Q. I've had several attacks from viruses, Trojans, malware, and so forth since I upgraded to Win10. So far, Windows Defender and Malwarebytes have found them and burned them. I’ve never had this many before; do you think it’s a problem with the new OS?
A. I don’t think the increase in malware alerts is a Windows 10 problem.
I checked various malware-tracking sites such as Trend Micro, Symantec, and McAfee; I also checked several general discussion boards. But I didn’t find any reports of increased malware activity that specifically or uniquely targets Win10. Nor have I seen anything unusual on my four Win10 PCs.
Here are two likely explanations for what you’re seeing:
Win10 might be doing a better job of detecting and eliminating malware. Remember, Win8 and Win10 are more tightly locked down than Vista or Win7 — especially when run on newer UEFI-based PCs.
For example, both Win8 and Win10 have always-on, system-level safeguards against rootkits. These safeguards aren’t added on via anti-malware tools; rather, they’re part of the core OS architecture itself.
So, it’s possible that Win10’s built-in combination of Defender and other security components are detecting and preventing infections that sneaked in under the radar in previous Windows versions.
It’s also possible that something’s changed on the sites you’re visiting or in the apps you’re downloading — especially if you’re downloading and installing freeware, one of the most common sources of malware infections. Those sites or apps might have recently become hosts for malware.
Rather than being Win10-specific, the malware is probably trying to infect all Windows versions. It’s entirely possible you’d encounter the same infection attempts if you visited those same sites or installed the same apps using Win8, 7, or Vista.
Regardless of what’s causing the problem, it appears your anti-malware defenses are doing their jobs — and that’s great!
You can help ensure your PC stays clean by keeping Windows and your anti-malware apps fully up to date; i.e., accept and install all security-related updates and patches.
If you’d like to further improve your security, consider installing an anti-malware app with aggressive, real-timesystem monitoring. This type of software goes further than relatively simple “detect-on-scan” protection; it continuously monitors your system and blocks malware before it can gain a solid foothold. Real-time apps can also let you see exactly what triggered the malware — for example, the site you’re currently on or the app you’re currently installing/running.
The free version of Malwarebytes is excellent at detecting infections, but it doesn’t have real-time monitoring. For that level of protection, you should try the paid version; it’s U.S. $25 per year for personal use, but the company offers a two-week free trial.
And if you don’t like Malwarebytes, there are many other good, real-time anti-malware tools available.
If the infections are arriving via your browser, you might want to switch browsers. You might also consider installing an ad- or script-blocking extension to your browser. For example, AdBlock and Adblock Plus are two favorites for Chrome. There are many others for major browsers — except Microsoft’s new Edge, which currently doesn’t allow plugins.
And remember: Once you find that a given site or app is hosting or allowing infections, avoid using that site/app in the future!
(Originally published on Windows Secrets on Thursday, December 17, 2015.)
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