I remember hearing about the first computer virus. It was on Commodore Amiga computers and spread from floppy disk to floppy disk, rather than over the internet.
If it was on a disk and you put another disk into the computer afterwards, without turning it off in between, it would copy itself onto the new disk.
After a while it would flash up a message on your screen saying “Something wonderful has happened… your Amiga is alive” and then stop you from doing whatever you wanted to do.
Since then there have been millions of the things – and mostly they spread over the internet in various ways. So if you’re using a computer on the internet you really need to have security software up and running. So much so that Microsoft have included some in the latest versions of Windows, so everyone should have it.
It doesn’t matter so much which security software – Norton, McAfee, Kaspersky, AVG, Avast, or the free Microsoft Security Essentials or Defender (depending on which version of Windows you have). What’s most important is that you have it and it’s keeping itself up to date.
And there are free options – not just Microsoft’s one but AVG, who were one of the first to offer free anti-virus software.
But what about on tablets – they’re connected to the internet, so should you keep them protected, too?
Well, for fiddly technical reasons, technically an iPad can’t get a virus unless you “root” it (and if you’ve done that, you’re probably way beyond all this stuff anyway) – basically because all the programs you can install are from the app store and Apple have already checked they’re OK.
Windows based tablets like the Surface already have protection built in, from Microsoft, so it’s a moot question for them.
Android tablets aren’t quite as secure, though – and there are various other types of nasties that you might want protection against, not just viruses.
So a lot of people run security software on their tablet, too. Especially if it’s an Android one rather than an iPad.
In fact in the book “Get More From your Tablet” I suggested Norton Mobile Security. Partly because it has a free option – just like you can get free security on your PC.
When I first wrote it, when you installed the app, you choose whether to get just the free version of whether to have a 30 day free trial of the super-duper, whizz-bang “premium” version first – then decide whether to pay for that or just have the free version. And I personally would just get the free one.
But they’ve changed it – now you have to have the 30 day free trial for the premium version. Fair enough – you don’t pay them anything for the free version after all, so they want to try to tempt you with the paid one.
So I don’t have a problem with them giving you a trial of it before you get the one you don’t pay for.
But they also have been rather sneaky. You see when your free trial ends, you automatically switch to the free version. And if you go into the menu on the left, it’ll say “Subscription status: Norton Mobile Security free”.
But on the day it goes over the 30 days, it doesn’t pop up a nice clear message saying something like “Your trial of the premium version has ended, you’ll only get the common or garden free one now unless you pay”. No, it says something along the lines of “Your trial has ended, please subscribe to continue getting protection”. Which makes it sound like after the trial, you get nothing.
When you check in the menu, though, it’ll actually tell you what protection you are still getting and that you are still protected against viruses (for example).
Worse, one of my customers felt a bit unsure about this message. So he rang up Norton themselves – only to be told there was no free version. (Despite the fact that the description of the app when you first install it says that there is.) I can’t help wondering what incentives they have to try to sell you the premium version – or possibly those particular people simply don’t know their own product very well. Who knows but it seems a bit naughty.
Anyway, I wanted to make absolutely sure, so I installed it on a tablet that hadn’t had it before, waited the 30 days, didn’t take up the paid for version and checked – and it’s still running security scans and protected it.
So if you’ve got the Norton Mobile Security App and your 30 days trial are up and you’re concerned whether it’s protecting you, because it doesn’t make it very clear, don’t worry. Yes it does, despite what some people who work for Norton will tell you.
But anyway, in the book, I’ve re-written that page to use a different security app instead – not because it gives better protection, but because I don’t like the rather sneaky way Norton make it sound like you’re not protected when you are, just to get you to pay for the premium version.
PS I should also mention – I’m an idiot. Perhaps not what you were expecting me to say but I certainly feel like one at the moment. I did write this on Monday morning as usual… but saved it in the wrong place so my computer didn’t send it out until someone spotted it hadn’t gone (and it wasn’t even me that spotted it). Sorry – but here it is in the end.