? Should I look for an alternative free spyware program that is compatible?

Whenever you have a concern about installation, it’s always sensible to cancel and do a little research.

Avira is actually an anti-virus product. These days, they seem to be adding things to the utility to make it more like an anti-spyware product. I suspect that that’s why the installation asked you to uninstall the other programs.

Still, your scenario is interesting and there is a lot going on behind the scenes. Let’s talk about why Avira wants you to uninstall the other programs and what your options are.

Read moreDo I really need to uninstall these programs to update my anti-virus?