Because computers don't fix themselves

Archive for May, 2009

Anti-Virus vs. Internet Security

It really annoys me when a company upsells a customer to something they don’t want or need, especially when it causes more problems than it solves.

And, this seems to be the industry trend with Anti-Virus products.  Sadly, they all do it:  Norton, McAfee, AVG, Avira, Kaspersky, you name it. 

Internet Security products generally have several features:  anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-spam, and firewall.  But, here’s why you don’t need all this stuff:

Anti-virus:  Every PC computer needs a virus checker.  This is an absolute certainty.  But, you can buy the stand-alone version of the virus checker from any of the big companies for a nice, low price, and anti-virus software usually doesn’t not cause problems on your computer system.  (Unless you load two different anti-virus programs on the same computer.  That’s a no-no.  Less is more.)

Anti-Malware:  Every PC actually SHOULD have an anti-malware product, as well.  However, there are some wonderful free versions which work as well or better than the bundled products.  I consider Malwarebytes’ the best.  Also, Spyware Search & Destroy is great, because it puts preventative measures in your browser, rather than being completely reactive.  (Just be sure to UNCHECK tea-timer during the install, or you will go insane from all the notifications it gives.)

Anti-spam:  Sadly, I have yet to find a really awesome anti-spam software.  And, the stuff that comes bundled is usually even worse than the good ones out there.  Plus, anti-spam controls in Internet Security software doesn’t help if you use an online e-mail system (like yahoo or g-mail), or a server-based system (like Corporate Lotus Notes).  So, it doesn’t help very many home users. 

Firewall:  All PCs DO need a firewall.  However, all versions of Windows made in the last 10 years have a built-in firewall which works just fine, for most purposes.  More importantly, any PC really should be behind a hardware firewall/router.  These days, most DSL and cable modems contain a firewall/router, but if they don’t, a real cheap $60 Linksys router will work just fine, and is less expensive than the $60/year you’ll pay for a bundled firewall.  Lastly, but importantly, if you load a software firewall (like the kind that comes with Internet Security products), more often than not, it will completely block out your local network traffic.  Want to share files or printers between your desktop and your laptop?  Good luck.  It will take quite a bit of configuration of your firewall software, which is quite out of the range of expertise of most home users. 

So, why pay twice as much for things you don’t need and/or things that can actually make your life more difficult?  I say, “Don’t!”

As I mention frequently, Norton and McAfee used to be the best, but these days, they slow down computers and miss viruses.  I now recommend Avira as the best virus checker out there.  Best part, they have a free version, which, for most computers works great.

If you can’t stand the once-a-day popup that tries to sell you on their premium version, then, their premium version is the way to go.  It’s only $26.95 a year, and awesome.

However, even my favorite Avira will try to upsell you to their Internet Security Suite.  So, don’t be fooled.  Get what you need, not what they want to sell you.

Lotus Notes attachments won’t open “for your computer’s security.”

Found and solved a good problem today.  One worthy of going into the archives.  This one will affect many Ameriprise advisors in the future, I’m sure.

So, the client had a Windows Vista laptop with Internet Explorer 7, with no Ameriprise software loaded. 

However, he was using the web-based version of the company’s Lotus Notes.  Any MS Office file attachment, when opened, would start to open, and then give the following message:

“For your computer’s security, this file was saved to your Temporary Internet Files folder.

Do you want to open this folder?”

If you click yes, the folder

C:\Users\user_profile\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Virtualized

opens , the file wasn’t there, and then he’d get an error message with a long string of subdirectories from Lotus Notes. 

Long story short, he couldn’t open most of the attachments he got on his e-mail.


This is actually a known bug and for once, Microsoft had a solution for it. 

Basically, this is a “special feature” of Internet Explorer 7 in Windows Vista, whereby it’s trying to protect the user from malicious downloads from non-trusted sites.  As you know, I dislike special features, especially ones that try to protect me from something I know I want to do. 

  1. In Internet Explorer 7, click Internet Options on the Tools menu.
  2. Click the Security tab, select Trusted Sites, and then click Sites.
  3. Under Add this Web site to the zone type the URL that you want to save.
  4. Click Add, click Close, and then click OK.
  5. On the Security tab, click to clear the Enable Protected Mode (requires restarting Internet Explorer) check box.
  6. Restart Internet Explorer 7.

Voila!  Problem solved.

This problem may or may not be solved by loading the Home Office software on the machine, as, technically, Home Office should add the Lotus Notes webmail to the trusted sites.   But, any computer that doesn’t have a trusted sites list will run into this problem.