Is My Antivirus Software Working?

Is My Antivirus Software Working?

The StopSign Support staff fields a lot of different calls every day, and a common question heard by our techs is “How can I tell if my antivirus software is working?“. With hundreds of new viruses and other kinds of malware being written or released every day, it’s natural to suspect that your antivirus software isn’t up to snuff if you don’t see it catching anything.

Like most antivirus vendors, the StopSign Research lab keeps a closed-off network of computers (i.e. not connected to the Internet or our internal networks) with live viruses to test our software before it goes out to our members. For us it’s easy to run our antivirus software against live viruses in our “snakepit” of malware safely because we have a closed environment to test the StopSign Threat Scanner, but that’s not the case for everyone.

Luckily the European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research provides, free of charge, the EICAR Standard Anti-Virus Test File as a tool to test antivirus software using different test files to see if your scanner takes the bait. The EICAR anti-malware test file is a safe (i.e. not truly infected; it only contains patterns and not any actual virus code), publically available anti-malware test file which contains code that should trigger detections by antivirus and/or anti-malware software.

Testing your antivirus software is as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Download:

    Go to EICAR’s web site and download an anti-malware test file on to your computer (and be sure to note where you downloaded it to). There are several versions of the test file available if you scroll to the bottom of the page. Feel free to choose any (or all) of them.

  2. Scan:

    Using your antivirus software (we, of course, recommend StopSign Internet Security software), scan the anti-malware test file you downloaded.

  3. Review:

    When your security software is finished, it should have detected any of the anti-malware test files you downloaded as infected.

If for some reason your antivirus software doesn’t pick up the “infection” it could just mean it’s time to update your software with the latest anti-malware definitions. Update your security software and try it again, and if it still doesn’t pick up the EICAR anti-malware test file then contact your security software vendor to see if there is a problem.

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.

Sure-Fire Ways to Keep Spyware Away.

Sure-Fire Ways to Keep Spyware Away.

Steering clear of spyware can be a difficult thing to do, especially with all the clicking you have to do just to get the information you’re looking for. A single-click here, a double-click there, lather-rinse-repeat this process for a few months and generously sprinkle that time with a few instances of drive-by downloads and a couple of missed opt-ins and before you know it your once speedy computer is slower than molasses in January.

Spyware happens, but there are things you can do to help stem the flow of it on your computer. By making a few easy-to-adopt changes to the way you browse the Internet and taking an extra minute before you download something, the tips we’ve compiled below will help you stay spyware-free.

  1. Watch where you’re browsing:

    Spyware (and malware in general) tends to get on your computer from a shady source. Staying away from untrusted or unknown websites is an easy way to fight spyware. If you need to download updates or specific software packages your best bet is to get it directly from the manufacturer’s website (i.e. go to for Adobe Acrobat updates). If you’re looking for software in general (i.e. you’re looking for DVD burning software but don’t know of a specific maker) then try a major download site like or

  2. Download with caution:

    A popular tactic with spammers is to send you to a fake website that looks like a legitimate one. Spyware makers have taken that lead and run with it for their own purposes. Stay one step ahead of them both by making sure you’re looking at, and downloading from, the site you’re actually supposed to be on. You can learn more about detecting fake websites in one of our previous blog posts.

  3. Read the Fine Print:

    There are 2 common places to look for the tell-tale signs of spyware on a website you aren’t familiar with:

    1. The download or info page:

      Some software or websites, by their very nature, need to contact the mothership every now and again. Anonymous usage statistics, passing along pertinent information such as items in a shopping cart before you purchase, and things of that nature are part and parcel of getting things done online. What you don’t want, however, is to have things like your social security number, credit card, or email address passed around without it being absolutely necessary. Entering your Visa number in a shopping cart is one thing, but there’s no real reason for that cart to ask for your SSN. Keep an eye out for oddities like that when you’re browsing, and make sure what they’re asking for makes sense.

    2. The EULA:

      “What’s a EULA”, you ask? A EULA is an acronym for “End User License Agreement”. It’s where all the technical and legal mumbo-jumbo is put in (or before) a download (or install). Most people consider reading the EULA a nuisance and click on “yes” without having read a word. Keep in mind that acceptance of the EULA is a legal agreement you’re entering into with a software vendor, and if you don’t read it you won’t know what you’re agreeing to. Give a EULA the once-over before you install anything and make sure that everything is on the up-and-up.

  4. Get protected, stay protected:

    Your antivirus software, in all likelihood, won’t do anything for you about spyware. It’ll work viruses all day long, but spyware is a different beast, and you need special antispyware software to deal with it. To make sure you’re completely protected you need to make sure your computer is protected with both antivirus and antispyware software. The one-two punch of antivirus and antispyware software will go a long way in keeping your computer as free from infection as possible.

Pretty simple stuff, actually. A lot of it is common sense, but keeping those things in mind when you’re browsing the Internet will help keep your computer protected from spyware.

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.

Persistent Virus or Spyware? Get a Custom Cure™!

There’s a dirty little secret in the field of computer security: no antivirus or spyware product can detect or clean everything. It’s true. StopSign is a great product and we’re constantly upgrading our antivirus and antispyware engines to provide the absolute best protection for our members; but there is no security product on the market that can deal with every single infection, especially emerging or previously unknown vulnerabilities, called zero day attacks. Our solution to this problem is a Custom Cure™ that our Support Staff creates on an individual basis for any active member who needs one.

We’ll often hear “Well so and so’s product removed such and such infection, why didn’t StopSign?” Honestly, we’re glad when we hear that, because that means our members are talking to us instead of assuming the worst, and then we can tell anyone experiencing this problem about our very unique Custom Cure™ service that addresses anything we might miss during a scan. Once we know about your problem, our support techs will get some information about your infection and then create a fix that’s customized for your particular needs.

Just like all of our US-based support, a Custom Cure™ is part of your StopSign membership and is provided at no additional charge! That’s right… all of our technical support is absolutely free to our members. We don’t charge you for Custom Cure’s™, phone calls, emails, or online chats with our Support Staff.

If you’re an active StopSign member and come across a particularly nasty virus or spyware infection that just keeps sticking around, please contact our Support Staff and submit a support ticket online so we can begin to walk you through the entire process and get your machine clean.

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2009.

This month, October 2009, marks the 6th anniversary of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) in the United States, and President Obama has issued a presidential proclamation regarding this event. The use of technology has been a staple of the current administration’s public discussions, and online security concerns have been a part of the conversation from the beginning. President Obama spoke about the the need for securing the US cyber infrastructure during a speech in May of this year, noting:

America’s economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity.

Clearly internet security will continue to be an important topic for American families, businesses, and government networks now and in the future. As part of the information campaign surrounding National Cyber Security Awareness Month, the Department of Homeland Security website lists 3 core practices they recommend, which include topics we discussed in our blog post regarding the basics of Internet security:

  • Install antivirus and antispyware programs and keep them up to date,
  • Install a firewall and keep it properly configured, and
  • Regularly install updates for your computer’s operating system.

Special Offer: During National Cyber Security Awareness Month we are offering our StopSign Internet Security software (which includes antivirus, antispyware, and an available firewall) at a discount of 20% off with the coupon code “NCSAM” at our shopping cart (The site will open in a new window.) Please note that the discount will not be applied to the StopSign CD box.

If you don’t see the coupon entry form right away, click on the coupon code link in “Step 2” on the cart to enter your coupon code before you order!


There are many events planned for National Cyber Security Awareness Month on a national as well as a state level, and we encourage you to attend and/or view them online and use that information as a base to evaluate your current cyber security level and update if necessary. For more information on National Cyber Security Awareness Month or government recommendations on cyber security, please visit

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.

The Need for Internet Security Software.

Why do I need Internet security software?

In a world where nearly 25% of the world’s population actively uses the Internet (including over 74% of North America), it shouldn’t even be a question that you need to protect yourself from online predators with a suite of Internet security software. In order to illustrate why, we’ve come up with a few examples. This article touches on a few key areas that can be easily remedied with software so that you don’t even have to think about what you need to do to stay safe: you’re just protected.

Viruses, spyware, and hackers, oh my!

Facts are facts: there are a lot of bad people out there who like to write computer viruses, worms, rootkits, and all manner of malware. Computer viruses have plagued users and administrators since as early as 1971, and there’s no sign of a slow down.

Antispyware and antivirus software are key components to keeping unwanted spyware and problem-causing viruses off of your computer and/or network. Using automated threat scanning, antispyware and antivirus software seek and destroy anything that isn’t welcome, which leaves you free to run your computer worry-free.

Don’t you want to keep your private data private?

According to the Social Security Administration, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America, making it a very real, very serious problem. Many of the methods used to steal personal information are offline, but since spyware tracks your computer usage and can even be written to send data back “home” to the person or group who created the spyware in the first place, making a leap to the digital world isn’t that difficult for crooks.

In the current world economy hackers and crackers around the globe are feeling a pinch in their pocketbooks just like everybody else, so they are devising crafty new ways to separate you from your private, personal information and your hard-earned money. If you do your taxes on your computer, keep a file with passwords stored on it, or have anything else that may contain sensitive information, it is completely possible that a spyware application can find or sniff out that information and relay it to the hacker.

But what if I’ve never had a virus (or spyware, etc.) before?

Unfortunately the reality is that even if you’ve never had to deal with malware in the past, the longer you use your computer and the Internet it’s only a matter of time before you become infected with a virus or some spyware if you are running your computer without some kind of protection. Why take chances when there’s a simple, safe, and inexpensive solution?

It’s better to be safe than sorry, so we recommend that you install, use, and keep updated, an internet security software package like our own (cue the shameless plug) StopSign Internet Security software.

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.

Basics of Internet Security.

Basics of Internet Security.

With over 239 million web sites on the Internet it’s no surprise that Internet security is a hot topic. While it’s virtually impossible to nail down a solid number, it’s safe to say that there are millions of computer viruses, spyware applications, and assorted malware out there that can infect your computer. Some of that malware is merely an annoyance and some of it can do real damage. That’s where basic Internet security comes into play. You can protect yourself with a few simple tools and set them up to automatically protect you 24/7/365.

We’ve compiled a list of 3 pieces of software that most Internet security experts should agree are the core components of basic Internet security for your computer.


A firewall is a piece of software or a device that sits between your computer and the Internet and blocks and/or filters all of the traffic before it gets into your system. In the home computing world, a firewall is more often than not software. At it’s heart, a firewall only allows certain kinds of traffic or requests to get through, and most modern firewalls allow you to customize what kind of traffic is accessible, such as email and web surfing.

Installing and configuring a firewall is is a great first-line defense against hackers trying to remotely access your computer. Once the bad guys have a foothold on your computer there’s not telling what they might do. Keep in mind, however, that a misconfigured firewall can be just as bad as not having one, so it’s best to either carefully read the firewall’s instructions or allow the default configuration to be set up by the firewall itself.


Detection, protection and deletion of malware such as computer worms, computer viruses, etc. are the bread and butter of antivirus software. Using a variety of virus detection techniques, antivirus software secures your emails, instant messages, and web browsers.

With the sheer number of viruses that are written and released every day, much less every year, it’s easy to see why you need antivirus software installed on your computer. Just be sure to stay updated with new patches, virus definitions, etc. otherwise you might leave yourself open to malware.


Spyware is generally considered to be any piece of software that is installed on your computer (usually without your permission) that tracks your computer usage, your browsing habits, and may even collect your personal information. Like it’s name implies, spyware snoops on what you do on your computer and sends that information back to the folks who wrote the spyware.

Think about all of the sensitive data on your computer (tax information, social security numbers, pictures of your kids, etc.) and all the different web sites that you visit. Now imagine if a complete stranger has access to all of that information and you have no idea they are snooping on you. Without antispyware software installed that’s a very real possibility, and you are leaving yourself open to potential computer infections.

In Closing…

There are bad guys out there who know that there are still plenty of people who aren’t protecting their computers. Keep your family’s information safe on your computer with a firewall, antivirus, and anti-spyware software.

Image courtesy of 49889874@N05

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.