Tag Archives: Security

Computer Security That Doesn’t Slow Down Your Computer

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Vipre for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

TComputer Security That Doesn't Slow Down Your ComputerLast week I installed a better Internet security application than I’d been using on my Windows test system.

As I described at the time, VIPRE Internet Security 2013’s installation process was clear and simple, and my first test of the software’s functionality returned improved results over a competing solution I’d installed prior to testing. I mentioned that I’d be reporting my experience with the computer security program after testing it further. Now that’s I’ve been using VIPRE for a week, here are my findings.

Computer Security That Doesn’t Slow Down My Computer

As I mentioned last week, many anti-virus solutions are notorious for slowing down PCs. This is mainly because much of the computer security software developers feel the need to add what many would say unnecessary features to their software. More features usually results in more resources being used up by the application, in some cases slowing your computer to a crawl. Why do vendors feel the need to continuously add features? Because they want to continue to selling new versions of their software, and they recognize (incorrectly, in some cases) that consumers tend to see the latest versions of an application as somehow improved over prior versions. It’s often necessary to release a new version of software every year or so due to various circumstances.

The introduction of Windows 8, for example, has required many developers to make some major interface changes to their programs so that the software will fit both aesthetically and functionally into the new operating system’s Metro UI. Consumers expect these types of alterations, and most often their pleased when the look and feel of an application matches the look and feel of the OS they’re working with every day. Yet on occasion, developers seem to pay more attention to the overall impression their apps deliver at the cost of functionality.

Computer Security That Doesn't Slow Down Your ComputerIn the case of VIPRE, GFI Software (the developers of the VIPRE line of computer security software) seems to have focused on delivering the best functionality it can to consumers. And in doing this, it turned out a program that is as efficient in appearance as it is in executing its tasks. As I mentioned last week, the software is simple and elegant in appearance. More important, the interface is intuitive — it took me no time at all to dive right in and run a deep scan of my system (which was completed in record time, compared to another app I used).

Over the course of the past week I used my PC more actively than I have in quite some time. I’ve installed a number of new applications, visited some well-known “malicious” websites that have tried to infect my computer through my browser, and VIPRE has caught every instance of a threat to my PC. I’ve played some fairly resource-intensive games on my computer and performed some tasks that I know require some heavy lifting (such as multimedia production). I’m pleased to report that I’ve experienced no noticeable performance hits to my system. Apparently, the programmers at GFI know how to build computer security software that won’t slow down your computer.

VIPRE Includes Enterprise-Level Computer Security Features

TComputer Security That Doesn't Slow Down Your ComputerOne thing I failed to mention in my review last week was a feature I hadn’t known about at the time. VIPRE provides automatic application patching, a feature usually only found in enterprise-level computer security solutions. This is an extremely useful feature to have, since many computer users (even the most cautious and tech-savvy, such as myself) tend to put off installing the latest patches (security fixes) because we’re so wrapped up in other tasks (such as testing out new software).

Though I have my Windows PCs set to automatically download and install the latest patches as soon as they become available, writers of viruses and scripts (programs) take advantage of exploits they find in other popular applications computer users are likely to have installed on their systems. By building in automatic updating of many of the most popular applications VIPRE detects you have installed on your system, GTI Software stands out from the pack of consumer-level anti-virus applications. The program also reminds you to update your software to their latest versions if you haven’t already done so. This proactive approach is comforting, to say the least.

Most consumers have to pay a hefty expense for enterprise-level anti-virus suites in order to take advantage of this feature (and without this feature, many consumers end up paying a hefty expense when their systems become infected because they forgot to update their applications).

Computer Security That Comes at a Fair Price

Computer Security That Doesn't Slow Down Your ComputerAnother thing that I failed to mention last week is the price of the computer security software. One license of VIPRE Internet Security 2013 will set you back $49.99. This is a fair price for everything the program has to offer, but check this out: a license to install the application on up to 10 different PCs costs only $20 more. Now that’s what I call a deal. Many of us have more than one computer system at our disposal, and being able to have all of them protected as thoroughly as this software does for $69.99 is basically unbeatable.

You can even purchase lifetime protection for $299.99, which may sound like a pretty penny if you’re only using two computers, but the cost of losing data due to an infection would cost far more than $300 for most users who rely on their computers. We’re giving away a free 1-year license to VIPRE Internet Security 2013 to a random reader who posts a comment stating why they would use VIPRE as opposed to using nothing at all. So get in on the giveaway and post your comments — you can’t win if you don’t play!

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How LastPass is Handling a Security Breach the Right Way

I’m just as tired as you are of reading about security breaches, data being stolen and hackers sitting smugly behind their screens. Unfortunately, we’re not going to see a dip in the number of these crimes any time soon. The state of security within many companies is frankly deplorable. Corporations we have trusted for years are suddenly finding themselves in the number one spot on everyone’s “list.” Often, though, it’s not the actual breach of information that disturbs us – it’s the way a company handles the problem which gets our knickers in a knot. Just take a look at Sony…

Sony knew there was an issue several days before telling anyone, an oversight which is now causing them much more grief than the actual dilemma of stolen data. Let’s face it: we all know that hackers are out there stealing everything they can get their hands on. We hate them, right? We rant, curse and scream on a daily basis about the prevalence of online theft. But what we loathe even more than the bad guys are the companies who aren’t honest with us – and who aren’t very speedy at telling us they have a problem.

Earlier today, password manager LastPass openly admitted that they had possibly suffered a breach of data – nearly as fast as they discovered it. In order to maintain the safety of their customers, the business quickly disabled master passwords, forcing users to log in via offline mode. Everyone was then prompted to change their master password in order to resume normal operations. This was done as a precaution, folks. Yes, it likely inconvenienced you for a moment or two. However, isn’t taking that step just in case better than finding out later that some idiot now has control of your bank and credit card accounts?

This company absolutely handled the matter the right way. They aren’t even sure at this point that anything was taken at all. They simply found a possible problem, reported it to you immediately and took preventative steps to help you stay secure. What more could you ask for? Please don’t answer that by asking for impenetrable security. That’s never going to happen, y’all.

Nothing is perfect, not even security. The response from the LastPass team is daggone close, though.

Is the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool Necessary?


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Someone recently asked if I felt the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool is actually necessary. It’s a good tool for what it’s designed to do and I don’t see why you would NOT have it on your Windows machines. It’s free, and it’s designed to help keep your computer – and information – safe.

My assistant Kat is a Microsoft MVP in Windows Security, and I’m pretty sure she’d agree with my assessment, as well. This tool checks computers for infections by specific, prevalent malicious software—including Blaster, Sasser, and Mydoom—and helps remove any infection found. When the detection and removal process is complete, the tool displays a report describing the outcome, including which, if any, malicious software was detected and removed.

You can grab the tool via your Windows Updates, or simply download it directly. The version of the tool delivered by Windows Update runs in the background and then reports if an infection is found. To run this tool more than once a month, use the direct download version linked to above.

What security measures do you employ on your various machines?

Does a Mac Need Security Software?


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A chat room visitor asked me if it’s necessary to have an anti-virus program installed on Mac OS X. Most people will tell you that it isn’t needed, but I have a feeling my assistant Kat won’t agree with that assessment.

Guess what? I happen to agree with her. You should run security software on your Mac. Just because there aren’t “many” pieces of malware out there for OS X doesn’t mean there are “none.” There are a few running around the wilds. Nothing is perfect. As more people turn to Mac more vulnerabilities will be released.

If you want to be safe, you want to run something that’s going to keep you clean and free from all digital nasties… not just a virus. Mac OS X can suffer from Spyware, yes. There may not be a lot of it, again, but it is there.

If you’re going to connect to the Internet, you need to do so safely – even on Linux.

What do YOU think?

Microsoft Patch Tuesday to be Largest Ever

Microsoft is already notifying IT managers and the general public that the upcoming “Patch Tuesday” will go down as the largest on record, with a total of seventeen updates being issued… two of them critical updates. They want the word to get out well prior to the drop so that people in corporate environments will have time to plan their patch implementation.

One of December’s patches is rated critical for all versions of Windows and Internet Explorer (IE). Additionally, one security vulnerability that Microsoft will fix Tuesday is a zero-day flaw that affects IE which was discovered just before November’s Patch Tuesday drop. The flaw in IE 6, 7, and 8 could let an attack program completely compromise the user’s system. Microsoft published a Security Advisory at the time that included workarounds for IE 8, and said it was working on a fix for the problem.

Only one of Tuesday’s patches are rated as “moderate” importance. The remainder are either critical or important. Eight of them will require a reboot of the system. The various patches cover security issues within Windows, Office, Internet Explorer, SharePoint and Exchange. Ten of them cover remote code execution, although there are also vulnerabilities that could result in Denial of Service attacks against Windows and Exchange.

This large patch drop is a problem for many companies. Staffing is short at this time of year due to holidays, so there may not be available manpower in order to actually get the bulletins downloaded and installed onto machines. Additionally, several businesses don’t allow patch updates during the last month or two of the year. Companies cannot afford downtime during year-end due to bad patching screwing things up. If the updates out on Tuesday are critical ones to fix security issues, are these companies better off waiting – or taking a chance and patching? What do you think?

Your MacBook Air Can Stay in the Bag in Airport Security Lines

Reports earlier today claimed that the TSA was making a big exception for the new 11″ MacBook Air machines. The rumor was that the devices did not need to be removed from their bags when going through security checkpoints in airports. Several people were angry over this news, wondering why their machine of choice wasn’t given the same treatment.

Is this really a case of being prejudiced or selective in what the TSA wants to require? It certainly seemed that way when the original article was published. However, they apparently didn’t do their homework before blasting the Security Administration. Right on the TSA blog, it was revealed earlier this year that the guidelines had changed.

Electronic items smaller than the standard sized laptop should not need to be removed from your bag or their cases.

There were no special exceptions for the new MacBook Air – nor the iPad. Every device the size of a netbook is treated equally, and left in their protective bag.

Is Your Computer Part of a Botnet in the US?

During the first half of 2010, more than two million computers in the United States alone were found to be part of a botnet. Microsoft performed the research, which showed that Brazil had the second highest level of infections at 550,000. The country hit hardest is South Korea, where 14.6 out of every 1000 machines were found to be enrolled in botnets.

Cliff Evans is the head of security and identity in the UK. “Most people have this idea of a virus and how it used to announce itself,” he said. “Few people know about botnets.” Botnets start when a virus infects a computer, either through spam or an infected web page. The virus puts the Windows machine under the control of a botnet herder. “Once they have control of the machine they have the potential to put any kind of malicious code on there,” said Mr Evans. “It becomes a distributed computing resource they then sell on to others.”

The stats for the report were gathered from more than 600 million machines which are enrolled in Microsoft’s various update services or use its Essentials and Defender security packages. The conclusions of the report show that people need to be much more vigilant. You have to keep yourself well protected against threats of any kind. Even though they’re a pain, you need to apply your Windows updates when they become available, keep programs updated (such as Java) and make sure that you understand security basics.

The Best Antivirus Security Software


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During live calls recently, one person asked my opinion on the best anti-virus program to use. I always defer this question to my assistant, Kat. She is a five-year Microsoft MVP in Consumer Security.

Kat said that if you are looking for a good, free anti-virus program, you want to choose either Avast or Avira (which also works on Linux!). Another excellent free option is Microsoft Security Essentials.

If you are willing to pay for your security, your best option is the Eset Security Suite. Several of the others as quite good, as well. It mostly boils down to personal preference, but Kat says she has never once been steered wrong (or been unhappy) with Eset.

Our new 100 Windows Security Tips eBook (which Kat helped write) is available right now. It is filled with some excellent tips, tricks and advice to keep your computer safe. You’ll also find several special deals and discounts on popular security software.

If you want some further security recommendations, you can visit her blog post about the subject.

What security software do you use?

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CA Offers Savings to Stay Safe Online

Malware is everywhere. You don’t have to download torrents or visit adult sites in order to have your computer infected. Seemingly innocent sites aimed at kids have been known to have drive-by malicious content embedded within their pages. These drive-bys install themselves silenty onto your machine to do their dirty work. There is no warning. There are no popups. You usually never even know they are there. This is why it is crucial to have a solid security foundation. CA Anti-Virus Plus Anti-Spyware is one program which can help you stay safe.

In order to help you keep your information and data safe, CA is offering a fantastic deal on their software until October 5th. If you use coupon code FGS7156 during checkout, you will save 40% off of the normal retail price on CA Anti-Virus Plus Anti-Spyware 2-Year protection for up to 3 PCs.

If that offer doesn’t suit your needs, CA has graciously offered up a few others:

CA has something for everyone, and now is the time to make sure that your information and identity stays safe.

Top 100 Windows PC Security Tips

There are more threats to the security of your computer than I can begin to count. New types of attacks are released on more than a daily basis… you have to be vigilant. You already know to use strong passwords. You also know to be sure and have a good anti-virus program and firewall installed. However, there are many other easy things you can do to help make sure your PC is safe. This is why I have come up with my Top 100 Windows PC Security Tips eBook.

You are free to set your own price for this Gnome Tome, with a suggested minimum of five dollars. Once you have downloaded the .PDF file, you will learn how to fully protect your computer from hackers, viruses, phishing attempts, trojans, worms and much more. Many of these little gems are likely things you didn’t already know how to do… or even that they existed. Much of the information deals with things already in place on your operating system – you just have to know how to use them.

Educate your family about the basics of malware and how to avoid becoming infected — and know where your kids go online.

The above tip may seem to be a no-brainer. You would be surprised to learn how many people simply do not take the time to educate their children and teenagers… or how many teens neglect to educate their parents. The 100 tips and tricks cover everything you need to know – from education to prevention to recovery.

On the last page, you will find several links to discounted security products that we have recommended in the past. We are grateful to those partners for continuing to offer these special prices to our community.

Education is the key to everything – including protection yourself and your information.

Does Your Password Suck?


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The New York Times on Sunday stated that a strong password isn’t the strongest security. We should instead be focused on the malware/keyloggers that invade systems and can steal ANY password, weak or strong. Should we continue our focus on “strong” passwords which some jobs make you change every few months, or should our focus be more on computer security, getting to the root of the problem?

If you have malware or keyloggers on your system, your information will be stolen no matter how strong your password. Instead of focusing so much energy on strong passwords, you need to make sure that you protect your entire computer system. That’s what the NY Times article says to us, at least.

Do you pay much attention to password security, or do you focus your energy on overall computer security?

Lamarr wasn’t able to send us a video last week, since he was worn out from traveling. He wanted to make it up to all of you this week by doing a video today and one on Thursday! Now that is dedication, folks. Thanks, Lamarr, for all of your support.

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IBM Serves Up Malware at Security Conference

Over the past week, heavy hitters in the computer security field attended the AusCERT conference in Australia. This prestigious conference brings together some of the most important companies and innovations in computer security – and the people who use the services and products out in the field every day. This is serious business, folks, and it’s likely a good idea for anyone attending to have their game face on.

Instead of a game face, IBM walked away with egg plastered all over their mugs. While a company representative was on stage lecturing attendees about the importance of protecting against malware, their co-workers were handing out malware-ridden USB sticks at a vendor table in the hallway.

IBM was in attendance to show off their dominance and dedication to security. A screw-up of this magnitude is going to put their future credibility in that department on the line. Those who had attended the conference were told about the problem in a warning email this afternoon, sent by IBM Australia chief technologist Glenn Wightwick. “Unfortunately we have discovered that some of these USB keys contained malware and we suspect that all USB keys may be affected. The malware is detected by the majority of current Anti Virus products [as at 20/05/2010] and been known since 2008. The malware is known by a number of names and is contained in the setup.exe and autorun.ini files. It is spread when the infected USB device is inserted into a Microsoft Windows workstation or server whereby the setup.exe and autorun.ini files run automatically.”

If someone has already inserted the USB drive into their machine, they are pretty much S.O.L. Hopefully they had an anti-virus product installed and updated which caught it. If not, they’re going to have to manually fix this little bugger. Fix instructions in the email show someone how to clean the files, and then suggests that a full backup and operating system restore should be done. Yes… it’s that important.

It is beyond my comprehension how this could possibly have happened. If you are a leader in the field attending a conference full of other leaders… aren’t you going to make damn sure that everything is in proper working order? Did no one think to test these? This only came to light after one conference-goer went home and popped the device into his computer… becoming infected, of course. The damage control on this is going to be a mess.

Yet another lesson in why you have to protect your machines. It does not matter how “smart” you are when you are online. You can – and likely will, at some point – become infected.

How Private is Facebook?


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Are you leaving Facebook? With all of the concern over privacy lately, many people are choosing to close their accounts. Others are educating themselves with the changes Facebook has made and making the best choices for their profile pages. Still more people are clueless… they don’t realize what is being shared and with whom. They have no idea how to fix this problem once they do learn of it. They just keep going along with their heads in the sand, and hope for the best. This isn’t the way things should be, folks. You shouldn’t have to be so afraid of what the wrong person might see. The fact is, if you put something online then someone will see it. I have come up with the perfect two-step plan to help solve this problem.

Step 1: STOP SHARING SHIT ONLINE THAT YOU DON’T WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW.

Step 2: Repeat step 1.

It’s that simple, really. I know you think it’s cool to say nasty thing online when you’re a teenager. I know that it’s hilarious when you trash someone on your Facebook page or Twitter account. After all, no one is going to see it, right? Think about this, though… you’re 22 years old, and you just graduated college. You’re looking for the perfect job. However, there are firms out there who make a LOT of money to investigate you – including your online presence. Even when you delete that bad tweet or the Facebook comment you regret, it’s still there somewhere. The damage will have been done. Someone will have been hurt by what you said, or another person will have archived a screenshot of it. It can – and often will – come back to bite you in the ass.

As I already said, many people are confused about Facebook’s privacy changes. The kids on the site are the ones who concern me the most. Many of them truly don’t have a clue. Case in point: my assistant Kat heard about a friend’s teenage daughter who had gotten into trouble with a group of her friends for something they had done at school. Kat logged into Facebook, and went to the girl’s Facebook page, forgetting that they aren’t “friends.” Low and behold, she could read everything on the child’s Wall anyway. What she saw astounded her… there were the other girls who had been caught… posting away on her Wall. One girl bragged about how she is not in trouble with her parents because of the elaborate lies she came up with. True story, folks. And by the way? That girl’s parents now know exactly what their sweet little princess had done, thanks to a screenshot and an email.

Just because you’re sitting in the privacy of your own home doesn’t mean that things you share online won’t be seen by people you don’t want to see them. You could stay offline, certainly. You could quit Facebook if you wanted. Or, you could be just a tad more selective as to what you share. There is such a thing as over-sharing. Do you really think that you’ll be the same person in ten or twenty years that you are now?

The gestures you make online… just assume the world will see them. This isn’t really Facebook’s problem. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t change their policies. I’m saying that at the end of the day, the burden for keeping your information private lies on your own shoulders. You are the one ultimately responsible for what others do – and don’t – see.

Don’t push the responsibility for your privacy onto anyone else. Period. End of story.

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How to Protect Your Privacy Online

Everyone is talking about privacy these days, and no one is happy with the state of things… especially when it comes to Facebook. I told you yesterday on Twitter: There are only two steps you need to follow in order to protect your privacy.

  • Step 1 – STOP SHARING SHIT YOU DON’T WANT THE WORLD TO DISCOVER.
  • Step 2 – See Step 1.

It really is that simple, folks. If you don’t want everyone, their brother and their mother to know something about you, why the hell are you posting it online to begin with? How many of the people who are screaming about having their privacy invaded are the ones who don’t want their bosses (or significant others) to see the pictures from their drunken night in Cancun? If you have secrets you don’t want the rest of civilization to discover, then you should keep that junk to yourself.

How often have you said something on Twitter or Facebook, only to regret it later? Perhaps your boss read your rant about work last week. Or maybe your mom stumbled across something you flippantly tweeted regarding the upcoming family reunion. Whatever the case may be, I have to repeat this again: If you don’t want everyone to know something, then sit down and close your pie hole. That may sound harsh, but apparently harsh is what it takes to get through to some people. There is no undo button on the Internet.

It was interesting to read some of the feedback on my FriendFeed page about this:

In other words, trust no company, trust no person. – Akiva Moskovitz

Side Bar: If you are going to share shit, make sure you know who can see it and take full advantage of any privacy tools. If you can’t lock it down to your liking, see somewhere you can and share there. Failing that, see Step 1. Never assume, it makes an ASS out of U and ME – Johnny Worthington

I’ve been saying this for years – Jesse Stay

Not that what I say matters – Jesse Stay

Or: Even vaults and safety deposit boxes can be broken into. It’s about risk and trust… and know each of them – Johnny Worthington

It’s not about the Sharing. It’s about the Basic Personal Info. – Christopher Galtenberg

If you don’t want Basic Personal Info shared online, don’t put it there. Again, it’s about risk. There is risk in leaving your credit card statements sitting in your letterbox or leaving your wallet on a counter for more that a sec. Risk Assessment. – Johnny Worthington

If the internet can’t deal with personal private data, it won’t work. I thought you felt this way too, JW. – Christopher Galtenberg

Christopher, the phone company can’t guarantee 100% security on calls (fixed lines or cellular), the mail can be tampered with, offices can be bugged, your baggage is scanned at the airport and your wallet can be stolen. No system, physical or digital, is 100% secure. China hacked Gmail. Shit, courier pigeons can be shot down. Since EVERYTHING is <100%, each person must undertake a risk assessment when sharing critical data. If you must have 100%, then a communication channel that is run by a series of commercial entities and less than stellar governments probably isn’t for you. That doesn’t mean it’s 0% secure (probably more like 90-95% secure) but looking for a perfect solution is futile unless you control every point, A to B. – Johnny Worthington

By your logic, JW, everything is actually safe (equally trustworthy, relatively) – Christopher Galtenberg

Not exactly. I trust my bank more than I do Facebook or Gmail… but I don’t assume my bank is just 100% safe. Levels of trust. I have performed risk assessments on each online entity and determined what I would feel comfortable about disclosing. – Johnny Worthington

Anything can be hacked. Anything can leak. Trust is a risk and some levels adjust over time, usually down to lower levels. – manielse (Mark Nielsen)

Back to the original post: that’s how I’ve always treated the Internet. Those MySpace/Facebook kiddies who have to show the whole world the most embarrassing stuff they do always appalled me. I’ve always been careful what I share online, even if I sometimes use my blogs or Twitter as a soapbox. – Dennis Jernberg

Indeed! *thinks back to the DYSP video* – Johnny Worthington

@Chris: And that, of course, is why we have to be so careful. Forethought… – Dennis Jernberg

What are your thoughts regarding privacy online? What measures do you take to make sure your information – and life – is secure?

SUPERAntiSpyware Educational License Special

In the past, we’ve been fortunate to offer discounts on SUPERAntiSpyware to our readers, and the response has always been great. SAS is an excellent product, one which Kat highly recommends. Today I learned that they are offering a very special license for educational institutions, and I wanted to make sure that it is passed along to you. If you are a teacher or administrator, you’re going to want to check this out. If you’re a student, why not show this post to your principal?

From now through August 1, 2010, all SUPERAntiSpyware multi-user licenses sold to educational clients will be upgraded to a lifetime subscription with no renewal fees at no additional charge. “Economic hardship and budget cuts are an everyday reality for school systems at all levels,” said Nick Skrepetos, founder of SUPERAntiSpyware.com. “We highly value the role that education plays in communities worldwide, and we want to support schools in their efforts to provide quality education while balancing their tight and shrinking budgets. Managing high-priced software renewal fees is simply not practical for schools in today’s economic climate. We want to help.”

Additionally, SUPERAntiSpyware will include one Technician’s License for its new portable scanner with each educational license at no additional cost. The portable scanner harnesses the same powerful anti-spyware engine as the Professional Edition of SUPERAntiSpyware and references a spyware definition database that is updated at least once per day.

To take part in this amazing offer, simply send them an email. The danger of malware infections pose a huge threat to the educational system, one which could potentially cost millions of dollars to eradicate. Without proper protection, schools are at risk that can not only rob them of instructional time, but may also require them to pay expensive repair bills.