NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, July 2007
Panda Offers New Free Comprehensive Online Security Scans
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

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It may be surprising, and almost unbelievable, but recent studies indicate that about 60% of all personal computers with active antivirus software contain some types of viruses, spyware, Trojans, or other forms of malware. For computers without current or active antivirus software, the number of infected computers increases to almost 73%. The most common threats currently infecting our computers is “Adware” which infects about 37% of computers, hacking tools which infect about 36% of computers, Trojans (27%), spyware (13%), and worms which infect about 7% of computers. Fortunately, there is a newly released free service that can detect and neutralize these threats to our privacy, security, and the enjoyment of our computing.

Panda, the well respected Spanish based internet security company, has recently released a free public “beta” of its online malware scan suite. The latest release of this online service offers the user a choice of anti-malware scans that may currently be the most comprehensive and thorough online scans available. These new online scans work equally well with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, or Mozilla’s Firefox browsers.

The most basic of the scans is Panda’s “NanoScan” (http://www.nanoscan.com), which is listed as capable of detecting over 970,000 different computer viruses, spyware, Trojans, and other types of malware that may be infecting a computer, and does this for free in about one minute. NanoScan will detect any active malware that may be infecting a computer. NanoScan can be run from either Internet Explorer as an ActiveX program, or from within Firefox as a plug-in. Using a broadband connection either will download and install in less than a minute. Once installed, the NanoScan is run by clicking on a button on the screen. One reason why NanoScan is so fast is that unlike many of its competitors, it does not download digital signature files to the computer, but instead rapidly compares files to a massive database of malware information stored on over 100 servers. NanoScan also uses Panda’s proprietary “TruPrevent®” which can detect likely malware even before the malware is in the database. The data files are almost perfectly up to date, as they are typically continuously updated; as I experimented with NanoScan, the database was updated twice in a nine minute period.

The first time I ran NanoScan on my main home computer, alternatively using both Firefox and Internet Explorer, it did indeed download the necessary utility in well under a minute on my DSL line. The actual scan took slightly less than one minute. It needs to be noted that while anyone can freely use NanoScan to detect malware, it must be registered (free) to enable the removal and disinfectant feature. Registration is very simple, and only requires a validated email address and password. The user is given a choice at the time of registration to receive or not receive emails from Panda; choosing not to receive emails does not in any way detract from the functionality of the program.

For the user who wants a higher degree of detection and removal, the selection of Panda’s TotalScan, at http://www.infectedornot.com, will allow detection of over a million different types and variations of malware, including both active or currently running malware (similar to NanoScan), and “Latent” malware which may be present on a computer but not currently running. Like NanoScan, anyone can run the detection, but it requires the same registration as NanoScan to remove, delete, or disinfect suspect files.

When I tried TotalScan, I tried it successfully both on Firefox and Internet Explorer. The required installation was almost as fast as the lesser NanoScan, and worked much the same way. TotalScan offers the user two scanning options; one which takes about five to 10 minutes (depending on computer speed and configuration), and an extremely comprehensive and thorough scan that may take an hour to run, but will perform a deep scan to detect even the most hidden malware components. When I ran TotalScan the first time using the “5 minute” selection, it detected seven suspected malware items. Five of the items were tracking cookies, one item was a fragment of an already disabled (Panda calls it “Latent”) adware program that could have generated pop-up ads if fully functional, and one was a piece of a latent browser helper object (BHO) that had also been previously disabled by my existing security software. To find those seven objects, TotalScan’s 5 minute scan searched my hard drive for files, my registry, and my memory. When I tried the hour long TotalScan search, it also found two registry entries remaining from malware that had previously been detected and deleted by my existing security software.

For those who like more information on what they are dealing with, both NanoScan and TotalScan list the malware that is found, with a “show” button that will display the location of the malware, and a “+info” button that will open Panda’s Virus Encyclopedia which will display comprehensive information about the item, label the degree of risk, and the history and incidence of the malware thus identified.

On my main home computer I have currently installed (and updated hourly) one of the premier security suites, as well as a separate major anti-spyware utility, which is also frequently updated. Using both, I do routine full scans of my system on a periodic basis, and have always felt that I had reasonably good security on my computer. Using some of the other free online scans to verify my existing security typically shows no problems on my computer. Running Panda’s TotalScan detected a few admittedly low risk items that slipped by my current security setup, or were considered to be of such low risk that they were ignored by my current programs, but were indeed caught and selectively removed by TotalScan.

As computing security is a major threat to all computer users, both home and business users, I strongly suggest that everyone periodically take a few minutes and run a Panda scan, even if protective software is already installed. Users should preferably run one of the TotalScan choices, either the 5 minute scan, or the hour scan. I would also recommend that the user register (free) so that Panda can disinfect the computer of any malware found. There is no substitute for safe and secure computing.

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