Could my external backup drive be infected by a virus?

Keith from Mountain View, CA

Episode 1325

Keith got bit by a computer virus and it corrupted the Master Boot Record. Leo says that's pretty scary because even if he wiped his hard drive and started over, the virus may still be there. Can the virus infect an external USB drive? Leo says no, unless he made it bootable. The irony is, we don't use Master Boot Records anymore -- they're a holdover from a bygone era. He'll want to be sure all his apps are up to date. Browsers, readers, Windows, the works. He can keep his antivirus updated too. Keith should still remember his best defense is his own online behavior.

What's a good antivirus for Windows 7?

David from Burbank, CA

Episode 1324

David is trying to find an antivirus for Windows 7. Leo says that Microsoft's own Security Essentials (or Defender, depending on the version) is sufficient, and it's free. The problem is that viruses are usually coming out so fast (called zero day exploits) that you can get infected before the AntiVirus finds it and removes it. Then the viruses are often attached to a system file and it renders the computer unusable. Even security experts put antivirus low on the list of things to do to prevent infection.

Why do I get a popup to open a file?

Tim from LaHabra, CA

Episode 1319

Tim has a message popping up that asks which app to open a file with. It happens automatically and he doesn't know what file it is. Leo says that's disconcerting. Leo suspects AdWare or worse! There's something on his system that is running in the background and the antivirus can't kill it. He'll have to figure out what the app is that's starting up. He'll have to expect that his system has been compromised, though, and the only real way to be sure he's gotten rid of the malware is to backup his data, wipe his hard drive, and reinstall Windows.

Is Webroot a good antivirus?

Rich from Placerville, CA

Episode 1282

Rich wants to know if Webroot is a good antivirus utility. Leo says that Webroot is good, and they're a sponsor. They offer additional protections because they're cloud based. But he really doesn't need it. Windows has its own antivirus called Defender that's quite good. Also, the state of malware is such that most occur as 'zero day exploits' which an antivirus can't catch. But Webroot will protect him for the most part. He should remember that his number one defense is his online behavior.

Why doesn't my antivirus work with Windows 10?

Steve from Yucaipa, CA

Episode 1262

Steve got a copy of Sophos antivirus, but it suddenly stopped working after installing Windows 10. Leo says that's because sometimes security software can cause problems with upgrading, and that sounds like what happened. Leo also says that the version of antivirus may also be the issue here. But Leo says that times have changed and he doesn't really recommend antivirus software anymore. Most security experts don't use them. Here are some tips for staying secure online:

Top Security Tips Prioritized by Regular Users Vs. the Experts

Episode 1205

A recent study done by Google on its security blog comparing the security practices of regular users versus the security experts. Regular users said antivirus topped their list of security priorities, followed by using strong passwords, changing passwords frequently, only visiting websites they know, and not sharing personal information.

Security experts' say installing software updates is the number 1 priority, followed by using unique passwords, use two-factor authentication where its available, use strong passwords, and use a password manager.

Microsoft's Antivirus Software Now Removes the ASK Toolbar

Episode 1201

Calling it a "high threat to its computer security," Microsoft's antivirus software will now scan for and remove the ASK toolbar, should you get stuck with it. In other news, Yahoo has entered into an exclusive agreement with Oracle to make Yahoo the default browser for any computer that has Java installed. Leo calls that Malware since users are fooled into installing it. Even worse is that Java is a security flaw as well. Yahoo's CEO Melissa Meyer should know better.