This weekend’s project is twofold. First, make sure your computer is running an up-to-date antivirus application. There is a good chance many of you already are. If you are running Windows 7 or 10 you probably have a variation of Windows Defender or Microsoft Security Essentials. You may also have a version of a premium antivirus suite like McAfee or Norton. If you do not already have antivirus program you should install one immediately, even if you are a Mac user.
Active Time: 5-10 Minutes, inactive time < 2 hours
What it protects you from: Malware, privilege escalation, remote access
The antivirus application I recommend for both Windows and Mac is Avast. The links are, respectively: Avast Antivirus Free and Avast Free Mac Security. I like Avast because it consistently performs well in independent testing. Once you have installed Avast you will be asked to register it with an email address. Next, allow its defintions to update and let it run.
Next, scan your computer with an anti-malware application. Even if you have a Mac, even if you run antivirus. While antivirus protects you in near-real-time from malicious applications, anti-malware is reactive in nature and will root out those applications that have already managed to install themselves. The anti-malware utility I recommend is Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free. Though there is a premium version of the application the free version is incredibly capable and will be sufficient for our needs.
This is set aside as a weekend project because it will take some time. Set your computer up with the application and enable a full scan. Then hit the gym, take the kids to the zoo, or head out for some drinks with your friends. When you come home the scan should be finished. Quarantine all malicious threats and potentially unwanted programs. If you had positive results (meaning Malwarebytes found something) you should run the program again, or try another application. Two trusted apps that I have had great results with are Spybot Search and Destroy and Comodo Cleaning Essentials. Unfortunately Spybot and Comodo are only available for Windows.
Review: With the first week at a close, let’s review our progress. You all now running a computer with an up-to-date operating systems and all your applications are updated. You have minimized the number of applications on your machine by performing an application audit. You have created and are using a standard user account. Your machine has been scanned by anti-malware to remove any malicious programs, and anti-virus is protecting you in real-time. You are already head and shoulders above the average user and should commend yourself.