Friday, May 16, 2014

ig33ku's: Quick Guide - Antivirus Software

Let’s start this articles off with a question: When did you do a full virus scan of your PC? For most users the answer would be, “I have an anti-virus program installed and it did not detect anything or alerted me that it caught the virus infection.” Unfortunately, anti-virus programs cannot catch every single infected files that pass through your computer. Those files can lay dormant in your drive waiting for you to set it lose with a double click and depending how fast your anti-virus program can react or even still detect the virus it can be over in a few seconds.

In the old days you had only one type of virus where it went out of its way just to corrupt your data but today data theft is a major business and virus have grown to reflect that. To quickly highlight, you have Trojan Horses that make your computer available to the hacker for remote access whether it is to see and record what you are doing or to utilise your computer as zombie in a botnet attack on another computer system.

Then you have Ransomware or Crypto viruses which are viruses that encrypt your documents, photos even music and video files then alerts you with a message that to regain access to these files again you must paid a certain sum to a certain account there then you are given a password or a key file to decrypt your files. Like with most hostage situations it rarely turn out well.

So what protection should you get? The general rule is: paid is best but free is still good. Nearly all users except professional will end using free AV programs even though they started with paid ones because mostly because they do not want to be hassled by a yearly paid subscription. To cover the wider audience we will focus on free AV programs.
When hunting for a good free AV program a user should consider how good are its detection rates and how much system resources the program uses. For determining how effective the detection rate of an AV program you can check out for the latest scores.

System resources hogging is not really an issue anymore with current computers being quad core systems with 4GB of RAM, for older systems having your AV program lagging your productivity when it scans data from websites and drives can be very annoying. Cloud Protection is something to look into then when selecting an AV program. AV programs like Avira will send all data to its server to scan for infections leaving practically no workload on your computer. The only disadvantage is that if you lose your internet connection you lose your protection. Another consideration is getting an AV program with a minimal interface and avoid those with a lot of fancy animated menus.

Other ways you can try to keep your computer up and running clean is installing Malwarebytes as a secondary, manual AV scanner. Not only does it detect viruses but Malwarebytes specialises in detecting naughty stuff left over after visiting questionable websites.

Another safety precaution is to get a pop-up blocker extension/plugin for your browser. Some questionable website will try to start a virus infection going with pop-up window of an advert. Don’t forgot that you should at least once a month run your AV programs’ Full Scan Mode for any hidden infections, preferably once a week.

On my personal computer I have 360 Internet Security and Malwarebytes which I set aside about one and half hours for the programs to spend scanning (not at the same time) my drives for infections.

Finally, do not rely on Microsoft Defender and Security Essentials as both programs are no longer really supported by Microsoft even though there are updates for them.

Below is a personal detection test I ran of several popular AV programs with the freshest viruses of the day (Feb 20 – Mar 3 2014) plucked from Malware Tips’ Virus Exchange forum.

You can check out the AVs listed here in action on my YouTube channel ig33ku.

Friday, May 2, 2014

ig33ku's: Preliminary Hardware Troubleshooting. With the help of Linus Tech Tips forumers. Update: 07/5/2014

If your PC becomes unstable i.e. freezing, crashing, rebooting, then you can take these primary steps to self diagnose the problem.

1. Power off your PC and unplug/remove the HDDS, SSDs, DVD/Blu-Ray ROMs, graphic card (only if you have an APU or onboard graphics), sound card, LAN card and any other cards for that matter. Also, unplug any case except those that are directly cooling components like heatsink/radiator fans.
2. If you have two pieces/sticks of RAM or more remove all except one.

Troubleshooting New Builds or suspected faulty parts:

-Resetting CMOS to Default-
1. Clear your CMOS, check your motherboard manual on how to but the easy way to pop out the battery, pull out your PSU power cable and pump the power button on the casing a few times then put the battery and cable back.

-Checking RAM-
1. a. Get a USB Flash Drive ready and download from the Auto-installer for USB Key (Win 9x/2k/xp/7).
    b. Run the setup.
    c. Boot to USB (check your motherboard manual if you don't know how to boot from USB device, should be F1, F2, F6, F11 or F12).
    d. Run the test for at least 4 passes. The more passes the surer you are it's not the RAM.
    e. Do this for each individually stick of RAM.
    f. If all the RAM passes to your satisfaction, run Memtest one more time with all the RAM installed.
    g. If all RAM sticks passes individually but fail as a group you best bet is to manually set the voltage, timings and speed in the BIOS to force a uniform RAM configuration.

Note: Some motherboards can only run RAM in certain configurations. If your RAM have the same voltage, speeds and timing it is a good idea to run them in dual channel. RAM that do have matching voltage, speeds and timing should be run it single channel. Usually, if you have 4 RAM slots then slot 1 and 3 are dual channel as well as slot 2 and 4. RAM in slot 1 and 2 will run in single channel in a 4 slot motherboard. Running RAM in single channel it is a good idea to set the voltage match the RAM with the highest needs and the speed and timings to the slowest RAM.

-Testing the system-
1. a. Reconnect/install your OS HDD/SSD and boot/install Windows.
    b. If there are no problems install/connect the remaining hardware/parts one by one. If the system fails then the newest installed/connected part is likely the fault and may need to be taken back for warranty.
    c. Make sure to install an Antivirus software before going on the internet and/or connecting an old media storage device to the PC since viruses might be sitting on your old HDD/flash drive.

-Common problems-
1. PC won't turn on even though only there is only motherboard, CPU and RAM are connected.

Check power cable to PSU and check power cable to motherboard. Replace PSU.

2. My PC is beeping.

Check your motherboard manual for type of BIOS it has and refer to this guide

3. My PC works without the graphic card installed (APU/onboard) but does not with one plugged in.

Check if graphic card fully seated/inserted into slot and check if power cable to graphic card is missing or needed.

4. My LAN/Audio/Graphic is not working.

Use the provided drivers on the CD given with the motherboard/graphic card/sound card. Then download newer drivers from the internet.

5. When accessing/opening files on my HDD my system becomes very slow or crashes.

The HDD maybe failing check the HDD's SMART info.

6. My HDD light is always on, I can't download or open files and my CPU usage is around 100%.

    a. Possible virus infection, if you can download get an Antivirus and if it can help. I have both and working together.
    b. If you can't download or your PC is very unresponsive you need access to another PC with an Antivirus that is up to date and scan your HDD on that PC to hopefully cure the infection or at least identify it so you can download toolkits for it.

7. My PC is giving errors/problems, I think it is the HDD but I can't boot to Windows to install a HDD diagnostic tool.

    a. You try Ultimate Boot CD but it requires a little know-how or at least some experimenting to work around the interface Or you try (I haven't yet):
    b. Bootmed make it USB Bootable
    c. Lenovo Diagnostic
    d. Seagate Seatool DOS bootable
    e. Western Digital Data Lifeguard Diagnostic DOS bootable

8. I have reset or flashed my BIOS to the latest version or but now Windows crashes on the startup logo.

Go to your bios and look under the menu window you should see SATA 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Select that SATA port that your HDD is mentioned, in that menu see if there is mention of IDE or AHCI. Select and choose the opposite. Save and restart.

9. My PC fans automatically start when turn on the power from the main outlet or PC will not power on.

These problems are usually related to the either motherboard’s chipset or power regulation components failing or a bad PSU. Easiest way to figure out which it is to get hold of a working PSU, if the PC still have problems starting without giving beep errors then it is the motherboard. If you recently suffered a lightning storm or blackout before your PC displayed these problems it can PSU and/or motherboard damage from a power surge through an unprotected wall outlet or telephone line.