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What to do if your antivirus subscription has expired

September 16th, 2014 No comments

Phil asks:

I’m new to Windows 8.1. Now that my free security software has expired, how do I go about making Windows Defender my choice security method?

Windows Defender is included with Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 and helps protect your PC against malware (malicious software). Many new computers come with free subscriptions to antivirus software and other security programs from companies other than Microsoft. If the subscription runs out and you don’t want to pay for it, you need to:

  1. Fully uninstall the non-Microsoft security software that came with your computer.
  2. Make sure Windows Defender is turned on.

To uninstall the security software that came with your computer, check the software’s Help file.

Make sure Windows Defender is turned on in Windows 8

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen and tap Search (or if you’re using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and then click Search).
  2. In the Search box, type Windows Defender.
  3. Tap or click the Windows Defender icon.
  4. Go to Settings, and make sure that Turn on real-time protection (recommended) is selected.
  5. Tap or click Save Changes.

What to do if your antivirus subscription has expired

September 16th, 2014 No comments

Phil asks:

I’m new to Windows 8.1. Now that my free security software has expired, how do I go about making Windows Defender my choice security method?

Windows Defender is included with Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 and helps protect your PC against malware (malicious software). Many new computers come with free subscriptions to antivirus software and other security programs from companies other than Microsoft. If the subscription runs out and you don’t want to pay for it, you need to:

  1. Fully uninstall the non-Microsoft security software that came with your computer.
  2. Make sure Windows Defender is turned on.

To uninstall the security software that came with your computer, check the software’s Help file.

Make sure Windows Defender is turned on in Windows 8

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen and tap Search (or if you’re using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and then click Search).
  2. In the Search box, type Windows Defender.
  3. Tap or click the Windows Defender icon.
  4. Go to Settings, and make sure that Turn on real-time protection (recommended) is selected.
  5. Tap or click Save Changes.

What to do if your antivirus subscription has expired

September 16th, 2014 No comments

Phil asks:

I’m new to Windows 8.1. Now that my free security software has expired, how do I go about making Windows Defender my choice security method?

Windows Defender is included with Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 and helps protect your PC against malware (malicious software). Many new computers come with free subscriptions to antivirus software and other security programs from companies other than Microsoft. If the subscription runs out and you don’t want to pay for it, you need to:

  1. Fully uninstall the non-Microsoft security software that came with your computer.
  2. Make sure Windows Defender is turned on.

To uninstall the security software that came with your computer, check the software’s Help file.

Make sure Windows Defender is turned on in Windows 8

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen and tap Search (or if you’re using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and then click Search).
  2. In the Search box, type Windows Defender.
  3. Tap or click the Windows Defender icon.
  4. Go to Settings, and make sure that Turn on real-time protection (recommended) is selected.
  5. Tap or click Save Changes.

Microsoft takes on world’s worst cybercriminals

July 15th, 2014 No comments

Microsoft recently took legal action against a group of cybercriminals suspected of spreading malicious software to millions of unsuspecting computer users.

These social media–savvy cybercriminals have not only spread the malware themselves, but they’ve also promoted their malicious tools across the Internet, offering step-by-step instructions to completely control millions of unsuspecting victims’ computers to conduct illicit crimes.

For more information on the legal action, see Microsoft takes on global cybercrime epidemic in tenth malware disruption.

To help protect yourself against cybercrime

  • Keep your operating system and other software updated.
  • Use antivirus software (and keep it updated).
  • Don’t open suspicious email messages, links, or attachments.

Get more guidance at How to boost your malware defense and protect your PC.

Get security updates for May 2014

May 13th, 2014 No comments

Microsoft releases security updates on the second Tuesday of every month.

Skip the details and check for the latest updates.

This bulletin announces the release of security updates for Windows, Microsoft Office, and other programs.

To get more information about security updates and other privacy and security issues delivered to your email inbox, sign up for our newsletter.

New research shows rise in “deceptive downloads”

May 7th, 2014 No comments

According to the latest cybersecurity report from Microsoft, “deceptive downloads” were the top threat for 95 percent of the 110 countries surveyed.

What are deceptive downloads?

Deceptive downloads are legitimate downloadable programs (usually free) such as software, games, or music that cybercriminals bundle with malicious items.

For example, you might receive a file in email or through social networking, but when you try to open it you see a message that says you don’t have the right software to open it. You do a search online and come across a free software download that claims it can help you open the file. You download that software, but you unknowingly might also be downloading malicious software (also known as “malware”) with it. This malware might have the ability to access personal information on your computer or use your computer for cybercrime.

It could be months or even years before you notice your system has malware.

How can I avoid deceptive downloads?

What should I do if I think I’ve been a victim of a deceptive download?

Do a scan with your antivirus software. If your computer is running Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, you can use the built-in Windows Defender to check for and to help you get rid of a virus or other malware.

If your computer is running Windows 7 or Windows Vista, do the following:

What is the Security Intelligence Report?

The Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIR) covers research on computer security, including software vulnerabilities, exploits, and malicious and potentially unwanted software. Volume 16 of the report was released today. If you want to learn more about deceptive downloads and other key findings, please visit Microsoft.com/SIR.

How to get rid of malware that keeps coming back

March 27th, 2014 No comments

Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials can get rid of most malware, but here’s what you can do if it comes back.

  1. Make sure you have automatic updating turned on. This feature ensures that you have the latest security improvements from Microsoft installed on your computer. If you’re using other antivirus software, make sure that it is up to date with the latest malware definitions.
  1. Restart your PC.
  2. Run a full scan:
    1. Open your Microsoft security software.
    2. On the Home tab, under Scan options, click Full.
    3. Click Scan now.

 A full scan can take an hour or more, depending on how many files you have on your PC.

Get more advanced troubleshooting for malware that keeps coming back.

Once your computer is clean, take these steps to help keep it clean.

Tax scams: 6 ways to help protect yourself

March 20th, 2014 No comments

We’ve received reports that cybercriminals are at it again, luring unsuspecting taxpayers in the United States into handing over their personal information as they rush to file their taxes before the deadline.

Here are 6 ways to help protect yourself.

1.     Beware of all email, text, or social networking messages that appear to be from the IRS. Cybercriminals often send fraudulent messages meant to trick you into revealing your social security number, account numbers, or other personal information. They’ll even use the IRS logo. Read more about how the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or use any social media tools to request personal or financial information.
2.       Use technology to help detect scams. Scams that ask for personal or financial information are called “phishing scams.” Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook, and other programs have anti-phishing protection built in. Read more about identity theft protection tools that can help you avoid tax scams.
3.       Check to see if you already have antivirus software. If a cybercriminal does fool you with a tax scam that involves downloading malware onto your computer, you might already be protected by your antivirus software. If your computer is running Windows 8, you have antivirus software built in. Download Microsoft Security Essentials at no cost for Windows 7 and Windows Vista. 
4.       Make sure the website uses secure technology. If you’re filing your taxes on the web, make sure that the web address begins with https, and check to see if a tiny locked padlock appears at the bottom right of the screen. For more information, see How do I know if I can trust a website and What is HTTPs?
5.       Think before you download tax apps. Download apps only from major app stores—the Windows Phone Store or Apple’s App Store, for example—and stick to popular apps with numerous reviews and comments.
6.       Be realistic. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. From companies that promise to file your taxes for free, to websites that claim you don’t have to pay income tax because it’s unconstitutional—keep an eye out for deliberately misleading statements.

Help! Someone is holding my computer hostage

March 18th, 2014 No comments

If you see a pop-up window, webpage, or email message warning you that your computer has been locked because of possible illegal activities, you might be a victim of a criminal extortion scam called ransomware.

Ransomware often masquerades as an official-looking warning from a well-known law enforcement agency, such as the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The aim of ransomware is to prevent you from using your computer until you pay a fee (the “ransom”). If you get an email message or a warning like this, do not follow the payment instructions. If you pay the ransom, the criminals probably won’t unlock your computer and might even install more viruses or steal your personal and financial information.

 

Example of ransomware

What to do if you think you’ve been a victim of ransomware

If you’ve already paid the scammers, you should contact your bank and your local authorities, such as the police. If you paid with a credit card, your bank may be able to block the transaction and return your money.

To detect and remove ransomware and other malicious software that might be installed on your computer, run a full-system scan with an appropriate, up-to-date, security solution. The following Microsoft products can detect and remove this threat:

More information about how to prevent and get rid of ransomware

 

 

 

How do I know if I already have antivirus software?

February 21st, 2014 No comments

If your computer is running Windows 8

If your computer is running Windows 8, you already have antivirus software. Windows 8 includes Windows Defender, which helps protect you from viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

If Windows Defender is turned off and you don’t have another antivirus program installed (or your other antivirus program is not working), you will see a warning in the notification area on your taskbar.

If your computer is running Windows 7

Windows 7 includes spyware protection, but to protect against viruses you can download Microsoft Security Essentials for free.

To find out if you already have antivirus software:

  1. Open Action Center by clicking the Start button , clicking Control Panel, and then, under System and Security, clicking Review your computer’s status.
  2. Click the arrow button  next to Security to expand the section.

If Windows can detect your antivirus software, it’s listed under Virus protection.

Windows doesn’t detect all antivirus software, and some antivirus software doesn’t report its status to Windows. If your antivirus software isn’t displayed in Action Center and you’re not sure how to find it, try any of the following:

  • Type the name of the software or the publisher in the Search box on the Start menu.
  • Look for your antivirus program’s icon in the notification area of the taskbar.

If your computer is running Windows Vista

Windows Vista does not include virus protection. To protect against viruses, you can download Microsoft Security Essentials for free.

The status of your antivirus software is typically displayed in Windows Security Center.

  1. Open Security Center by clicking the Start button , clicking Control Panel, clicking Security, and then clicking Security Center.
  2. Click Malware protection.

If Windows can detect your antivirus software, it will be listed under Virus protection.

Windows does not detect all antivirus software, and some antivirus software doesn’t report its status to Windows. If your antivirus software is not displayed in Windows Security Center and you’re not sure how to find it, try any of the following:

  • Look for the antivirus software in the list of programs on the Start menu.
  • Type the name of the software or the publisher in the Search box on the Start menu.
  • Look for the icon in the notification area of the taskbar.

If your computer is running Windows XP

Click the security icon on the taskbar, or click Start, select Control Panel, and then double-click Security Center.

On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will end support for Windows XP. This means that after April 8, there will be no new security updates available through automatic updating for computers that are still running Windows XP.

Also on this date, Microsoft will stop providing Microsoft Security Essentials for download on Windows XP. (If you already have Microsoft Security Essentials installed, you will continue to receive antimalware signature updates for a limited time, but this does not mean that your PC will be secure because Microsoft will no longer provide security updates to protect it.)

For more information, see Support is ending soon.

Get more information about upgrading to Windows 7 and Windows 8.

I don’t know what operating system my computer is running

Find out what operating system your computer is running

 

 

5 safety tips for online dating

February 13th, 2014 No comments

If you’re going to be connecting online this Valentine’s Day (or ever), follow these safety and privacy tips.

  1. Avoid catfishing. This is a type of social engineering designed to entice you into a relationship in order to steal your personal information, your money, or both. Always remember that people on the other end of online conversations might not be who they say they are. Treat all email and social networking messages with caution when they come from someone you don’t know.
  2.  Use online dating websites you trust. Knowing when to trust a website depends in part on who publishes it, what information they want, and what you want from the site. Before you sign up on a site, read the privacy policy. Can’t find it? Find another site. For more information, see How do I know if I can trust a website?
  3.  Be careful with the information you post on online. Before you put anything on a social networking site, personal website, or dating profile, think about what you are posting, who you are sharing it with, and how this will reflect on your online reputation. For more information, watch this video about the dangers of oversharing.
  4.  Be smart about details in photographs. Photographs can reveal a lot of personal information, including identifiable details such as street signs, house numbers, or your car’s license plate. Photographs can also reveal location information. For more information, see Use location services more safely.
  5.  Block and report suspicious people. Use the tools in your email, social networking program, or dating website to block and report unwanted contact. Read this if you think you might already be a victim of a scam.

Do I need anything besides Windows Defender?

January 16th, 2014 No comments

A reader asks:

If I have Windows Defender, do I need to buy anything else to protect my computer?

If your computer is running the Windows 8 operating system, Windows Defender will help protect you from viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. You don’t need to buy anything else. 

If your computer is running Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP, Windows Defender removes spyware, but to protect yourself from viruses, you’ll need to download antivirus software. You can purchase it from a third party, or you can download Microsoft Security Essentials for free.

More ways to protect against viruses and other malware

Run newer software. Advanced security technologies in modern operating systems are specifically designed to make it more difficult, more complex, more expensive, and therefore, less appealing to cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities.

Regularly install updates for all your software. Update your antivirus and antispyware programs, browsers (like Windows Internet Explorer), operating systems (like Windows), and word processing and other programs. Learn how to turn on automatic updating.

Make sure your firewall is turned on. A firewall will also help protect against viruses and hackers. Find out if your version of Windows has a built-in firewall.

For more information, see How to remove and avoid computer viruses.

10 New Year’s resolutions for your digital devices and your online life

December 31st, 2013 No comments

It’s a new year, which means it’s time to resolve to create healthier habits in our daily lives. But we don’t have to stop at just improving our body, mind, and spirit. It’s also a good idea to resolve to keep our PCs, laptops, smartphones, and social networking sites healthy this year.

1. Keep your software up to date. You can help protect against viruses, fraud, and more by keeping your operating system, antivirus software, antispyware software, web browser, and other software updated. Microsoft releases security updates on the second Tuesday of every month. Learn how to get security updates automatically.

2. Create strong passwords, keep them secret, and change them regularly. This is particularly important for those passwords that safeguard your computer, important accounts (like email or Facebook), and sensitive information, like financial and health data. Get more information about creating strong passwords and protecting them.

3. Use antivirus software. If your computer is running Windows 8, you can use the built-in Windows Defender to help you detect and get rid of spyware and other malware. If your computer is running Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP, Windows Defender removes spyware.

4. Check and adjust your privacy settings. You can participate in the online world and keep your information private. Learn more about how to manage your privacy settings in Windows, Internet Explorer, your Microsoft account, Windows Phone, and more. 

Watch a video about privacy in action (1:19).

5. Teach your children about online safety. Before kids use computers, gaming consoles, or mobile devices, make sure you agree on clear limits, talk about how to keep accounts and passwords secret, and help them stand up to online bullying. If your child got a new device this holiday season, read this checklist for safety tips.

6. Monitor your children’s online behaviors, and continue to talk to them about Internet safety. If your kids are online, it’s important to have regular online safety conversations and to continue to keep track of what they’re doing. For more information, see Age-based guidelines for kids’ Internet use.

7. Upgrade to modern software that provides the latest security technologies and protections. Advanced security technologies in modern operating systems are specifically designed to make it more difficult, more complex, more expensive, and therefore, less appealing to cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities. Learn more about how support for Windows XP ends this year.

8. Use SkyDrive to help protect your personal information. Ransomware is a type of malware designed to infiltrate your computer and hold your files (photos, documents, reports, etc.) hostage until you pay the demanded amount of money to a cybercriminal. One of the best ways to protect your files is to back them up using a removable drive or a cloud service like SkyDrive.

9. Explore new tools for PC protection. If you feel comfortable performing more advanced computer tasks, consider downloading the free Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET), which will make it even more difficult for malicious hackers and cybercriminals to get into your computer.

10. Ignore fake tech support phone calls. Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or software fixes. If you receive a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft, all you have to do is hang up. For more information, see Avoid tech support phone scams.

 

Online safety tips for travelers

December 19th, 2013 No comments

If you’re travelling this holiday season and you plan to be online, here are a few ways to protect yourself and your family:

Get more mobile and wireless tips.

Detect and remove spyware

December 17th, 2013 No comments

Spyware is a general term used to describe software that performs certain actions—generally without appropriately obtaining your consent—such as:

  • Advertising
  • Collecting personal information
  • Changing the configuration of your computer

If your computer is running Windows 8, you can use the built-in Windows Defender to help you detect and get rid of spyware and other malware. If your computer is running Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP, Windows Defender removes spyware.

To get rid of viruses and other malware, including spyware, on Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP, you can download Microsoft Security Essentials for free.

For more information, see How to remove and avoid viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

Categories: malicious software, malware, spyware Tags:

Using SkyDrive this holiday season can help protect your personal information

It’s no surprise that the holidays are one of the busiest times of the year for online shopping.  But did you know it’s also one of the busiest times for uploading pictures to photo sharing and social media sites?  On average, more than 250 million photos per day were uploaded to Facebook alone during October, November and December of 2011.

That only includes the number of photos uploaded online, it doesn’t take into consideration, the photos being stored on personal devices and computers.  This number only continues to grow.

Think about all those special get-togethers with family and friends that we capture and store on our devices. Now imagine, all of those precious moments in time, being locked and held for ransom.  Well that’s exactly what’s happening with an emerging type of malware scheme known as ransomware.

Ransomware is a type of malware designed to infiltrate your computer and hold your files (photos, documents, reports, etc.) hostage until you pay the demanded amount of money to a cybercriminal.  These files are being held ransom for money in some cases as much as $500.  And paying the money doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get your files back.

According to the recently published Microsoft Security Intelligence Report volume 15, ransomware is on the rise.    So what does it look like? 

Ransomware often masquerades as an official-looking warning from a well-known law enforcement agency, such as the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Metropolitan Police Service of London.  It can look like a pop-up, accusing you of committing a computer-related crime, or a locked screen requiring a password.  If you see these indicators, don’t pay the ransom.  It’s most likely the latest scam created by cybercriminals to try and extort money.

One of the best ways to protect your files is to back them up using a removable drive or a cloud service like SkyDrive.

In addition to backing up your files, there are best practices that can help prevent ransomware from infecting your computer: 

  • Keep all software installed up to date. 
  • Use modern software that provides the latest security technologies and protections.
  • Install and use an up-to-date, real time anti-malware solution from a vendor you trust. Some anti-malware software options are available on Microsoft’s security partner webpage.
  • Don’t click on links or open attachments from untrusted sources.

You can also visit What is ransomware? for more information about ransomware and how computer users can avoid being taken advantage of by these threats.   For additional guidance, regularly check our Safety & Security Center, where all of our tools and materials are available, including our Digital Citizenship in Action Toolkit. “Like” our page on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  Get proactive and get involved – in online safety.  

Newer software can increase your computer security

October 31st, 2013 No comments

This week we released volume 15 of the Security Intelligence Report (SIR), which covers our research on computer security, including software vulnerabilities, exploits, and malicious and potentially unwanted software.

One of the key findings to surface from the latest report is the increased risk of using old, unsupported software and emphasizes the positive impact of security innovations and technologies in newer software. Advanced security technologies in modern operating systems are specifically designed to make it more difficult, more complex, more expensive, and therefore, less appealing to cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities.

For more information, see New cybersecurity report details risk of running unsupported software.

For more information, see our Microsoft on the Issues blog post titled “New cybersecurity report details risk of running unsupported software.”

Support for Windows XP ends in April 2014

Windows XP was released almost 12 years ago, which is an eternity in technology terms. While we are proud of the success of Windows XP in serving the needs of so many people for more than a decade, inevitably there is a tipping point where dated software and hardware can no longer defend against modern-day threats and increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals. 

If you’re still using Windows XP, you’re missing out on all kinds of enhancements to computer security, productivity, and performance that are available in Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Find out what end of support for Windows XP means to you.

My antivirus software won’t remove malware

October 17th, 2013 No comments

Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials (antivirus software from Microsoft) can detect and remove most malware. If you’re running antivirus software and you’re still having trouble removing malware, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you have automatic updating turned on. This feature ensures that you have the latest security improvements from Microsoft installed on your computer. If you’re using other antivirus software, make sure that it is up to date with the latest malware definitions.
  2. Manually update your security software, reboot your computer, and run a full scan.
  3. Check our malware encyclopedia for known issues with the malware and any additional cleaning instructions.

For more information about how to troubleshoot this problem, see My security software detects this malware but won’t remove it.

3 ways to speed up your PC

October 15th, 2013 No comments

Here are three ways to speed up a sluggish computer.

1.       Scan your computer for viruses

If your computer is slow or restarts often, it could be infected with a virus or other malicious software.

If you have Windows 8, you can use the built-in Windows Defender to help you get rid of a virus or other malware. If you have Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP, scan your computer with the Microsoft Safety Scanner. Or get help at the Virus and Security Solution Center.

For more information, see How to avoid and remove computer viruses.

2.       Turn on automatic updating

One of the easiest things you can do to speed up your PC is to make sure that your operating system and software are kept up to date. Learn how to get security updates automatically.

Is your computer sluggish, or is it just your web browser? The newest version of Internet Explorer is Internet Explorer 10. It’s included with Windows 8, and you can download it for free for other versions of Windows. Learn more about security in Internet Explorer 10.

 

3.       Upgrade your operating system

If you’re still using Windows XP, you could speed up your PC by upgrading to Windows 8 or Windows 7.

Support for Windows XP ends on April 8, 2014. You can get solutions to your Windows XP security issues now, but not for too much longer. If you’re still using Windows XP, you’re missing out on all kinds of security, productivity, and performance enhancements available in Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Find out what end of support for Windows XP means to you.

If your computer is still slow, you can try limiting how many programs run at start up, deleting software and files you don’t need, or following these additional tips to speed up your PC.

Get free or paid support for your malware problem

September 24th, 2013 No comments

Is your computer running slowly? Are programs starting unexpectedly? Is the activity light on your broadband or external modem constantly lit? Does it sound like your computer’s hard disk is continually working?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your computer might be infected with malware.

Scan your PC for viruses

If you suspect that your computer has a virus, you can download the Microsoft Safety Scanner. The Microsoft Safety Scanner is a free downloadable security tool that provides on-demand scanning and helps remove viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

Download the Microsoft Safety Scanner

Get help from the Microsoft forums

If you’ve scanned your computer and you can’t get rid of the virus, you might be able to get free help from the Microsoft Community. Check out the Viruses and Malware forum.

Get help from a Microsoft Answer Tech for $99

If you want to pay for help, a Microsoft Answer Tech can help track down viruses, malware, and spyware.  

Chat with an Answer Tech now