Security Q&As

Security Q&As

Maintaining a secure computer network is a top priority. Learn how to deal with some common security pitfalls

Problem: Your email inbox is inundated with hundreds of failed delivery notices.

Solution: This usually means that your password has been passed on to spammers who are using your account to send messages. As you can still send and receive mail with this account, you should change the password immediately. This usually involves logging into your email account through your web browser. Choose something that's difficult to guess or break, such as a combination of letters and numbers. If you use the same password for other accounts these could also be affected, so change the passwords for all your accounts. To avoid this happening again, try a free password manager like Lastpass, which uses a single, master password to protect all your passwords. It can even generate secure, random passwords, which are harder for hackers to crack.

Use a free tool like Lastpass to generate random, secure passwords

Problem: Windows Defender gets switched off when you install another security program.

Solution: This is nothing to worry about. The other security program offers the same type of protection as Windows Defender (anti-spyware ) and is disabling it to prevent a conflict occurring, which could result in your PC being a bit sluggish or unstable.

Problem: You've got some sensitive documents or files that you want to securely delete from your computer.

Solution: When files are deleted, parts of them remain until the space they occupy is overwritten by other data. This is normal behaviour as it speeds up the performance of your computer, but it does pose a problem if you want to ensure a particular file has been wiped from existence. You can securely delete individual files and folders, or wipe your free space (so previously deleted files can’t be recovered) with a free program called Eraser. It’s easy to use, but remember that once you’ve deleted a file using this, it’s gone forever.

Set up Eraser to periodically wipe sensitive data from your computer’s drives

Problem: You get a security alert from a security program you don’t recognise.

Solution: You’ll see a pop-up message appear from nowhere, claiming to be from a security program you don't remember installing, such as Vista Anti-Spyware 2011 or System Tool. It’ll be worded in a way that's meant to scare you into registering or buying the product, but clicking 'No' has no effect. The alert (which usually claims your computer is infected) is fake, but its existence confirms a software infection. Many infections can be removed by installing the free version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware from here. If you’re blocked from doing so, restart in Safe mode (choose the 'With Networking' option, if it exists) and install it from there. If connected, update the program and run a full scan. It will detect the infection and remove it for you. Make sure you reboot and run another scan to check the infection has gone.

Use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware to root out suspicious programs

Problem: You’re trying to switch security products, but your new product claims the old product is still installed, despite the fact that you’ve uninstalled it.

Solution: Like many programs, security software isn’t always very thorough when it comes to removing itself. It often leaves traces that the new program spots and thinks is evidence that the program is still installed. The solution is to remove those leftover traces from your computer. You may find specific tools for your old product on its website, such as AVG Remover and Norton Removal Tool. Alternatively, AppRemover works with a wide range of products. If yours isn’t detected after running the program, check the Supported Applications section of the website.

AppRemover can detect and remove all traces of a wide number of security programs

Problem: You keep getting prompted to install the same Windows update over and over again.

Solution: Sometimes updates only get partially installed, or fail to install for one reason or another, resulting in a continuous prompt to install new updates. Restart your computer, then tap [F8] to bring up the boot menu and choose 'Safe Mode with Networking'. Once logged into Windows, open your web browser and go to Type in the KB number of the update and save the file to your hard drive. Double-click this to install the file, then restart and hopefully the error message will have gone.