Wednesday, 24 December 2014

BEWARE OF FREE COMPUTER PROGRAMS

I'm sure we've all heard somebody rave about a free program they downloaded. They beg us to try it and when we do, our machines become infected with a virus. A year ago, I had such an experience that has made me reluctant to install software without first analyzing it with a trusted antivirus program.

I received an e-mail message one day from a friend in Jamaica who extolled the benefits of WinPatrol. He said it was finding all sorts of nasty code on his PC and I ought to try it too. So I googled the program and downloaded the .EXE file. Then I installed it. After all, I believed that my friend was a trustworthy man and computer-savvy as well.

WinPatrol certainly seemed to dig up a lot of viruses. I received announcements every few minutes about this or that threat needing to be removed. No matter how many times I hit ENTER, WinPatrol reported more and more infections.

Strange things began to happen with my PC after a day of this tedious process of deleting malicious files. My computer became increasingly  difficult to use without something going wrong. A google search showed me that the WinPatrol program I installed was a virus. Its purpose was to generate hundreds of fake virus warnings. I suspect it also erased good files in the process. After much fiddling, I gave up and re-installed Windows as well as the programs I normally used.

Now I run the paid version of AVG AntiVirus to check out any new freeware programs I've downloaded. Additionally, that program found some spyware and adware in a few of the legitimate programs I installed. This is why it's so important not to skimp on protective software. Their updates are comprehensive and their cleaning operations thorough.

I've also noticed that some programs ask for donations. SpyBot is one of those. I plan on donating to keep it going since its interface is mostly screen-reader friendly. It also does a good job of finding nasty stuff without just giving me a list and begging me to buy the paid version.

Believe it or not, there are spiritual viruses as well. I wrote about how I was taken in by a sick house church in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. This memoir also shows how God wondrously led me out of that toxic church and set me on a much happier path. Please check out this marvelous story at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell's Books.