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by JB Burke

Q: I occasionally run across web sites that offer a “free scan”, sometimes even telling me that I have a virus. Am I right to be suspicious and refuse these free scans?

A: There are many sites that will offer “free scans” of your computer. Some are legitimate, but most are not. What they will try to sell you is called scareware. And, the more insistent they become, the more likely they are a threat, not a cure. They look real, they buy ad space on legitimate web sites, and when you click on their link, you see what appears to be a real scan of your system occurring, or looks like legitimate anti-virus software being downloaded. They will load unnecessary or even malicious code onto your computer.

If you click one of these, you’ll find they are difficult to stop – but do so ASAP. Don’t click on “No”, “Cancel” or the “X”. Instead hold Alt and press F4 as often as necessary to close any additional windows that may open. If that doesn’t work, press Ctrl-Alt-Del and get the Task Manager (Windows XP, Vista and 7). Find the name of your browser (IE, Firefox, etc.) in the Processes list, right click on it and click on End process tree.

What you should do is have an updated Anti-virus program plus at least 2 anti-malware programs on your system. And have a firewall (Windows or other) installed and operational. For anti-virus I prefer Avira, Avast or AVG. For anti-malware, look for Malwarebytes, Spybot S&D or SuperAntispyware. All have free versions.

Published: Courier 8/21/11 - Page 7C