Handing over the keys to the safe

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

Online safety is of paramount importance to everyone that uses the internet. We fear (rightly) that our computers will become infected with malicious software, our identities stolen and our bank accounts cleared out.

Our fear has led to a burgeoning industry of anti virus, anti spyware and firewall software. Many of you will be familiar with the all too common complaint that “My PC is slow and it’s <insert name of anti virus software> to blame.” Well, that isn’t the only problem with our would be protectors.

As well as an ever present creep towards bloatware (that’s software that does more than you need and hogs your system while doing it), it turns out that the software we install is often the cause of our problems and not the cure.

In early December I was contacted by a few people that lost all connectivity to the internet while using Google Chrome. Delving into the situation I found that the problem was being caused by Trusteer Rapport. Uninstalling that fixed Chrome. Trusteer have now fixed the issue, so Chrome users can again use the browser extension. For the latest compatibility reports for Rapport, visit https://www.trusteer.com/support/compatibility-other-security-software
Also in December Google criticised AVG and blocked their Web Tune Up extension from automatically being installed in Chrome. Why? After an investigation by Google, they found the AVG extension was actually introducing vulnerabilities into Chrome, leaving around 9 millions users exposed. You can read a more indepth article about it here http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/12/29/avg_google_chrome_extension/
I recently saw a strange problem. A client was unable to login to their internet banking and received an error about DNS settings. I checked and their settings were fine. The cause of the problem? It was Rapport, the very software that the bank suggests you use. The client hadn’t even realised it had been installed.

Should we stop using anti virus and related software? No! If you are using Windows it is essential. Just think carefully about that paid for version with all the bells and whistles. Is it really the one you need and do not be afraid to try out others.

Alan Stainer