My cyber is now protected. But against what?

As much as I like Avast Antivirus, and after some getting used to I’m also starting to like Avast SafeZone browser (with a few horrid exceptions, like the handling of shortcuts and colors, and the annoying fact that when you launch one instance of the browser it launches 8 separate processes)

What I don’t like is not being informed in any way when new features affect the operating system. When SafeZone was added that was annoying, but it was “just” another browser, like so many other adware programs that tries to install their own plugins, addons, and whatnots.

But installing a Windows service is quite another thing, in my eyes. And when I’m not even sure why it’s being done, for what purpose, and when it’s actually protecting me (or what it’s protecting) then I get a bit more annoyed. And then I try to find out where the settings are, and how to deactivate the plugin.

avast-ids

So far I haven’t found its settings, and it’s not listed as an installed component within the Avast settings user interface, and neither is it listed among the Windows installed software, so it must be handled as a part of the main Avast installation itself, but I’ll get there in the end I hope.

And if I don’t I’ll just consider uninstalling Avast and go back to basic Windows Defender. It wouldn’t be the first time.

NoScript block for Handelsbanken BankID

I had a repeat this weekend of the same issue as last week, that it worked perfectly fine to sign in to my bank, Handelsbanken, using mobile BankID, but approving new payments or transfers did not work, the site would just lock up and not process the approval for the payment.

After some help from Handelsbanken tech support we narrowed it down to the plugins in Firefox, and with some additional testing I found out it’s NoScript (again) which is this time blocking the payment approvals. Previously it has been blocking my internal sites on http://192.168.x.x local subnet, and blocking referrals to Google Fonts, to name the most recent.

I’m not yet sure what I will do here, I don’t want to remove NoScript, but on the other hand it is getting somewhat random what works from day to day, and when it gets to nitty gritty details such as BankID-login working but BankID-signing not working it becomes rather difficult to keep the program without adding a secondary browser for entirely trusted sites, such as banks.

This last option is incidentally suggested by Avast every time I login, to use their SafeZone browser, but I’m not sure why it needs to open 12 parallell processes each time I try to login, so I’m not yet ready to switch to it.

And switching to IE, as suggested by tech support, does work, but the point of using Firefox with NoScript was to make things more secure. NoScript description states that

“It allows JavaScript, Java and other executable content to run only from trusted domains of your choice, e.g. your home-banking site…”

However, things keep getting broken and fixes breaks new things. If I could get to a stable version I could try to disable automatic updates entirely for it. But so far there’s no stable version in sight. Maybe I should try Edge?

Webbrowser homepage changes

Yesterday I was notified by Avast there was an (“critical”, or just “important”, I don’t recall?) upgrade to Skype available and whether I wanted to install it. The installation didn’t work, so I initiated it directly from within Skype instead which worked well.

During the installation Skype tries to change my webbrowsers homepage to MSN, I’m quite certain that I want to keep my personal homepage thank you…

After installation nothing more happened, until today, when starting the computer I was met by an alert from Avast that I was running an unsafe plugin, Skype, with poor reputation, and whether I wanted to remove it.

That sounded fine with me since I don’t use the web plugin anyway, but when asked by Avast that if I wanted to remove the plugin I also needed to change my webbrowser homepage I opted out and disabled the plugin by myself.

Sometimes all these popups are just too much! And I’m still spending way too much time accepting upgrades and fixing failing upgrades…

Avast SafeZone, autoinstallation without consent

I had been reading news during the evening, in Firefox as usual. And when I closed it I noticed a new icon had appeared on my desktop, for an Avast SafeZone Browser.

Now, what’s this?

Updates and signatures, of course, scanner engines, restarts, fine, but I’m not entirely sure I like the idea of Avast installing completely new features like entire webbrowsers without asking for my consent or even telling me in the first place. It reminds me too much of the first time https-certificate insertion appeared and replaced all my banking certificates with Avast proxy certificates, (which led me to try out Panda instead).

Apparently I’m back with using Avast, and apparently again I’m being surprised. In more than one way though, as initially I considered just uninstalling the SafeZone Browser, but then decided to give it a quick test to see how it behaved, and got quite surprised there too.

Facebook is simply lightning fast, I can’t recall it ever having been this fast, and clean. And the same goes for several other sites as well. like Twitter, some newspapers and so on. And after some looking I did actually find my imported bookmarks, so at a first glance things seem quite smooth. (Except it uses the wrong search engine by default. that setting could have been imported as well).

But there are the plugins for Firefox, maybe not the end of the world, but I like them. Especially the XMarks sync for bookmarks, because there’s really more to bookmarks than importing them. I want to be able to switch browsers, when a site requires it for some reason, and I don’t want to import bookmarks. I want them synced, between all my browsers and all my devices. So until XMarks becomes available for the Avast browser, I’m sorry but it won’t be enough, for me. The others are mostly built-in, except HTTPFox, which is nice to have but not crucial, but XMarks is a must.

I guess I’ll keep it for testing for a few more days, but I don’t appreciate not getting told when new software is installed on my computers. And first impressions last.

Now uninstalling Java

I finally got a good reason to uninstall Java, rather than just accepting the security updates and installing a new version.

By accident I missed the fine print and didn’t remove that annoying checkbox that allowed Java to install some toolbar into my browsers, both IE and Firefox were quickly infected, and the antivirus program did not respond or think this worth taking action on.

So I had to spend half an hour cleaning out Yahoo-extensions from almost everywhere on the computer: in IE, in Firefox, in Windows Programs, on the disk itself, since uninstallation obviously wasn’t enough to get rid of everything completely.

That kind of did it, I’m not really sure if anything will break due to this, but I’m now removing Java permanently.

Problems with Panda

I’ve not used Panda antivirus for more than 3 days myself and then I’m met with this piece in the news informing me not to reboot since that may delete crucial systemfiles.

Got me a little scared for a while there, especially since I read the news on the phone, as I had just rebooted the computer due to the newly released Microsoft security updates. Luckily everything went well, but I’ve lost a bit of confidence in Panda and will evaluate whether I should maybe go back to Avast again.

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Going Panda

I’ve started replacing my home installations of Avast with Panda AV.

  • Panda has received higher ratings and better reviews in for example PCMag.
  • Avast has started pushing too many suggestions to upgrade from free to premium, all the popups confuses the kids and I’m hoping Panda will have less of this.
  • I’ve been unable to remove the Avast https certificate which goes into every https-based site I visit. I want to see which certificate is actually used by the site.

On the other hand, this does have a big drawback in that Panda does not seem to have the outdated software version checker which was so nice a feature in Avast, so I’ll see how long this experiment works.