Tag Archives: antivirus

Microsoft Security Essentials –“Here I Come To Save The Day”

imageOh, the embarrassment of it all! I haven’t had to deal with a malware issue (other than self infecting in AV product testing), for more than 2 years – until this past week. No big deal, except perhaps, for the way I got infected – that old, old, old, malware attack vector – an infected search engine result.

The manipulation of search engine results, exploiting legitimate pages, and the seeding of malicious websites among the top results returned by search engines in order to infect users with malware, continues to be a major threat to system security. And, why not? It bloody well works!

Over the years, I’ve written more than a few articles on search engine malware – the last – Search Engine Malware – The Same Old, Same Old – this past August.

From that article:

Here’s how the cyber crooks do it:

Cyber-crooks can exploit vulnerabilities on the server hosting the web page to insert an iFrame, (an HTML element which makes it possible to embed another HTML document inside the main document). The iFrame can then activate the download of malicious code.

When a potential victim visits one of these infected sites the likelihood of the downloading of malicious code onto the computer by exploiting existing vulnerabilities is high.

So there I was, happily bouncing along the Internet highway Googling a phrase I had read on another blog. Choosing the first Google return proved to be a very bad idea indeed, since I immediately stepped into an infected iFrame.

But thankfully, all was not lost – Microsoft Security Essentials (which incorporates antivirus, antispyware and rootkit protection), halted the malware – Trojan:JS/BlacoleRef.K – in its tracks!


So what’s the lesson here?

A couple really – AV settings are very important. In this case, as per the following screen shot – nothing moves into, or out of this machine, without being scanned. Microsoft Security Essentials makes it so simple – no esoteric choices.


The second lesson – a MOST important lesson – absolutely, positively, without fail, come hell or high water, ensure that AV definitions are updated at least daily. Preferably, more often.

You might be surprised to learn, that on the day I stumbled, while MSE recognized the intruder, the vast majority of AVs did not – as per the following VirusTotal report (partially reproduced here).


Since it was preposterous to assume that MSE had in fact eradicated the Trojan (paranoia has its upside don’t you know?    Smile), I then ran a full scan with Kaspersky Rescue Disk – a free Linux-based antimalware application (a live CD), which scans from the outside looking in. Malware generally can’t hide if it’s not running.

The result? The Kaspersky Rescue Disk scan was clean. MSE had in fact, sent Trojan:JS/BlacoleRef.K to malware hell. Yes!!

I suppose there’s one more lesson that can be dug out of this experience, and that is – those tech journalists who absolutely insist that “pay for” antimalware applications are superior to all free AVs (often, without ever having tested the damn product in real world conditions), should take a step back and reconsider their speculative approach to antimalware application ratings.

Worth repeating: Despite the fact that I’m provided with a free license for all the security applications I test (and then some), I have chosen to run with the following FREE  applications.

Microsoft Security Essentials (free) – an all-in-one antimalware application.

Immunet Protect – a free Cloud based companion antimalware application.

ThreatFire (free) – this application is built around a Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS), and behavior based blocking combination.

WinPatrol (free) – another HIPS application with considerable additional functionality. WinPatrol is the elder statesman of this application class and, it just keeps on getting better. A must have application.

PC Tools Firewall Plus (free) – PC Tools Firewall Plus is advanced Firewall technology designed for typical users, not just experts.  The “plus” refers to a HIPS component. Generally, if the ThreatFire HIPS component is triggered on my machine, PC Tools Firewall Plus is triggered as well.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Cyber Crime, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Immunet Protect, Microsoft, Software, trojans, Windows Tips and Tools

A Lesson In Malware Removal Using Kaspersky Rescue Disk

This past Sunday, I posted an article on the benefits of regular scanning with a “live CD” – Stay Malware Free (Hopefully!) – Scan With A “Live CD” Regularly. Which, reminded me of an excellent article (previously posted here), by my good buddy and fellow blogger, Mark Schneider, on working with Kaspersky Rescue Disk to eradicate malware.

There are some great pointers here, and I encourage you to re-read this terrific article. It’s well worth a re-read.


image You find your computer getting slower and slower to boot, and when it finally does boot it’s so slow everything runs at a crawl. So you try running the antivirus you have and just get a message that says the definitions are out of date and you can’t connect to the update server.

Or you may find an annoying pop-up coming up every time you boot telling you PC Antivirus has found 70,278 infections and for $49.99 they will remove them for you. Well my friend, you are hosed! Your machine is so badly infected that you have to try desperate measures.

At this point you can try pulling your hard drive out of the machine and putting it in another mounting it as a slave, and using your other machine to try to clean it.

Another way to get this thing up and running is to try some kind of bootable rescue disk to clean it. Bootable rescue disks are bootable CD’s/DVD’s that contain small operating systems, with some preinstalled tools contained for repairing your computer.

When you turn on your computer hit F10 or F12, select your CD/DVD drive and your computer boots into an operating system contained on that CD. There are a lot of great rescue disks out there, the problem is most are very complicated, and some take forever to boot.

I found one great exception to this though. Kaspersky Labs, creator of the very capable Kaspersky Antivirus line of products has built a great free bootable rescue CD that is simple to use.


Unlike many other bootable rescue disks it has one purpose, to clean your system. To create a Kaspersky Rescue Disk, download the ISO image from this link , then burn the image to a CD.

Depending on what operating system you are using you may need to download a CD burning program if you don’t already have one. If you are running Windows 7 it has a built in, burning program that’s simple to use and works great. If you are running XP or Vista, I like Image Burn, or CD BurnerXP – both do a great job of burning .ISO images, and are free.

Once you have your rescue CD built, start your infected machine pushing F12/F10 to get it to the boot selection screen. Boot to the CD Rom drive as I stated earlier and relax, although faster than most rescue disks it’s hardly fast.

Follow the prompts and when it boots into the Kaspersky Rescue system you first need to update the virus definitions. Once updated do a scan, and go read the newspaper or get some coffee, it takes a while.

Once it completes the scan go ahead and let it remove or quarantine all the files it has found. I’ve never had it delete anything that caused the machine it was fixing not to boot. But of course before you do anything like this, BACK UP YOUR DATA!!!!! But you already did that so proceed.

Do the scan, remove the junk and log off Kaspersky. Just turning off your computer with the power button won’t hurt anything when you are running a rescue CD.

The reason rescue CD’s are so effective is, you’re not trying to disinfect a computer with an infected OS. When you boot to the hard drive of an infected machine, you’re playing on the bad guy’s home turf. They control the machine and in many cases they’ve hidden the infected files so your antivirus can’t see them.

There are other rescue disks out there and many are very complicated and take a very long time. The Kaspersky Rescue Disk is the fastest and easiest I’ve found to clean an infected machine enough to allow me to boot back into Windows and complete the process by adding my favorite automated antimalware tools to keep the system clean going forward.

Note: Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10 can be run from a USB device.

This is a guest post by Mark Schneider of the Techwalker Blog, who brings a background as a high level techie, to the blogging world.

Why not pay a visit to Mark’s site today.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Guest Writers, Kaspersky, Linux, Malware Removal, Portable Applications, Scareware Removal Tips, Software, USB, Virus Repair Tools, Windows Tips and Tools

Protect Your Bits With BitDefender Internet Security 2011

imageIf it’s true that 50% of computer users run without adequate security protection, as some statistics indicate, then I can understand why. Given the complexity of a typical anti-malware product in both setup and operation, it’s little wonder that many users throw up their hands in frustration.

To be sure, computer security is a complex issue, but that shouldn’t mean that the average end user of a security application, needs to be exposed to a labyrinth of choices in either application setup, or in monitoring activity.

It’s hard to overstate the fact that typical computer users require a simple, intuitive, and easy to use interface in order to get the most out of a security suite, and BitDefender’s Internet Security 2011 breaks new ground here. More on this later.

By combining an efficient Firewall, an Antivirus engine, an Antispyware engine, Spam filtering, a parental control system, privacy control, home network and game/laptop modes – BitDefender has built a suite of applications that provides powerful protection.

Taken together, the components provide excellent protection from hackers, cybercriminals, unauthorized software, network attacks, and more.

The application is straightforward to setup, customize, and run – as the following screen captures illustrate. (Click on any graphic to enlarge).

Following installation the application automatically runs a quick scan to ensure the system is clean prior to setup completion.


Very cool! No malware found on the test system.


BitDefender’s Internet Security 2011 is all about simple initial choices – average users can sit back and allow the application to choose the most appropriate settings.  Sophisticated users, on the other hand, can get their hands dirty.


The user has an opportunity to choose a simple, intuitive, and easy to use interface, rather than the more complex intermediate, or expert mode. When I installed this application, I did so with 10 average users in attendance – each one agreed that the “Basic View”, would be the most appropriate for their needs.


The additional tools menu is push button simple, as the following screen shot indicates.


On the completion of the installation, a summary of installed application modules is provided.


Finally, a guided tour is a helpful tool which makes it easy for an average user to become familiar with the application.


Fast facts:


Antivirus & Antispyware



Chat Encryption

Identity protection and privacy controls

Parental Control

Family Network Protection – Home network monitor

Smart Scan

Quick Scan

Smart Schedule

Smart Help

Smart Sense

System requirements: Windows XP SP3, Vista (SP1), Wind 7 (both 32 bit and 64 bit).

Note: Recommended hardware –

  • CPU: Intel CORE Duo (1.66 GHz) or equivalent processor
  • Memory (RAM):
  • 1 GB (Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Windows 7)
  • 1.5 GB (Microsoft Windows Vista)

Having tested this application on a number of machines, I suggest you don’t install this application unless your computer meets, or exceeds, these requirements.

Download 30 day trial version at: BitDefender

Purchase product at: BitDefender (3 PCs for 1 year $49.95).

A personal note: BitDefender is one of my favorite security providers, since it offers a bevy of free virus removal tools, as well as a number of free specialty security tools.

A final word: Choosing a security application correctly depends on a number of variables including – how you use a computer on the Internet. In the final analysis though, the application should simply work –  unobtrusively and silently, with a minimum of fuss and bother – without presenting complex questions that average users simply can’t grasp.

Overall, BitDefender Internet Security 2011 handles this issue very well, and its overall detection and malware removal rates, place it in the top tier of security applications.

A word of caution here regarding tests carried out by antimalware labs. By and large, these tests are one time “snap shots”, and are not always indicative of an applications strengths, or weaknesses. Applications tend to change relative positions based on these tests, very often.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Antimalware Suites, BitDefender, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Malware Protection, Software, Software Trial Versions, spam, Spyware - Adware Protection, System File Protection, Windows Tips and Tools

ZenOK launch first free antivirus application….


Diego Gutierrez, Link Manager, at startup computer security provider ZEN OK, has submitted the following as a guest article.

This article is posted for informational purposes only. I have not tested this product for functionality, reliability, or any other “ility”.

ZEN OK is a breakthrough antivirus malware scanner that protects valuable pictures and documents stored on computers and laptops.

ZEN OK combines a major advance in data security design with ZEN OK’s legendary Online Backup Service, which automatically uploads all your pictures, music, spreadsheets and documents real-time to an military-grade secured server, far enough to keep them safe from fire, floods, earthquakes and other disasters. ZEN OK keeps your files up to date whenever you change a file or create a new one on your computer.


With ZEN OK, engineers invented a whole new category of patent pending data security products that lets you protect your data and computer with just one product.

ZENOK has applied its legendary expertise on data security to make ZEN OK the most secure data protection suite ever.

Hackers and criminals spread over 5000 new viruses every month; with just 20% of computers using up-to-date protection suites; data security has become an major issue. Several companies already filed bankruptcy after they lost their customer data. Protecting yourself can be expensive. But not anymore with ZEN OK’s legendary free of charge Antivirus suite…

ZEN OK is already available online for download from the ZEN OK Website (www.zenok.com).

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Backup Tools, Free Anti-malware Software, Freeware, Guest Writers, Online Backup, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Avira AntiVir Personal 10 – Is It The Best Free Antivirus Available?


If you were building a wish list of the features that you would like to see in a free anti-virus program, I’m sure you would include the following:

An easy to use and understand, yet comprehensive, user interface.

An on demand scanner to seek out viruses, Trojans, backdoor programs, hoaxes, worms, dialers and other malicious programs.

And, perhaps most important, the ability to stop a detected malicious program  dead in its tracks.

The ability to repair, delete, rename and quarantine programs, or files.

Well you’re in luck. Avira AntiVir Personal will meet, and even exceed, all of your wishes. This anti-virus program offers comprehensive protection, driven by an easy to use interface.

Avira AntiVir Personal is not just another free AV solution. Avira may just be the best free AV solution available. It’s certainly the most popular in its class, and with good reason, in my view.

I’ve been using Avira, in one release or another for years on a Windows XP Professional machine, and I have never had to deal with an infection on that particular computer.

I’m not suggesting that Avira is the only reason this machine has never been infected, but – it is the foundation on which all of the other security solutions, specific to that machine, are built. Regular readers are well aware, that I faithfully follow the Three Commandments of Safe Surfing:

Stop – consider where you’re action might lead.

Think – consider the consequences to your security.

Click – only after making an educated decision to proceed.

If you’re a typical, or an average user, you should find that Avira AntiVir Personal will meet, and even exceed, all of your requirements.

As an indication of this programs popularity, Download.com reports 100+ MILLION total downloads – 665,000 last week alone.


Fast facts:

Highly Configurable

Protection from viruses, worms and Trojans

Includes anti-spyware and anti-adware features

Protection against expensive dialers

Protection from hidden rootkits

Protection from phishing

Extensive malware Recognition

Monitors every action executed by the user or the operating system

Reacts promptly when a malicious program is detected.

Automatic updates of antivirus signatures, engine and software – I have to admit, I love this feature

Now in Version (updated April 22, 2010)

Quick Summary:

Easy to download, easy to install, easy to configure, easy to use, and very effective.

System requirements: Windows 7, XP, Vista (32-bit and 64-bit).

Download at: Download.com

Note: Free for home-users only.

If you find the nag screen annoying, take a look at “Remove Avira Notifier – Here’s How”, on this site. If you’re running a 64 bit system, then checkout my buddy G’s site –Disable Avira Notifier in Windows 7.

Note: Since we’re talking about Avira, you should be aware that Avira offers a free Avira AntiVir Rescue System, “which is a Linux-based application that allows accessing computers that cannot be booted anymore. Thus it is possible to repair a damaged system, rescue data, and scan the system for virus infections”.

If you are an active computer user, you should consider adding this application to your antimalware tool box.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Software, System Security, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Tips On A Layered Security Approach To Internet Safety

image Unfortunately, finding a balance between computer security and functionality can often be a question of “hit and miss”. By protecting your computer using the layered approach laid out here, you will reduce the chances of malware infections significantly without impacting convenience, and functionality, unduly.

Cybercriminals design malware to exploit vulnerable systems without user interaction being required – on the one hand, and craft attacks that take advantage of unaware computer users, in which user interaction is required – on the other hand.

The second part, of this two part attack approach, can only be defeated if the computer user is aware of current Internet threats. So, knowledge and experience, are critical ingredients in the never ending, and escalating battle, against cybercriminals.

In order to defeat attacks which rely on exploiting vulnerable systems, the preferred method to do so, is the implementation of a layered security approach. Employing layered security should ensure the swift detection of malware, before any damage occurs on the targeted system.

We live in a world in which we are surrounded by “buzz words”, and it seems that I’m occasionally guilty of using buzz words in writing this Blog. Buzz words which don’t always adequately explain a point, or which interfere with a readers understanding of a concept.

This was brought home to me recently when a regular reader emailed me privately; asking that I explain layered security. As I considered this, it occurred to me that this was a very legitimate question. From a reader’s perspective – just what is “layered security”?

What is layered security?

Let’s take the “buzz” out of layered security. Layered security, in its simplest form, consists of stacking security solutions, one on top of the other, to protect a computer from current, and zero day malware attacks (malware for which there is yet, no programmed defense).

Why do you need it?

The answer is pretty simple – gap management (words that are well know to consultants). In other words, no single security application is capable (nor should we expect a single application to be capable), of providing adequate computer system protection. Gaps exist in protection capabilities in even the most sophisticated security applications.

Layering (or stacking) security applications, offers the best chance of remaining infection free, by closing these gaps. Keep in mind however, that even the best layered protection strategy will not make up for the lack of experience, and intuitiveness, of many computer users. So, I’ll repeat what I said earlier “knowledge, awareness, and experience are critical ingredients in the escalating battle, against cybercriminals”

A consumer layered security approach: recommendations.

Backup – While you may not think that a backup strategy forms part of a layered security approach to Internet security, it is, without exception, a most crucial part.

Consider where you would be if your layered security strategy failed. If you’ve ever lost critical data to a malware infection, no doubt you already consider it of primary importance.

Free backup utilities are readily available – see “Hard Drive Cloning is Easy with Free Easeus Disk Copy” and “Free DriveImage XML – “The Best Way to Backup Data?”, on this site.

Operating System and Application Patch Management – Again, this is an area that is often not considered as critical by many users. In a recent survey, Secunia, the Danish computer security service provider, well known for tracking vulnerabilities in software and operating systems, concluded that less than one in 50 Windows driven computers, are totally patched.

To stay ahead of the curve in this critical area consider downloading, and installing, the free Secunia Personal Software Inspector, which will constantly monitor your system for insecure software installations, notify you when an insecure application is installed, and even provide you with detailed instructions for updating the application, when available.

Firewall – Simply put,  a firewall is an application, or a hardware appliance, designed to block unauthorized access to your computer from the Internet, at the same time permitting authorized communications.

There are many free Firewalls available, but many can be intrusive and not really appropriate for casual computer users. Zone Alarm offers a very robust, uncomplicated, free Firewall, and more information is available here, “Download ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 2010 – Windows 7 Compatible”.

Antimalware – A front line antimalware application is absolutely critical to avoid system infection. Your primary application should be supplemented by an on-demand scanner (part of the stacking approach).

There is no harm in downloading more than one antimalware application to be used as a secondary scanner. In fact, doing so can be advantageous. However, be sure NOT to allow more than one application to autostart, in order to prevent conflicts. For a list and download links to recommended free antimalware applications, including secondary scanners, see “Tech Thoughts Top 8 Free Antimalware Applications”, on this site.

Antivirus – An antivirus application is another critical component in a layered defense strategy to ensure that if a malicious program is detected, it will be stopped dead in its tracks!

Avira AntiVir Personal (see “Free Avira AntiVir Personal Protection – Get the Real Deal!” on this site), is a very effective application which offers scans for viruses, Trojans, backdoor programs, hoaxes, worms, dialers and other malicious programs.

It’s simple interface provides access to a command structure, that makes it easy to repair, delete, block, rename and quarantine programs, or files.

Web Browser Security – Install a free Internet Browser add-on such as WOT (my personal favorite). WOT tests web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams, helping you avoid unsafe web sites.

Please read “An IT Professional’s Must Have Firefox and Chrome Add-ons” on this site, which lists additional critical Browser add-ons.

System Isolation – An isolator is a security application which dynamically isolates Internet applications including Web Browsers, Chat Clients, Email Clients, and so on. Isolators, or sandbox applications, prevent damage from intrusions and malicious software: viruses, worms, spyware, key loggers etc., including disallowing rogue software from being installed. To understand this concept more thoroughly, please see “Free GeSWall Isolates You From Cybercriminals”, on this site.

Zero Day Protection – Since most viruses, worms, Trojans and other types of Internet threats only last 24 hours, how do security applications that rely on a definition database to identify malware files (most anti-malware applications), keep up with this onslaught? The simple answer is; they don’t.

Threatfire, from PC Tools is a terrific security application which covers the vulnerability gap with respect to zero-day threats. ThreatFire blocks malware (including zero-day threats) by analyzing program behavior (heuristics), based on the theory that if it looks like a crook and acts like a crook, then it must be a crook, instead of relying only on a signature based database.

For additional information and a download link please see – “Protect Yourself Against Zero Day Internet Threats with Free ThreatFire From PC Tools”, on this site.

Unfortunately, finding a balance between security and functionality can often be difficult. By protecting your computer using the layered approach laid out here, you will reduce the chances of malware infections significantly without impacting convenience, and functionality, unduly.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Browser add-ons, Browser Plug-ins, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Internet Protection, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Hard Drive Imaging, Internet Safety Tools, Software, System Security, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Round Two: Download Next Generation Microsoft Security Essentials In Beta

image Microsoft Security Essentials, which incorporates antivirus, antispyware and rootkit protection, all under one roof, was released by Microsoft last year as a free  replacement application for Windows Live OneCare. MSE was initially released in June 2009 in Beta, which was replaced by the final release in September 2009.

Microsoft has just released a Beta for the second generation Security Essentials, which includes a number of substantial additional features (see the following), and thankfully, a faster engine.

Note: This is a limited beta available in English (U.S.), Israel, and Brazilian Portuguese (the beta will also be available in China in Simplified Chinese later this year), and is available to genuine Windows users on a first come, first serve basis, until the allotted spots for the beta have been reached.

What’s New in the Microsoft Security Essentials beta?

This Beta version of Microsoft Security Essentials includes these new features and enhancements to better help protect your computer from threats.

Windows Firewall integration: Microsoft Security Essentials setup allows you to turn on Windows Firewall.

Enhanced protection from web-based threats: Microsoft Security Essentials has enhanced integration with Internet Explorer which helps prevent malicious scripts from running and provides improved protection against web based attacks.

New and improved protection engine: The updated engine offers enhanced detection and cleanup capabilities and better performance.

Installation was not straight forward. Since I was running the final release as my primary AV, the installer attempted to perform an upgrade. Bad idea! It simply did not work, and caused some cleanup issues I had to deal with.

After cleaning up the mess, I uninstalled the prior version using my trusty Revo Uninstaller, and then did a successful clean install rather than an upgrade.

I heard it through the grapevine that I’m not alone in having run into this upgrade issue. So, if you have MSE installed, uninstall first, and then perform a clean install of the new Beta.


This new Microsoft Security Essentials Beta just like the final release is easy to set up and run, (on a clean install), particularly for new users. And, the interface is positively simple offering Quick Scan, Full Scan, or Custom Scan.

A simple command interface:


A simple scan result screen – in this case a “clean” result:


A simple settings/options screen. If you have been running the generation one final version, you find a number of impressive changes here.


Overall impressions:

Microsoft Security Essentials, including this Beta release, is a no cost viable alternative to overhyped, and often overpriced, more familiar security applications.

A simple, intuitive, and easy to use interface makes Microsoft Security Essentials straightforward to setup, customize, and run, for both less experienced and expert users alike.

Microsoft Security Essentials is a first class security application; fast, efficient, and effective – particularly with the additional features in the Beta release.

Provides full real time protection against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Very few “free” security applications, provide full real time protection which makes such an application valuable, only as an on-demand secondary scanner.

The second generation Beta, is definitely worth a close look.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Vista x64, Win 7, Win 7 x64.

Download at: The Microsoft Connect Page (registration required).

Windows XP users: Please note that the network inspection system feature will not be enabled on Windows XP. The network inspection system requires the Windows Filtering Platform (WFP) in order to run, and WFP is available only in Windows Vista and Windows 7. However, if you are running Windows XP, you can still use all other beta features.

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Filed under Beta Software, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Microsoft, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP