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Is your computer under attack?

Is your computer under attack?
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First Published: Mon, Mar 17 2008. 12 33 AM IST
Updated: Mon, Mar 17 2008. 12 33 AM IST
If you think that the anti-virus program you have installed for your PC is enough to keep your computer safe and secure, think again. Wily new viruses, spyware, worms and malware (malicious programs) are born every minute. And, quite often, these can penetrate the defences of the anti-virus software and invade your PC.
It’s time you tried free online anti-virus scanners. These scanners employ different mechanisms and are equipped with virus signature databases that are updated frequently—every day and, in some cases, even every hour. They can be very effective against new viruses, especially malware. While you can install only one anti-virus program on your machine, there is nothing stopping you from deploying more than one online scanner. Although they are not replacements for regular anti-virus products that are intended to provide real-time protection, online scanners are an excellent second line of defence. Mint takes a look at the best virus scanners available free on the Internet.
Panda ActiveScan
The Panda ActiveScan calls itself “your second opinion on the security of your PC”. It can detect, disinfect and eliminate more than 185,000 viruses, worms, Trojans, rootkits from hard disks, system devices, compressed files and email. Updated regularly, Panda deploys ActiveX within Internet Explorer and uses a heuristic system to detect unknown malware. However, while this free version detects spyware, diallers, security risks, hacking tools and even jokes, it doesn’t eliminate them. There is no technology or email support either.
Trend Micro HouseCall
Apart from Housecall—the well-known fast ActiveX/Java Web-based scanner for system vulnerabilities and Internet security threats such as viruses, worms, Trojans and spyware—there are a host of free anti-gremlin tools and services available here. These include Trend Micro eMail ID, an effective browser plug-in that helps distinguish legitimate mail messages from spam and viruses; TrendProtect, a browser plug-in that monitors your Web surfing and warns against unwanted online content and hidden threats; and Transaction Guard, a safeguard against spyware infiltration in sensitive Internet banking or financial transaction tasks on public computers.
Avast! Online Scanner
The Avast! Online scanner is fast, furious, and free. And it’s good. However, you can feed it only one file at a time to scan. That’s both good and bad. Bad, because you can think of using this only if you have a couple of suspicious files to contend with, and not entire disks or large file-filled folders; good, because you don’t need to go through any elaborate, long-drawn scanning process if you have just one or two files to check. The fact that no file submitted for verification can exceed 512KB could also be a limitation at times.
Microsoft Windows Live OneCare Safety Scanner
The OneCare Safety Scanner is an easy-to-use online service that scans your computer to detect viruses, spyware, unwanted pieces of code and system vulnerabilities. It also helps you get rid of them. While it is not totally foolproof when it comes to fresh prowler outbreaks, it is a nifty freebie. Its ability to remedy specific system issues can help improve a PC’s performance. Using a full service scan to check everything on your PC is a good idea, but you should use the individual Protection, Clean Up and Tune scanners for particular problems. Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool (www.microsoft.com/security/malwareremove/default.mspx) for infections by specific, prevalent malicious software is another useful offering.
F-Secure Online
Virus Scanner
You need to carry out a 22MB download (which contains the primary database) before you get this program to detect and disinfect viruses, adware, spyware and other malevolent cyber microbes. F-Secure Online works only with Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher and requires ActiveX and JavaScript. The program interface is no-frills and spartan, but easy to use. It automatically saves its scanning report as an HTML file. The primary online version is aimed at Windows XP and 2000 users; Vista users need to use the recently released F-Secure Online Scanner 3.3 beta.
BitDefender ScanOnline
BitDefender Online Scanner works with your browser to scan your drives, files and boot sector for existing viruses. Scanning with the default options automatically cleans infections as well. By default, the entire PC is checked for viruses and other threats but you can limit scanning to specific folders if required.
Because it is active only while online, BitDefender doesn’t offer protection against infiltrations. It uses ActiveX technology and is only compatible with Internet Explorer. Though its Real Time Virus Reporting (RTVR) sends the results of the scanning process to the BitDefender Lab to create aggregate statistics of virus activity around the world, you too can save scan reports for later analysis.
McAfee FreeScan
Based on the renowned McAfee’s VirusScan engine, FreeScan searches for viruses, including those known “in the wild” viruses, displays a comprehensive list of infected files, and further links you to more information on the viruses and what you need to do to decontaminate your PC. The browser-based interface uses ActiveX components for scanning that are downloaded to the machine the first time you access the service. Apart from scanning, free services on the site include World Virus Map, Virus Removal Tools, Advice Center and an Internet Connection Speedometer.
Under the unassuming, uncomplicated interface of this one is a formidable deep scanning sleuth. Kaspersky boasts of one of the highest malicious code detection rates among both online and offline scanners. As a file scanner, it examines the entire computer, all email (including PST, MSG, OST, MDB, DBX, EML and MBS) files, as well as user selected folders and files—though not the boot sector and MBR (Master Boot Record). It is fast, but because it executes such a meticulous scrutiny, Kaspersky can take ages to complete if you give it a hefty drive to check. Unfortunately, it only detects data devils; no cleaning is possible with it. Microsoft ActiveX is a must, so Internet Explorer is the way to go.
CA Global Security Advisor
With its Security Advisor Resources, Security Advisor News, Spyware, Virus and Vulnerability information centres as well as online virus and spyware scanning services, this site provides exhaustive and up-to-date knowledge on global cyber threats.
The eTrust PestScan tells you what spyware has invaded your system. You can receive threat advisories, submit virus/spyware samples, statistical reports, look up the spyware encyclopedia, browse a glossary and go through documentation on implementing threat protection and security management solutions. An ActiveX enabled browser is a must.
Software which runs computer processes that are either unexpected or unauthorized but always harmful. The term “malware” generally encompasses viruses, worms and Trojan programs.
Term for an application or service that permits remote access to an infected computer. It opens a backdoor to circumvent other security mechanisms.
A method of stealing personal data via an authentic-looking email, which appears to come from a real company or institution —to trick the recipient into sending vital banking or login information.
Covert infiltration by malware or malicious software under the guise of a useful program.
A software that can self-replicate and attach itself to other executable programs. May or may not be harmful. Depletes system resources.
Autonomous program or constellation of programs that distributes fully functional whole or partial copies of itself to other computers.
All applications that cause annoying and possibly undesirable or unforeseen behaviour in the way of other programs.
Hacking Tools
Programs that render a computer or network more vulnerable to attack or use simulated hacking to test the vulnerability of all accessible components.
Remote Access Tools enable remote access to an infected computer, thus permitting outside administration or manipulation. Not malicious, and legitimate.
Program designed to take fundamental control (“root” or admin access) of a computer, without authorization.
Software that monitors and collects a user’s data and eventually transmits it to a company for various purposes.
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First Published: Mon, Mar 17 2008. 12 33 AM IST