Articles by "Software"

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Showing posts with label Software. Show all posts

Here’s yet another good reason to never use Internet Explorer
If you or any of your loved ones are still using Internet Explorer — and yes, I do mean true IE, not Microsoft Edge — then you probably already realize that you’re a good 15 years behind the times. But if you need a good nudge to get you (or your company’s IT department) off this addiction before it ruins more good families, this news should do it.
A hacking group is actively exploiting a zero-day exploit in Internet Explorer to infect Windows PCs with malware, according to researchers. A team from Qihoo 360’s Core security unit “say an advanced persistent threat (APT) group is using the IE vulnerability on a “global scale,” according to ZDNet. The vulnerability is being exploited using an infected Office document, loaded with something called a “double-kill” vulnerability. In order for the malware to be triggered, users have to be Internet Explorer and choose to open the infected Office file.
From there, the malware uses a well-known exploit to get around Windows’ User Account Control, those pop-up windows that are supposed to stop unverified scripts running. The attack does require users to do two things they really shouldn’t — open unverified Office files, and use Internet Explorer — but the researchers are calling on Microsoft to issue an urgent patch to fix the issue nonetheless. Short of burning Internet Explorer to the ground (a rational choice, but one that users on institution IT systems don’t always have the option of), there’s nothing users can do to protect themselves right now.

Malware, Spyware, and Adware Protection
The Best Antivirus Protection of 2017How would you rather spend your summer vacation? Relaxing on the beach with your besties, or recreating all the chapters of your great American novel, because ransomware destroyed the originals? I know what I'd choose. The best way to ensure uninterrupted summertime chilling is to make sure that your computers are protected against ransomware and other malware attacks. How? By installing an antivirus utility. We've reviewed more than 40 current antivirus tools—one of them is sure to be right for you.

I did say antivirus, but in truth it's unlikely you'll get hit with an actual computer virus. Malware these days is about making money, and there's no easy way to cash in on spreading a virus. Ransomware and data-stealing Trojans are much more common, as are bots that let the bot-herder rent out your computer for nefarious purposes. Modern antivirus utilities handle Trojans, rootkits, spyware, adware, ransomware, and more. PCMag has reviewed more than 40 different commercial antivirus utilities, and that's not even counting the many free antivirus tools. Out of that extensive field we've named four Editors' Choice products.

Several other commercial antivirus utilities proved effective enough to earn an excellent four-star rating. I eliminated two special-purpose products that aren't really like the rest: Daily Safety Check Home Edition and VoodooSoft VoodooShield. And Check Point's ZoneAlarm PRO uses antivirus licensed from Kaspersky, with almost no lab test results for ZoneAlarm itself. That leaves the ten excellent products you see above.

All of these products are traditional, full-scale, antivirus tools, with the ability to scan files for malware on access, on demand, or on schedule. As for just relying on the antivirus built into Windows 8.x or Windows 10, that may not be the best idea. In the past, Windows Defender has performed poorly both in our tests and independent lab tests It did score several wins last year, and it earned decent scores in several more recent tests. Even so, our latest evaluation indicates that you'd still be better off with a third-party solution.

Listen to the Labs
I take the results reported by independent antivirus testing labs very seriously. The simple fact that a particular vendor's product shows up in the results is a vote of confidence, of sorts. It means the lab considered the product significant, and the vendor felt the cost of testing was worthwhile. Of course, getting good scores in the tests is also important.

I follow five labs that regularly release detailed reports: Virus Bulletin, Simon Edwards Labs (the successor to Dennis Technology Labs), AV-Test Institute, MRG-Effitas, and AV-Comparatives. I also note whether vendors have contracted with ICSA Labs and West Coast labs for certification. I've devised a system for aggregating their results to yield a rating from 0 to 10.

We Test Malware, Spyware, and Adware Defenses
I also subject every product to my own hands-on test of malware blocking, in part to get a feeling for how the product works. Depending on how thoroughly the product prevents malware installation, it can earn up to 10 points for malware blocking.

My malware-blocking test necessarily uses the same set of samples for months. To check a product's handling of brand-new malware, I test each product using 100 extremely new malware-hosting URLs supplied by MRG-Effitas, noting what percentage of them it blocked. Products get equal credit for preventing all access to the malicious URL and for wiping out the malware during download.

Some products earn absolutely stellar ratings from the independent labs, yet don't fare as well in my hands-on tests. In such cases, I defer to the labs, as they bring significantly greater resources to their testing. Want to know more? You can dig in for a detailed description of how we test security software.

Multilayered Malware Protection
Antivirus products distinguish themselves by going beyond the basics of on-demand scanning and real-time malware protection. Some rate URLs that you visit or that show up in search results, using a red-yellow-green color coding system. Some actively block processes on your system from connecting with known malware-hosting URLs or with fraudulent (phishing) pages.

Software has flaws, and sometimes those flaws affect your security. Prudent users keep Windows and all programs patched, fixing those flaws as soon as possible. The vulnerability scan offered by some antivirus products can verify that all necessary patches are present, and even apply any that are missing.

Spyware comes in many forms, from hidden programs that log your every keystroke to Trojans that masquerade as valid programs while mining your personal data. Any antivirus should handle spyware, along with all other types of malware, but some include specialized components devoted to spyware protection.

You expect an antivirus to identify and eliminate bad programs, and to leave good programs alone. What about unknowns, programs it can't identify as good or bad? Behavior-based detection can, in theory, protect you against malware that's so new researchers have never encountered it. However, this isn't always an unmixed blessing. It's not uncommon for behavioral detection systems to flag many innocuous behaviors performed by legitimate programs.

Whitelisting is another approach to the problem of unknown programs. A whitelist-based security system only allows known good programs to run. Unknowns are banned. This mode doesn't suit all situations, but it can be useful. Sandboxing lets unknown programs run, but it isolates them from full access to your system, so they can't do permanent harm. These various added layers serve to enhance your protection against malware.

Firewalls, Ransomware Protection, and More
Firewalls and spam filtering aren't common antivirus features, but some of our top products include them as bonus features. In fact, some of these antivirus products are more feature-packed than certain products sold as security suites.

Among the other bonus features you'll find are secure browsers for financial transactions, secure deletion of sensitive files, wiping traces of computer and browsing history, credit monitoring, virtual keyboard to foil keyloggers, cross-platform protection, and more. You'll even find products that enhance their automatic malware protection with the expertise of human security technicians. And of course I've already mentioned sandboxing, vulnerability scanning, and application whitelisting.

I'm seeing more and more antivirus products adding modules specifically designed for ransomware protection. Some work by preventing unauthorized changes to protected files. Others keep watch for suspicious behaviors that suggest malware. Some even aim to reverse the damage. Given the growth of this scourge, any added protection is beneficial.

What's the Best Malware Protection?
Which antivirus should you choose? You have a wealth of options. Kaspersky Anti-Virus and Bitdefender Antivirus Plus invariably rate at the top in independent lab tests. Norton AntiVirus Basic aced both lab tests and my own hands-on tests. A single subscription for McAfee AntiVirus Plus lets you install protection on all of your Windows, Android, Mac OS, and iOS devices. And its unusual behavior-based detection technology means Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus is the tiniest antivirus around. We've named these five Editors' Choice for commercial antivirus, but they're not the only products worth consideration. Read the reviews of our top-rated products, and then make your own decision.

Note that I reviewed many more antivirus utilities than I could include in the chart of top products. If your favorite software isn't listed there, chances are I did review it. The blurbs below include every antivirus that earned at least three stars. You can also see all the relevant reviews on PCMag's antivirus software page.

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus Review
Editors' Choice
$39.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: The labs give Bitdefender Antivirus Plus top marks, and it aces some of our own hands-on tests. Beyond that, it adds a wealth of security features that almost qualify it as a security suite....

Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2017) Review
Editors' Choice
$59.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: The independent testing labs consistently award Kaspersky Anti-Virus their highest ratings, plus it aces our own antiphishing tests, adds plenty of bonus features, and it's fast. That's enou...

Symantec Norton AntiVirus Basic Review
Editors' Choice
$39.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: After a few years on hiatus, Symantec's standalone antivirus is back. Norton AntiVirus Basic earns top scores from the independent labs and in our own tests. It's a winner.

Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus Review
Editors' Choice
$39.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus remains the smallest, fastest antivirus around, and it aced our hands-on malware-blocking test.

McAfee AntiVirus Plus (2017) Review
Editors' Choice
$59.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: McAfee AntiVirus Plus doesn't score as high as other Editors' Choice products in testing, but it covers vastly more than the others. One subscription lets you protect every Windows, Android,...

Avast Pro Antivirus 2017 Review
$39.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: Avast Pro Antivirus 2017 offers the same wealth of features as its free edition, and not a lot more. It's an excellent product, but for most people the free version will suffice.

Check Point ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus + Firewall 2017 Review
$39.95 MSRP

Bottom Line: With the powerful ZoneAlarm firewall, antivirus licensed from Kaspersky, and a unique new approach to phishing protection, Check Point ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus + Firewall 2017 is worth a look...

Emsisoft Anti-Malware 2017 Review
$39.95 MSRP

Bottom Line: Hence the name, Emsisoft Anti-Malware focuses on the core task of keeping your PCs free of malware. It does a good job, and with a clean, simple interface, it looks good too.

ESET NOD32 Antivirus 10 Review
$39.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: ESET NOD32 Antivirus 10 scores well with most independent labs and in most of our hands-on tests, and its full system scan is faster than most.

F-Secure Anti-Virus (2017) Review
$39.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: F-Secure Anti-Virus's fast full scan and DeepGuard behavior-based detection system make it a powerhouse against malware, but it doesn't offer many bonus features.

The Kure Review
$19.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: When your PC has The Kure installed, you can wipe out malware just by rebooting. Your own documents aren't affected, and it even has the ability to reverse the effects of encrypting ransomwa...

Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security (2017) Review
$39.95 MSRP

Bottom Line: Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security earns high scores in our hands-on tests, though not in every independent lab test. Ransomware protection is a welcome addition in this latest version.

VoodooSoft VoodooShield Review
$19.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: VoodooShield takes a whitelist approach to antivirus protection, but without getting in the user's way. A new machine-learning component brings it closer to the abilities of a standalone ant...

Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2016 Review
$49.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: The technology that Ashampoo Anti-Virus licenses from other companies does very well in most of our tests, but you're probably better off just going straight to those other vendors.

G Data Antivirus 2017 Review
$39.95 MSRP

Bottom Line: G Data Antivirus 2017 gets decent marks from the independent testing labs, and it includes components designed to fight specific malware types, including ransomware. However, in our own test...

Malwarebytes 3.0 Premium Review
$39.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: Malwarebytes 3.0 Premium has so many advanced protection layers that the company calls it an antivirus replacement. However, we still advise using it in conjunction with a traditional antivi...

Avira Antivirus Pro (2017) Review
$44.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: Avira Antivirus Pro offers all the same protection as the free Avira Antivirus, plus a few added features that don't all work well. Stick with the free edition or, in a commercial setting, l...

BullGuard Antivirus (2017) Review
$29.95 MSRP

Bottom Line: BullGuard Antivirus offers spam filtering as a bonus feature, and it scored well in our malicious URL blocking test. However, in some independent lab tests and some of our own, it didn't do ...

K7 AntiVirus Plus 15 Review
$39.95 MSRP

Bottom Line: K7 Anti-Virus Plus 15 avoids the plague of false positives that afflicted the previous version. Its scores in our tests and lab tests have improved, but they're still not great. Better optio...

Panda Antivirus Pro (2017) Review
$39.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: Panda Antivirus Pro has all the features of Panda's free antivirus and more. It's a decent product, but its test scores are down from last year, and its pricing scheme doesn't make much sens...

PC Pitstop PC Matic Review
$50.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: PC Matic blocks execution of any program that isn't on its whitelist, which includes all types of malware. It has a great price per device, but you'll have to put up with it occasionally blo...

Quick Heal AntiVirus Pro 17 Review
$30.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: Quick Heal AntiVirus Pro 17 is a huge improvement over the limping version 16, though still not among the antivirus elite.

TotalAV Review
$19.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: TotalAV's collection of bonus features includes password management, system cleanup, and even a VPN. However, our tests show that its core antivirus capabilities need work.

July 20, 2017 ,
Slidebean picks up $850K and launches a new version of its presentation-building toolSlidebean, the app that wants to take on Prezi and PowerPoint, is launching version 3.0 of the service on the heels of an $850K seed round from 500 Partners.
Slidebean wants to get rid of all that extra work by letting you choose a color palette and font up-front, as well as a design template, and then simply inputting information slide by slide. With a single click, users can change the entire look of their presentation.
The idea behind Slidebean is relatively simple. Presentations/decks are a fact of life for many professionals, but creating those presentations isn’t as simple as inputting the information you want. More often than not, professional decks require an actual designer to come in and work on layout, or force the laymen to spend extra time tweaking fonts, colors, alignment, etc.

Slidebean originally launched in 2014 from DreamIt Demo Day as a bootstrapped company, offering a free version of the app via web and a $4.99/month version for the actual app.
Shortly after, the company realized it would need to make more money to stay in business, and hiked pricing up to $49/month. It argued that businesses would pay more to save time, and the argument seemed to work.
More than 7,500 companies use Slidebean to make presentations, and those users have built more than 100,000 presentations on the platform, according to the company.

Version 3.0 has tweaked the interface to make it even more simple.

“We found that people felt the interface was too unfamiliar, and that they would struggle to use it,” said Slidebean CEO and cofounder Caya Jose. “We wanted the new version to feel somewhat similar to something users already know, like PowerPoint, while still handling slide generation and arrangement automatically.”
Alongside a redesigned interface, the new Slidebean also offers insights. Users can see how many times their presentation has been opened and see engagement on a slide-by-slide basis. This could come in handy for startups sending out pitch decks to investors.
The new Slidebean is being priced at $8/month for a base plan, which includes Insights. A premium plan runs $19/month, and includes a dedicated design team and customer success team access for folks who need help with their presentations, along with a custom-built template based on company colors. Slidebean also offers a team plan, which includes three seats, for $39/month, with the option to add seats for an extra $10/month/seat.

July 20, 2017 , ,
Wire launches e2e encrypted team messaging in betaEnd-to-end encrypted messaging platform Wire is targeting Slack’s territory with a new messaging for teams product, called Teams.

It announced a beta launch yesterday, and is offering teams a 30-day free trial — with pricing starting at €5 per user per month thereafter, or custom pricing for enterprise installations offering extras such as self-hosted servers and an integration API.

Co-founder Alan Duric tells TechCrunch that demand for the team messaging launch is being driven “primarily” by Wire’s existing user base.
Alex, a TC reader and Wire user who tipped us to the beta launch, is one of those existing users with an interest in the new team messaging feature — although he says his team won’t be signing up until the product exits beta.
Explaining how his team originally started using Wire, Alex says: “One of the team was traveling and visited China where we found the firewall was blocking basically everything. Skype would randomly keep crashing / lagging under a VPN, though Wire simply worked there. We decided just to stick with it.”

The Wire Teams product supports logging in with multiple accounts, so users can maintain a personal Wire messaging account separate from a Wire work account, for example.

There’s also support for adding guests to projects to allow for collaboration with outsiders who don’t have full Wire accounts of their own.

And, in future, Teams users will be able to switch off notifications for different accounts — so they could turn off work alerts for the weekend, for example.
“More and more businesses and international organizations have started using Wire for work since we launched end-to-end encryption. Teams make it easy to organize work groups and related conversations,” it writes in a blog post announcing the beta.
While the company started by offering a more general comms app, launched in late 2014 and backed by Skype co-founder Janus Friis, in recent years it’s shifted emphasis to focus on privacy — rolling out end-to-end encryption in March last year — perhaps calculating this makes for a better differentiator in the crowded messaging platform space.

When it comes to team messaging, services offering end-to-end encryption are certainly a relative rarity. Slack’s data request policy, for example, notes that it will turn over customer data “in response to valid and binding compulsory legal process”.
In its blog about Teams, Wire includes a comparison graphic across a range of team comms products and messaging apps, such as Slack, Skype for business, WhatsApp and Signal, which shows its commercial positioning and marketing at work.
As well as flagging as a plus its use of e2e encryption — which extends to securing features such as group calls, screen-sharing and file sharing — other differentiating advantages it’s claiming include its business having a European base (specifically it’s based in Switzerland, which has a legal regime that’s generally perceived as offering some of the most robust data protection and privacy laws in Europe); and its code being open sourced (unlike, for example, the Facebook-owned WhatsApp messaging platform).

Wire also suggests e2e encryption for team messaging could be a way for companies to ensure compliance with incoming European privacy legislation. The General Data Protection Regulation, which ramps up fines for data breaches, is due to come into force in May next year.

“Businesses affected by the EU’s upcoming GDPR rules benefit from end-to-end encryption, as it automatically protects the data they share with the team from third party access,” Wire claims.

Earlier this year the company published an external audit of its e2e encryption. This uncovered some flaws and issues but generally found the reviewed components to have a “high security”.

Although a third layer of security review — to consider Wire’s complete solution in the round — remained outstanding at that point.

At the time Wire published the audit it committed to ongoing security reviews of “every major development” of its product.

So — presumably — that should include one for the Teams addition when it launches.

Wire hosts its open sourced code on GitHub.

July 20, 2017 , ,
The Cloud Lets Anyone Recover from Disaster
The Best Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) Solutions of 2017
Small to midsize business (SMB) owners need to know what to do if disaster strikes. This goes beyond simple business cloud backup, though that's certainly a factor. Recovering lost data is a daily operation in many IT departments. A "disaster" refers to a complete halt of most or all of your systems simultaneously. If someone asks what your organization would do if all its systems went dark one fine day, and you can't answer that question with confidence, then you're setting yourself up for serious problems down the road—and that's "when," not "if." Disaster hits everyone sooner or later. Fortunately, the cloud and the internet combine to make recovering from system disasters easier and more accessible than ever.
Fortunately, today's options are not only more effective, they're also cheap enough to be affordable for businesses of any size. That's due to two important IT enhancements: software-based infrastructure and the cloud. Virtualization allows businesses to provision servers as software instances on top of disparate hardware. So, for example, SMB X may have a single physical server in a data closet somewhere, but using Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware ESXi (among other virtualization platforms), they could be running two, three, or more software servers on that hardware with each software instance looking and behaving like any other server as far as the network and users are concerned. By implementing servers as software-based instances, IT managers get the ability to back those servers up using the same methods they would for data.
Many SMBs dismiss planning a coherent disaster recovery (DR) policy because they believe such strategies are only for deep-pocket, enterprise-scale IT budgets. What can an SMB do? In the past, SMB-style preparation usually meant doing frequent backups and storing backup tapes offsite. Effective and cheap. Enterprise DR followed the same rules, but added provisioning for a hot-site, meaning another office that could be provisioned to house data center infrastructure and workers on short notice, or at the very least, have spare "dark" hardware and infrastructure capacity on hand to quickly replace failed systems. These measure do ensure some level of disaster-proofing, but they're both slow by today's standards and exceedingly expensive, which is why many SMBs opt to ignore DR entirely.
But while backing up your virtual servers to a separate disk or tape gives you the ability to restore the server on another server eventually, backing them up to the cloud puts them in another data center—a shared data center that can not only restore your servers, it can also initialize them and operate them just like you would and on just a few minutes' notice. That means instead of paying for another building with an expensive data center you'll only access in emergenices, you can configure a cloud account to continually backup the most recent instances of your servers and simply switch them on if the primary servers at your local site fail. Instant Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS). And, since most of these cloud services operate on a pay-as-you-use basis, this lets even small businesses operate with sophisticated DR options at a fraction of what it would have cost in the past.
In this roundup, we tested five different DRaaS offerings, including Carbonite Server Backup, Microsoft Azure Site Recovery, Quorum onQ Hybrid Cloud Solution, Zerto Virtual Replication, and Zetta Backup and Recovery. All of those solutions are based on the DRaaS model, combined with some client-side software, as well as remote storage options.

What is DRaaS?
During testing, we discovered that DRaaS vendors may loosely define exactly what DR consists of. Some vendors market their offerings as a simple, all-in-one solution, while others approach the DR market with a variety of options, such as SQL Server or MS Exchange-focused backups or complete server and even data center resurrection in the cloud. Weigh your options carefully as more options usually equals higher cost.

That said, it becomes very clear as to what must be part of a DR solution at a minimum:

The ability to automatically backup critical systems and data.
The ability to quickly recover from a disaster, with minimal user interaction.
Flexible recovery options, such as restoring a single application or the whole infrastructure.

Easily understood billing structure.

Backup Target Options.

While the above outlined must-haves give a basic indication of what a DRaaS solution should do, SMBs should not just stop there to determine what service to choose. With that in mind, we created a checklist that should make the selection process a little easier:

DRaaS Checklist
Armed with the above checklist, SMB owners should be able to make short work of selecting a DRaaS provider that meets their needs.


Backup: (Which backup options/capabilities are offered)

• Will the DRaaS offering protect all of your line-of-business applications and platforms?

• Does the DraaS solution create local backups as well as cloud-based backups?

• Does the DraaS solution incorporate file size management to reduce storage needs?

• What applications, operating systems, and databases are directly supported?

• How frequently is the data backed-up or synchronized?

Recovery: (What happens if there is an onsite failure)

• How long does it take to recover an application? Server? Data?

• Will the DraaS support a self-service model?

• How complex is it to move from a backup to a live state?

• Does the DraaS offer a local appliance and address network change issues?

Failure-State: (How does the temporary recovery solution work)

• What level of performance can be expected when failed applications are hosted in the cloud?

• What architecture is used by the host to guarantee availability?

• What is the maximum number of VMs the DRaaS supports?

Failback: (What happens when on-site capabilities return to normal)

• Are there time limits on how long the provider will host the recovery environment?

• Are there additional charges, penalties, or other costs associated with long-term hosting?

• How does the provider manage restoration/failback?

• Is there a danger of data loss during failback?

• Does the failback process introduce downtime?


Featured Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service Solution Reviews:

Microsoft Azure Site Recovery Review
Editors' Choice
$16.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: Great choice for protecting a variety of critical workloads on both Hyper-V and VMware. Pricing is competitive for basic storage plus the failover capability. Tight integration with System C...

Quorum onQ Hybrid Cloud Solution Review
$750.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: A very capable choice for businesses that need on-site (or multi-site) disaster recovery (DR) and backup, with the option for off-site protection, combined with the ability to store and exec...

Zerto Virtual Replication Review
$745.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: Zerto Virtual Replication is a powerful business continuity solution, though it has the potential to get expensive. It also lacks the ability to protect non-virtualized network resources, wh...
 
Zetta Backup and Recovery Review
$175.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: Zetta Backup and Recovery offers a refreshingly fast and powerful option for true disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) at the right price. While the cloud failover component is unpolished ...
 
Carbonite Cloud Backup Review
$269.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: Carbonite Cloud Backup excels as an easy-to-use backup solution for small businesses, but offers no help beyond data recovery in a true disaster scenario.

July 20, 2017 , ,
Why You Need Ransomware Protection
The Best Ransomware Protection of 2017A ransomware attack can silently render your most important documents inaccessible, simply by encrypting them. In exchange for paying the ransom you get a key to decrypt those documents. But recovery is iffy. The email account to pay the ransom for the recent Petya ransomware attack got shut down. After that happened, victims couldn't pay up even if they wanted to. And there are reports of a Petya variant that doesn't even try to collect ransom, choosing to simply wreak havoc on government and business networks. Your antivirus really should take care of these attacks, but how much are you willing to gamble on that? Are you feeling lucky?
It's even worse when your business gets attacked by ransomware. Depending on the nature of the business, every hour of lost productivity might cost thousands of dollars, or even more. Fortunately, while ransomware attacks are on the rise, so are techniques for fighting those attacks. Here we look at anti-ransomware tools you can use to protect yourself from ransomware.
What Is Ransomware, and How Do You Get It?
The premise of ransomware is simple. The attacker finds a way to take something of yours, and demands payment for its return. Encrypting ransomware, the most common type, takes away access to your important documents by replacing them with encrypted copies. Pay the ransom and you get the key to decrypt those documents (you hope). There is another type of ransomware that denies all use of your computer or mobile device. However, this screen locker ransomware is easier to defeat, and just doesn't pose the same level of threat as encrypting ransomware.

If you're hit by a ransomware attack, you won't know it at first. Encrypting ransomware works in the background, aiming to complete its nasty mission before you notice its presence. Once finished with the job, it gets in your face, displaying instructions for how to pay the ransom and get your files back. Naturally the perpetrators require untraceable payment; Bitcoin is a popular choice. The ransomware may also instruct victims to purchase a gift card or prepaid debit card and supply the card number.
As for how you contract this infestation, quite often it happens through an infected PDF or Office document sent to you in an email that looks legitimate. It may even seem to come from an address within your company's domain. That seems to be what happened with the recent WannaCry ransomware attack. If you have the slightest doubt as to the legitimacy of the email, don't click the link, and do report it to your IT department.
Of course, ransomware is just another kind of malware, and any malware-delivery method could bring it to you. A drive-by download hosted by a malicious advertisement on an otherwise-safe site, for example. You could even contract this scourge by inserting a gimmicked USB drive into your PC, though this is less common. If you're lucky, your antivirus will catch it immediately. If not, you could be in trouble.

CryptoLocker and Other Encrypting Malware
Until the massive WannaCry attack, CryptoLocker was probably the best-known ransomware strain. It surfaced about three years ago. An international consortium of law enforcement and security agencies took down the group behind CryptoLocker, but other groups kept the name alive, applying it to their own malicious creations.

Ransomware Removal
Even if ransomware gets past your antivirus, chances are good that within a short while an antivirus update will clear the attacker from your system. The problem is, of course, that removing the ransomware itself doesn't get your files back. The only reliable guarantee of recovery is maintaining a hardened cloud backup of your important files.

Even so, there's a faint chance of recovery, depending on which ransomware strain encrypted your files. If your antivirus gives you a name, that's a great help. Many antivirus vendors, among them Kaspersky, Trend Micro, and Avast, maintain a collection of one-off decryption utilities. In some cases, the utility needs the unencrypted original of a single encrypted file to put things right. In other cases, such as TeslaCrypt, a master decryption key is available.

But really, the best defense against ransomware involves keeping it from taking your files hostage. There are a number of different approaches to accomplish this goal.

Anti-Ransomware Strategies
A well-designed antivirus utility ought to eliminate ransomware on sight, but ransomware designers are tricky. They work hard to get around old-school signature-based malware detection. And it only takes one slipup by your antivirus to let a new, unknown ransomware attack render your files unusable. Even if the antivirus gets an update that removes the ransomware, it can't bring back the files.

Modern antivirus utilities supplement signature-based detection with some form of behavior monitoring. Some rely exclusively on watching for malicious behavior rather than looking for known threats. And behavior-based detection specifically aimed at ransomware behaviors is becoming more common.
Ransomware typically goes after files stored in common locations like the desktop and the Documents folder. Some antivirus tools and security suites foil ransomware attacks by denying unauthorized access to these locations. Typically they pre-authorize known good programs such as word processors and spreadsheets. On any access attempt by an unknown program, they ask you, the user, whether to allow access. If that notification comes out of the blue, not from anything you did yourself, block it!
Of course, using an online backup utility to keep an up-to-date backup of your essential files is the very best defense against ransomware. First, you root out the offending malware, perhaps with help from your antivirus company's tech support. With that task complete, you simply restore your backed-up files. Note that some malware attempts to encrypt your backups as well. Backup systems in which your backed-up files appear in a virtual disk drive may be especially vulnerable. Check with your backup provider to find out what defenses the product has against ransomware.

Detecting Ransomware Behavior
Cybereason's free RansomFree utility is unusual in that its sole purpose is to detect and avert ransomware attacks. One very visible feature of this utility is its creation of "bait" files in locations typically targeted by ransomware. Any attempt to modify these files triggers a ransomware takedown. It also relies on other forms of behavior-based detection, but its creators are naturally reluctant to offer a lot of detail. Why tell the bad guys what behaviors to avoid?

Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware Beta also uses behavior-based detection to take down any ransomware that gets past your regular antivirus. It doesn't use "bait" files; rather it keeps a close eye on how programs treat your actual documents. On detecting ransomware, it quarantines the threat.

Check Point ZoneAlarm Anti-Ransomware also used bait files, but they're not as visible as RansomFree's. And it clearly uses other layers of protection. It defeated all of my real-world ransomware samples in testing, fixing any affected files and even removing the spurious ransom notes that one sample displayed.
Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus relies on behavior patterns to detect all types of malware, not just ransomware. It leaves known good processes alone and eliminates known malware. When a program belongs to neither group, Webroot closely monitors its behavior. It blocks unknowns from making internet connections, and it journals every local action. Meanwhile, at Webroot central, the unknown program goes through deep analysis. If it proves to be malicious, Webroot uses the journaled data to undo every action by the program, including encrypting files. The company does warn that the journal database isn't unlimited in size, and advises keeping all important files backed up.
If Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security detects a suspicious process attempting file encryption, it suspends the process, backs up the file, and keeps watching. When it detects multiple encryption attempts in rapid succession, it quarantines the file, notifies the user, and restores the backed-up files. I didn't specifically test this feature when I reviewed Trend Micro last fall, but my contacts at the company assure me this is how it works.

The main purpose of Acronis True Image 2017 New Generation is backup, of course, but the new Acronis Active Protection module watches for and prevents ransomware behavior. It uses whitelisting to avoid falsely flagging valid tools such as encryption software. It also actively protects the main Acronis process against modification, and ensures that no other process can access backed-up files. If ransomware does manage to encrypt some files before being eliminated, Acronis can restore them from the latest backup.

The Data Hjiacking Protection feature in Qihoo 360 Total Security watches for ransomware behavior. However, rather than terminate suspect processes, it simply prevents them from accessing files in specific protected locations such as the Documents folder. In testing, I couldn't goad it into action. Ransomware-specific detection in G Data Antivirus, on the other hand, visibly did its job. When I turned off the regular real-time antivirus and released some ransomware samples, it caught them red-handed. Quick Heal Internet Security also claims to detect ransomware by its behavior, but since it offered no way to disable antivirus protection without also disabling ransomware protection, I couldn't test it.

Preventing Unauthorized Access
If a brand-new ransomware program gets past Bitdefender Antivirus Plus, it won't be able to do much damage. Bitdefender blocks attempts by any unauthorized program to modify, delete, or create files in a protected folder. And the list of protected folders includes Documents, Desktop, Pictures, Music, and Videos, as well as folders on file-syncing services such as OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive. Avast has recently added a very similar feature to Avast Internet Security and Avast Premier.

Trend Micro's Folder Shield feature protects the Documents folder and all its subfolders, by default. The user can choose any other single folder, if desired, but only one folder and its subfolders. No unauthorized program can delete or modify files in the protected zone, though file creation is permitted. In addition, the company offers a ransomware hotline that's available to anyone, even noncustomers. On the hotline page you can find tools to defeat some screen locker ransomware and decrypt some files encrypted by ransomware.
Panda Internet Security, along with all of Panda's other suite products, offers a feature called Data Shield. By default, Data Shield protects the Documents folder (and its subfolders) for each Windows user account. It protects specific file types including Microsoft Office documents, images, audio files, and video. If necessary, you can add more folders and file types. And Panda protects against all unauthorized access, even reading a protected file's data, so it balks data-stealing Trojans too.
IObit Malware Fighter 5 Pro protects specific file types regardless of their folder location. Like Panda, it prevents all unauthorized access. Its regular antivirus component didn't do well in testing, though. In particular, it identified quite a few malware samples as safe and as dangerous simultaneously.

Testing this sort of defense is easy enough. I wrote a very simple text editor, guaranteed not to be whitelisted by the ransomware protection. I attempted to access and modify protected files. And in almost every case I verified that the defense worked. The exception was Qihoo 360, which only blocks access by programs it also deems suspicious.

File Recovery
The surest way to survive a ransomware attack is to maintain a secure, up-to-date backup of all your essential files. Beyond just backing up your files, Acronis True Image actively works to detect and prevent ransomware attack. I expect we'll see similar features in other backup tools.

As noted, when Trend Micro detects a suspicious process encrypting a file, it backs up the file. If it sees a flurry of suspicious encryption activity, it quarantines the process and restores the backed-up files. ZoneAlarm also tracks suspicious and repairs any damage caused by processes that turn out to be ransomware.

The Kure is an unusual product that restores your PC to a clean, malware-free state every time you reboot. Of course, you don't want to lose your documents and other personal files when this occurs, so it exempts areas like the Documents folder from this "Groundhog Day" effect. That also means that while rebooting would get rid of active ransomware, you'd still have the problem of encrypted files. To get around this, The Kure maintains a hidden, encrypted copy of files in those exempted folders. In testing, it successfully recovered from a ransomware attack.

In addition to behavior-based malware detection, Quick Heal also maintains a silent, encrypted backup of your document files. However, recovery of those files is not automatic. Once you get rid of the ransomware, you must contact tech support for help with recovery.

Testing Anti-Ransomware Tools
The most obvious way to test ransomware protection is to release actual ransomware in a controlled setting and observe how well the product defends against it. However, this is only possible if the product lets you turn off its normal real-time antivirus while leaving ransomware detection active. Of course, testing is simpler when the product in question is solely devoted to ransomware protection, without a general-purpose antivirus component.

In addition, ransomware samples are tough to deal with. For safety, I run them in a virtual machine with no connection to the internet or network. Some won't run at all in a virtual machine. Others do nothing without an internet connction. And they're just plain dangerous! When I'm analyzing a new sample, determining whether to add it to my collection, I keep a link open to a log folder on the virtual machine host. Twice now I've had a ransomware sample reach out and start encrypting my logs.

KnowBe4 specializes in training individuals and employees to avoid getting hit by phishing attacks. Phishing is one way malware coders distribute ransomware, so developers at KnowBe4 created a ransomware simulator called RanSim. RanSim simulates 10 types of ransomware attack, along with two innocuous (but similar) behaviors. A good RanSim score is definitely a plus, but i don't treat a low score as a minus. Some behavior-based systems such as RansomFree don't detect the simulation, because no actual ransomware limits its activities to subfolders four levels below the Documents folder.

What's Not Here
This article looks specifically at ransomware protection solutions that are available to consumers. There's no point in including the free, one-off decryption tools, since the tool you need totally depends on which ransomware encrypted your files. Better to prevent the attack in the first place.

CryptoPrevent Premium, created when CryptoLocker was new, promised several levels of behavior-based ransomware protection. However, at the top security level, it inundated the desktop with bait files, and even at this level, several real-world samples slipped past its detection. I can't recommend this tool in its current form.

I've also omitted ransomware solutions aimed at big business, which typically require central management or even a dedicated server. Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware for Business and Sophos Intercept X, for example, are beyond the scope of my reviews, worthy though these services may be.

An Ounce of Prevention
Getting your files back after an attack is good, but completely preventing that attack is even better. The products listed below take different approaches to keeping your files safe. Ransomware protection is an evolving field; chances are good that as ransomware evolves, anti-ransomware utilities will evolve as well. For now, ZoneAlarm Anti-Ransomware is top choice for ransomware-specific security protection. It turned in a near-perfect performance in testing; its only stumble involved an instance of reporting failure when it actually succeeded.

Featured Ransomware Protection Reviews:

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus Review
Editors' Choice
$39.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: The labs give Bitdefender Antivirus Plus top marks, and it aces some of our own hands-on tests. Beyond that, it adds a wealth of security features that almost qualify it as a security suite....

Check Point ZoneAlarm Anti-Ransomware Review
Editors' Choice
$2.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: Check Point ZoneAlarm Anti-Ransomware is the most effective ransomware-specific security tool we've seen. In testing, it showed complete success against all of our real-world samples.

Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus Review
Editors' Choice
$39.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus remains the smallest, fastest antivirus around, and it aced our hands-on malware-blocking test.

Cybereason RansomFree Review

$0.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: The consequences of a ransomware attack are dire, so a second layer of defense like Cybereason RansomFree is a great idea. It's free; go ahead and install it.

Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware Beta Review

$0.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: Malwarebytes Anti-Ransomware Beta watches program behavior to thwart any ransomware that gets past your existing antivirus. This lightweight, free utility makes a great addition to your secu...

The Kure Review
$19.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: When your PC has The Kure installed, you can wipe out malware just by rebooting. Your own documents aren't affected, and it even has the ability to reverse the effects of encrypting ransomwa...

Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security (2017) Review
$39.95 MSRP

Bottom Line: Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security earns high scores in our hands-on tests, though not in every independent lab test. Ransomware protection is a welcome addition in this latest version.
Acronis True Image 2017 New Generation Review
$99.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: Acronis True Image 2017 New Generation lets you save an entire copy of your hard drive to the cloud and offers unique security features, but it still lacks some capabilities we've come to e...

G Data Antivirus 2017 Review
$39.95 MSRP

Bottom Line: G Data Antivirus 2017 gets decent marks from the independent testing labs, and it includes components designed to fight specific malware types, including ransomware. However, in our own test...

Panda Internet Security (2017) Review
$49.99 MSRP

Bottom Line: Panda Internet Security includes the features you'd expect in a security suite, plus extras like ransomware protection. It didn't do well in our testing, however

July 20, 2017 , ,
Asset Management in the Modern Age
The Best Asset Management Software of 2017Most organizations, regardless of size or field, will have physical assets that need to be tracked, categorized, and managed. From copiers to trucks, most objects your company purchases need to be recorded so they can be tracked by various facets of the business, from accounting to facilities management. In the Stone Age, this was done with boxes of receipts, an inventory on a clipboard, and annual expense accounting. As recently as a decade or so ago, this process was mostly handled through spreadsheets, with a manual inventory to update for changes. Someone would generate the asset report for accounting purposes and, if you were lucky, your spreadsheet supported formulas and macros to make it easier.
Things have changed quite a bit since the spreadsheet days. Most businesses have more assets to manage per person than ever before, especially with the rapid increase of mobile devices used in the workplace. We also have increasingly complex cloud technologies, license-based, and usage-based software, and updates more rapidly coming in. As average employee tenures grow shorter and more devices are mobile, companies' data security is also a key priority. Managers and their support teams working in the field may need specialized reporting, customization, and features that aren't readily visible to the employees assigned specific business assets. Modern asset management systems hosted in the cloud allow businesses to manage assets without the cost and maintenance of owning a server.
The first thing to consider when narrowing down your asset management application options is figuring out exactly which assets you need to track. Think specifically about the assets that cost your company money. Do you have a mobile device lab or a number of traveling employees who have company phones you need to track? If you are primarily dealing with servers, desktop, and laptop computers, do you also need to manage your software licenses, updates, and ensure efficient distribution of those licenses? Once you've identified the problem to solve, you can select the asset management system that delivers the best value in the long term.

There are two main groupings of cloud-hosted asset management systems to consider. Some solutions are part of an overall IT helpdesksolution. This first class of products may integrate with support tickets, provide end-user portals, and act as a module in a larger solution aimed at supporting company staff and technologies. The second class of products is specialized software aimed at solving a business problem that goes beyond IT support but allowing for asset management as well.

IT Helpdesk Plus Asset Management Solutions
Asset Panda, BMC Track-It!, and SysAid are all examples of comprehensive IT helpdesk solutions that also allow for asset management. When it comes to tracking networked computers, you need to consider not just which platforms you will use in tracking your assets but also which platforms the administrators and IT professionals will use to assign assets, perform inventory, and run the reports. Some tools include network detection via scanning, while others use spreadsheet import or manual entry. Other use agents like the open application programming interface (API) in Asset Panda or by editing after scanning label codes like in GoCodes.

It is important to consider what makes sense for your budget. Management tools are available at several price points. Do you want a one-time purchase or a monthly subscription for support? Not all tools can handle the same number of assets and there is no sense in paying for more capacity than you will need. Purchasing a bulk number of assets and user accounts for the year can qualify you for additional discounts with GoCodes. Asset Panda sometimes offers flat-rate discounts and specials as limited time offers to help teams get started.

While each asset management solution we reviewed is capable of tracking your computer systems, they vary widely in their strengths. Your priorities will dictate which is right for your company. If security is a top priority, which kind of security appeals to you? Specifically, do you want to prevent theft as your top priority? GoCodes offers a physically trackable, tamper-proof sticker system which both marks the asset and allows you to find it in real-time based on geolocation. The physical ability to apply the sticker means there are few limits on what you can track.
However, it does not tell you any details regarding what software licenses are installed on that stickered laptop, what version it is running, or how often it has been used. You could use a different asset management system for a more detailed notification when a specific application is launched but if you have a custom piece of machinery not represented on your network, you have no way to track that item. Our Editors' Choice MMSoft Pulseway offers security by requiring two-factor authentication (2FA) with encryption from mobile devices. By limiting entered assets to networked devices, ghost machines are quickly dealt with. To get such detailed and timely updates, you give up some flexibility; for real-time accuracy you can't manually add assets if they are not networked in some way.
Is the real-time status of the servers, cloud environments, or websites more important than physically tracking the assets? If current networked status is more important than geo-locating a physical device, Pulseway could be a good investment despite the higher cost. If you consider the relief of an employee's ability to remote in to network devices from anywhere, the reliability gains and happiness of your support staff could make the higher price point irrelevant when you factor in lost productivity. Ease of use might be most important to you, depending on the technical capability of those setting up the tools. If you have savvy IT professionals and even a few developers on staff, some of the solutions offer APIs with their asset management platform, making it easily customizable for programmers. Do you have non-networked computer assets? If so, a key feature for you may be the ability to add assets using means other than network detection agents.

BMC Track-It! and SysAid are examples of customizable systems that might be a good fit, because they do offer customization and APIs. Other systems are configurable without any coding. This means the best value for your company is going to depend not only on the assets you are tracking, but on the capability of the people you have working for you, as well as their availability to customize the product and perform setup. Asset Panda offers support at all purchase levels, giving smaller businesses the answers they need. Asset Panda is in between a solution nearly anyone can use, like GoCodes, and a system where you might need coding ability to take full advantage of the available features.

Some of the systems are easier to use because their sole purpose is asset management. Pulseway was the easiest overall setup we tried. GoCodes is extremely simple to use, but consider that you need to remember to apply and scan in the stickers. You must have the stickers applied in order to track the assets. Provide a checklist and your training staff can do this. SysAid and BMC Track-It! are fully featured helpdesk support tools, each including a user-facing portal for reporting and tracking helpdesk tickets. The interfaces are more complicated, though, involving nesting concepts that make it harder to see all of your assets in one view. A fully integrated helpdesk system to complement your asset management might be worth the tradeoff of a simplified user interface (UI) for your business.

With any investment, the initial cost as well as the costs to customize (if needed), and train your staff are a consideration. You want to be sure you not only purchase the right software, but that you have the level of support you need. For some groups, a tutorial video will be enough. Other teams may need full classroom training. Those doing deep customization and using the APIs might need live developer support. For other groups, the API documentation along with user forums could be enough.

A major consideration with regard to the return on your investment in asset management software is how much time you will save at each stage of the process. One consideration is time spent entering new assets or importing existing assets, and adding them to your inventory. Then there is the time you save by using notifications to detect outages and respond quickly to issues occuring once your servers are live.

Reporting, depreciation, and exporting must also be considered, including compatibility with your specific accounting needs. Select the best asset management tool for your company by comparing prices, features, and the possible time savings of having your asset data in one place. Once you've identified the cloud-hosted solutions with the best fit for your priorities, try them on your own devices before making a final decision. The savings, in both time and money, to purchase and host an asset management system may have been prohibitive in the past. Yet between lower prices and advanced feature complexity offered by older solutions, and the newer more automated solutions, asset management has changed. The flexibility, low upfront cost, and shorter commitment are worth giving Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) asset management tools a fresh look.

Featured Asset Management Software Reviews:
ManageEngine AssetExplorer Review
Editors' Choice
$795.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: Available in 29 languages, ManageEngine AssetExplorer is an affordable and full-featured solution for distributed and global companies that need a cloud-hosted asset management system with e...

MMSoft Pulseway Review
Editors' Choice
$3200.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: MMSoft Pulseway is a great infrastructure and asset management service, with a full-featured mobile capability. The application management portion is not as feature complete but can do the j...

Asset Panda Review
$1400.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: Asset Panda is excellent asset management software for any business seeking to manage fixed assets affordably in the cloud. With its universal training and tech support, and unlimited users,...

GoCodes Review
$708.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: When you need on-demand, physical asset location and customizable asset grouping reports, asset management software GoCodes is simple, powerful, and affordable.

LANDesk IT Asset Management Suite Review
$50.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: Part of a larger network management application suite, LANDesk IT Asset Management Suite is nevertheless feature-rich and has the ability to quickly deliver a wide variety of bundled or cust...

SolarWinds Web Help Desk Review
$695.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: A lightweight combination of help desk and asset management features, SolarWinds Web Help Desk lacks a few features that larger organizations will need, but makes up for it with an easy-to-u...

ServiceNow Review
$10200.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: ServiceNow asset management is usable from a features perspective, but is burdened by a complex user interface that's mostly the result of it being part of a much larger business application...

SysAid Review
$1211.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: Asset management software SysAid offers an impressive number of network detection features for companies and, although it lacks native mobile apps, its detailed changelog and focus on integr...

BMC Track-It! Review
$99.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: Asset management software BMC Track-It! is a complete help desk software offering, including asset management and configurable modules. It's worth considering for asset management if your bu...

InvGate Assets Review
$1500.00 MSRP

Bottom Line: InvGate Assets has a solid feature set when it comes to IT asset management, adequately covering both hardware and software.

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Satish Kumar

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