DNS-Changer – how to test your computer

There appears to have been an increase in attacks on private computers in recent weeks, and in some cases even a good virus scanner has not been able to block them.  Yesterday we learnt about a new threat called “DNS-Changer”.  This is what you need to know:

DNS is short for “Domain Name System” and is like a telephone directory for the internet.  When you visit a website, the address of that site is turned into the numeric address – the IP address – by a DNS server.  Your computer then uses the number to contact the site.  Cymeradwyo, for example, runs on IP address

The DNS servers for computers in private households are usually run by the internet providers such as T-Online.

But what would happen if instead of asking your internet provider for the IP address, your computer asked a different DNS server?  If this server gave and incorrect answer, the computer would pull up the wrong page.  Now if that page look different to the one you were expecting, then you would notice.  But what if it looks identical?

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Will you be installing Microsoft’s anti-virus software?

You might at least be considering it after reading the latest announcement that Microsoft made this week.  After all, most virus scanners at the moment cost money, and if you combined them with a firewall they become even more expensive.

I have probably used nearly all of the major virus scanners in my time.  My first experience was with a scanner from McAfee that ran under DOS.  It must have been around 1990 and I remember removing the Jerusalem virus with it – from a 60MB (yes, MB!) hard drive.

Later I moved on to Norton (later Symantec) Antivirus, and even the Internet Security versions.  A number of my employers used their corporate versions as well.

But one year I had trouble installing the annual update, and so then I discovered F-Secure.   I stayed with them for about a year, until I finally ended up with Avira’s Antivir.  Here I have used the free version (privately), the premium version (which scans e-mails and websites) and the professional version (for my business computers).  I still find it the best virus scanner out there at the moment.

Other employers have used Trend Micro and McAfee (for Windows), whilst I have customers that use Kaspersky and G-Data solutions.  So you can see that there are a number of solutions out there, and I have experience with most of them.

Let’s turn now to Microsoft.  For the last couple of years there has been a programme out there called OneCare – Microsoft’s security package.  I have yet to see this running on any PC that I have come into contact with, not even at any of the trade shows that I go to.

So what will happen when they release their free anti-virus solution?  Of course, various computer publications will test it and then we will know fairly quickly how good it is.  But even if it doesn’t recognise absolutely everything, will users still be prepared to pay for a better scanner if they can have it for nothing?

It will be interesting to see if it comes pre-installed new computers.  If it does, then I am sure that Microsoft will have the same problems in Europe as they did with the pre-installed Windows Media Player.  Maybe they will have to pay another fine to the EU and produce a version without the pre-installation, but that doesn’t mean that user won’t still see it as a cheap alternative and use it anyway.

Although I can have Microsoft’s Windows operating system without the Media Player (so-called “Windows N”), I have seen very few computers that do not have it installed.  But the number of installations of other products such as QuickTime, RealPlayer, WinAmp, MusicMatch etc. are – in my opinion – declining.

Are the current anti-virus products doomed to suffer the same fate?

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