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It's no secret to anyone that technology can be expensive – and this is true of hardware (the stuff you touch) and software (the stuff you do on it). To give a recent example, a friend of mine who's a bit of an artist decided he needed a powerful tool to do some hardcore editing to his photos and images. So he splashed out on the latest Adobe Photoshop CS5, one of the big-market tools for artistry – at a cost to him of £200. That's a fair chunk of change in anyone's books.

Everyone loves a bargain, and often you can find numerous other software products online that's cheaper than the brand leaders – or even free! – but does just as good a job. Trouble is, where do you find them? Google's a good choice, but it isn't always easy to trawl through thousands of websites looking at alternative products and deciding whether to put the cash down on the table.

Enter Read the rest of this entry »

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    Microsoft Security Essentials updated to v2 – with tons of new stuff!

    Microsoft Security Essentials is a product created by Microsoft themselves, to help address the ever-growing malware issue on Windows computers. While it is commonly thought to be a terrific effort by Microsoft and the product tends to get very favourable reviews, I myself have found myself in the minority of people who feel the product was not really up to scratch. My main reasoning for this is because MSE felt like an unfinished and unpolished software in my viewpoint – the scans were slow, and it offered very little in terms of features other than a malware scan, and analysis of programs in your Startup. I also personally felt a tiny niggle in that the program seemed just a bit too basic when compared to other Anti-Malware solutions. In effect, it felt almost too much like a beta product, and the fact it was "v1" didn't help this viewpoint.

    It seems Microsoft have listened to my critiques, as now, Microsoft has released v2 of MSE, adding few features and making improvements. Strangely, Microsoft seems to be keeping fairly quiet about the update – I cannot even find an official announcement nor an official changelog for the release. However, the Help file of MSE v2 lists the following changes made in v2:

    This version of Microsoft® Security Essentials includes the following new features and enhancements to better help protect your computer from threats:

    • Windows Firewall integration. Security Essentials setup enables you to turn on or off Windows Firewall.
    • Network Inspection System. This feature enhances real-time protection by inspecting network traffic to help proactively block exploitation of known network-based vulnerabilities.
    • New and improved protection engine. The updated engine offers enhanced detection and cleanup capabilities with better performance.

    These features are described in more detail in the following sections.

    • Windows Firewall integration
      • Windows Firewall can help prevent attackers or malicious software from gaining access to your computer through the Internet or a network. Now when you install Security Essentials, the installation wizard verifies that Windows Firewall is turned on. If you have intentionally turned off Windows Firewall, you can avoid turning it on by clearing a check box. You can change your Windows Firewall settings at any time via the System and Security settings in Control Panel.
    • Network Inspection System
      • Attackers are increasingly carrying out network-based attacks against exposed vulnerabilities before software vendors can develop and distribute security updates. Studies of vulnerabilities show that it can take a month or longer from the time of an initial attack report before a suitable security update is developed, tested, and released. This gap in protection leaves many computers vulnerable to attacks and exploitation for a substantial period of time. Network Inspection System works with real-time protection to better protect you against network-based attacks by greatly reducing the time span between vulnerability disclosures and update deployment from weeks to a few hours.
    • Award-winning protection engine
      • Under the hood of Security Essentials is its award-winning protection engine that is updated regularly. The engine is backed by a team of antimalware researchers from the Microsoft Malware Protection Center, providing responses to the latest malware threats 24 hours a day.

    The new MSE v2 also seems to include some sort of "behaviour monitor". This is not mentioned in the help file, but appears in the program's Settings tab, with the explanation, "Tick to check for certain patterns of suspicious activity".

    Even more unusually, it seems like at this time there is no update of MSE available from MSE itself or Windows Update; you need to download v2 manually.

    I am yet to fully test out MSE v2, but from an initial viewpoint, it definitely isn't an unfinished product any more. In fact, it certainly seems to have become a much more comprehensive and professional-looking tool, which even feels like it could hold its own against some other commercial anti-malware solutions. The new version supports Windows XP, Vista and 7 in both 32- and 64-bit builds; and takes 7.5-9.5 MB of space to download depending on the build. You can download MSE v2 from the following links:

    Microsoft Security Essentials homepage

    [Direct download – 32-bit] [Direct download – 64-bit] Digiprove sealThis informative article has been Digiproved © 2010-2018

    CCleaner v3.0 Released – Includes Secure Drive Wiping and tons of improvements

    Piriform Ltd has today released a brand new version of their popular Windows-only maintenance tool, CCleaner, bringing a bunch of big changes with the same user-friendly interface.

    CCleaner 3.0 with the "Cleaner" function currently in use

    A screenshot of the new CCleaner in use. Here, the user has just opened the "Cleaner" and ran a full Analysis. (Click to be taken to the Piriform website for full size and more screenshots)

    Most notable among the changes are the new 64-bit native EXE designed for those of you running 64-bit versions of Windows, as well as a new Drive Wiper tool that safely and securely erases your hard drive. They’ve also improved IE9 and Google Chrome support, as well as added improvements to HTML5 database cleaning for all those modern web apps. It also sports a pretty neat feature that intelligently decides which cookies you probably want to keep (singling out sites like Google, Yahoo, and others) so you don’t erase useful information on your machine that eases web browsing.

    In addition to the new features, it’s also added support for a few popular applications, like AVG Antivirus, Audacity, LogMeIn, Hamachi, BitTorrent, and others. For the full list of changes, check out the version history page.

    CCleaner 3.0 is a free download for Windows machines only. You can find out more about the product, and download it from the official website.

    Thanks to Piriform’s Official Blog for the news!

    Digiprove sealThis informative article has been Digiproved © 2010

    IE9 beta: Power-packed, but not for everyone

    For most people, surfing the internet has become synonymous with clicking on the ‘e’ icon on their computers to launch Internet Explorer (IE). And while it is by far the most popular browser in the world, of late, IE had seen increasing threat from others such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Opera that claim to be faster, have more features, and more secure. Microsoft’s answer to all these criticisms has been to unveil a new version of the browser: Internet Explorer 9 (IE9). Read the rest of this entry »

    Digiprove sealThis informative article has been Digiproved © 2010

    Eraser: Open-Source Secure File Erasing Tool

    Earlier in the week, I posted a lengthy article explaining why “deleting” a file does not actually get rid of it from your computer. In it, I stated that the only true way to delete a file permanently that you either don’t want, or think could be a problem if the wrong hands got a hold of it, is by using a Secure File Erasing tool. So let me present to you one such tool that I particularly like.

    Eraser Erasing

    Eraser in the process of erasing.

    Eraser, by the Eraser Project, is a tool that needs little introduction, being as its very name explains its purpose betterthan any description could. But to give it a basic description, it’s a secure file-erasing tool that the developers describe as “an advanced security tool for Windows which allows you to completely remove sensitive data from your hard drive”. Here is the list of all of its features according to the developer:

    • It works with Windows XP (with Service Pack 3), Windows Server 2003 (with Service Pack 2), Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2
      • Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000 can still be used with version 5.7!
    • It works with any drive that works with Windows
    • Secure drive erasure methods are supported out of the box
    • Erases files, folders and their previously deleted counterparts
    • Works with an extremely customisable Scheduler

    To explain the last one – Eraser allows you to “schedule” an Erasing task to perform when YOU want it to, as well as the usual “erase this now” options.

    Also, Eraser can securely erase files already in your Recycle Bin using a single right-click on the Bin. And it also has “Free Space Erasing” options, which will clean all the unused space on any of your drives, ensuring files that are still on the drive despite being “deleted” are gone for good. Now THAT’S peace of mind!

    Eraser 5.8.8 Main Interface

    The main interface that you see when you open up Eraser 5.8.8 or Eraser Portable. Newer versions are similar, but slightly fancier.

    Eraser is available in two flavours – a Full Installer, for placing directly onto your computer, and a Portable Edition that you could install and run directly from a Memory Stick or other removable media, though the portable edition is a little old compared to the full installer (still works wonders, though). The best part is since Eraser is free, open source software, it’s free to download and will never cost you a single penny to use – a rare find these days. The open-source nature also makes it something you can trust.

    Eraser homepage (Find out more about, and get Eraser)
    Portable Edition