Don’t let your computer catch a cold

CowpeaMosaicVirus3DIt’s cold out there. The winter of 2012 / 2013 has been long, wet and shivery and lots of us have suffered accordingly with sniffs and sneezes. They’re easy to get, all you need do is walk into a room occupied by someone with an infection and bang: you have it too.

Computers are pretty much the same as us in that respect. All you have to do is innocently wander onto an infected website, download a dodgy attachment via email, or click on a malware link and your computer is infected too. It really is that easy.

“So what?” you might say. Well, the next thing you know, someone in Bangalore or Sydney has cloned your credit card and is using it to fulfil their wildest dreams. Of course the bank may protect you, but if you have ever had a card cancelled because this has happened, you will know that it never happens at the most convenient time. Usually you get the call when you’re driving down the motorway at eleven in the evening. The bank needs you to press one to confirm who you are, then enter your four digit pin code: meanwhile, you are in panic with both hands on the wheel and a bored cop behind you in a big, white Range Rover.

It need not be like this and you do not need to spend a penny.

I use a belt and braces approach. By this, I mean I have my regular anti-virus software, but just in case I use a scanner to remove anything that may have gotten through the first barrier. All the software I use is free.

Free? Is it any good? Yes and yes.


My main software: the anti-virus programme that is always on my computer is backed by Microsoft, one of the three largest computer companies in the world. It is called Microsoft Security Essentials and you can download it absolutely free from here:

MSE is free to use for companies with up to 10 computers. Updates are free too. Microsoft has invested heavily in making sure that computers running their operating systems are protected against the cold, so they provide regular updates to make sure you have a secure computing environment. You can schedule scans, have real time protection and it has what is called a small memory footprint, so it doesn’t take up lots of your computer resources and slow you down.

Unfortunately, the MSE doesn’t work on servers, so I use a different piece of software: Clamwin.

ClamWin is a Free Antivirus program for Microsoft Windows 8/ 7 / Vista / XP / Me / 2000 / 98 and Windows Server 2012, 2008 and 2003.
ClamWin Free Antivirus is used by more than 600,000 users worldwide on a daily basis. It comes with an easy installer and open source code. You may download and use it absolutely free of charge. It features:

  • High detection rates for viruses and spyware;
  • Scanning Scheduler;
  • Automatic downloads of regularly updated Virus Database.
  • Standalone virus scanner and right-click menu integration to Microsoft Windows Explorer;
  • Addin to Microsoft Outlook to remove virus-infected attachments automatically.
  • The latest version of Clamwin Free Antivirus is 0.97.7

There is a drawback, and one of the reasons I use MSE on my desktop: ClamWin Free Antivirus does not include an on-access real-time scanner. You need to manually scan a file in order to detect a virus or spyware. You can schedule scans, so it is ideal for servers, but you have to make sure you configure it properly.

You can get ClamWin from here:

What about the ones that get away?

Anti-virus software doesn’t always catch all of the bugs, all of the time, so once a week I scan my system with two bits of software:

  • Emsisoft Free Emergency Kit
  • Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool

Emsisoft Free Emergency Kit

The Emsisoft Emergency Kit contains a collection of programs that can be used without software installation to scan for malware and clean infected computers.

You can get it from here:

Emsisoft Emergency Kit Scanner

The Emsisoft Emergency Kit Scanner includes the powerful Emsisoft Scanner complete with graphical user interface. Scan the infected PC for Viruses, Trojans, Spyware, Adware, Worms, Dialers, Keyloggers and other malicious programs.

Emsisoft Commandline Scanner

This scanner contains the same functionality as the Emergency Kit Scanner but without a graphical user interface. The commandline tool is made for professional users and is perfect for batch jobs.

To run the Emsisoft Commandline Scanner, perform the following actions:

– Open a command prompt window (Run: cmd.exe)
– Switch to the drive of the USB Stick (e.g.: f:) and then to the folder of the executable files (e.g.: cd run)
– Run the scanner by typing: a2cmd.exe

Next you will see a help page describing all available parameters.

The following parameter is an example of scanning drive c:\ with Memory, Traces (Registry) and Cookie scan enabled, and archive support active. Detected Malware is moved to quarantine.

a2cmd.exe /f=”c:\” /m /t /c /a /q=”c:\quarantine\”

Emsisoft HiJackFree

HiJackFree helps advanced users to detect and remove Malware manually. With HiJackFree you can manage all active processes, services, drivers, autoruns, open ports, hosts file entries and much more, for full control over your system.

Emsisoft BlitzBlank

BlitzBlank is a tool for experienced users and all those who must deal with Malware on a daily basis. Malware infections are not always easy to clean up. These days the software pests use clever techniques to protect themselves from being deleted. In more and more cases it is almost impossible to delete a Malware file while Windows is running. BlitzBlank deletes files, registry entries and drivers at boot time before Windows and all other programs are loaded.

Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool

The Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool checks computers running Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows Server 2003 for infections by specific, prevalent malicious software—including Blaster, Sasser, and Mydoom—and helps remove any infection found.

When the detection and removal process is complete, the tool displays a report describing the outcome, including which, if any, malware was detected and removed.

You can get it from here:

If you don’t want to go down the free software route, try one of these: