Trying out Microsoft Security Essentials.

Microsoft entered the free anti-virus utility arena today with the release of Microsoft Security Essentials:

Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

Microsoft Security Essentials is a free* download from Microsoft that is simple to install, easy to use, and always kept up to date so you can be assured your PC is protected by the latest technology. It’s easy to tell if your PC is secure — when you’re green, you’re good. It’s that simple.

Microsoft Security Essentials runs quietly and efficiently in the background so that you are free to use your Windows-based PC the way you want—without interruptions or long computer wait times.

Early reports from folks that participated in the beta and others who have tried the final product are that it’s pretty good so I thought I’d give it a shot. It’s most attractive feature is that it’s relatively lightweight, the Vista/Win 7 (64 bit) install was 4.71MB and XP was 8.61MB, and it has a low impact on system resources. I’ve been running the free version of Avast Anti-Virus for home users for a few years now and it does a pretty good job, but can slow your system down a bit at times. One big advantage of Microsoft’s solution over Avast’s is that I’ll no longer need to reapply for a license key once a year. Not that it was ever a huge burden, but it’s nice not to have to worry about it.

Assuming, of course, that I decide to stick with it. Already after install it managed to detect a dormant trojan on my system which Avast had missed. The trojan wasn’t running as it had never been launched, but it was still surprising to see it was on my system. Avast probably would’ve caught it if I were to launch it, but it’s always best to catch it before it ever gets a toehold on your system. I suspect it tagged along on a recent ISO burning utility I downloaded to fill an immediate need as I couldn’t find my Nero Burning ROM discs. The folks over at ArsTechnica are impressed with it as well.

The upshot is that you now have even less of a reason not to have an up-to-date anti-virus utility on your system. Between all the free options already out there and this new almost no-hassle offering from Microsoft there’s no good reason not to protect yourself.

Has Yahoo! been hacked?

Just got off the phone with my Dad after trying to diagnose a possible virus on his computer. Every time he starts up Firefox it goes nuts saying there’s a virus incoming and to abort the connection. We set up a Remote Assistance so I could see what was going on and indeed every time he tried to go to his homepage he got a virus warning. That homepage just happens to be Yahoo.com. Here’s the popup he was getting:

Seeing that there was something being appended to the end my first stop was to see what his homepage was configured for in his browser. Sometimes when you install malware on your system it’ll change the default webpage of your browser so it can install even more junk, but pulling up the options screen it was clear that last bit wasn’t part of the URL. That seemed odd so on a lark I tried to pull up Yahoo myself and, sure enough, my Avast went nuts warning me of a virus and showing the same URL. I’m pretty sure both our PCs aren’t unknowingly infected with the same virus so the only logical conclusion is that it must be coming from Yahoo! directly. Either they’re trying to pull something over on their users or their servers have been hacked.

Anyone else experiencing the same thing at the moment? Dad says it was fine earlier today and there’s nothing on any of the tech sites I frequent about it so it must be something that’s happened only recently.

Update: It appears that it’s a false positive with Avast. Manually telling it to update the .dat files cleared up the issue.