Q: I just read in your column that three different email notification programs can notify a sender if the receiver has opened it. Is there a way to block this?
— Cathleen Woore
A: Good question! And I should have gone into that in my answer to the previous question.
Email tracking programs work by embedding a hidden image that is downloaded when the recipient opens the email. So if you configure your email client to block images from emails you will also block that tracking.
Also, most email clients also allow you to block the more traditional “read receipts” from being sent to the sender when you open an email.
Q: For many years, I have used F-Prot anti-virus software from Frisk International and been very happy with it. I have also installed Malwarebytes Premium since F-Prot did not address malware. I occasionally get notices from F-Prot that it has discovered and isolated “malicious software,” but more often I get this type of notice from Malwarebytes.
F-Prot has just announced it is ending support/updates for noncommercial customers, effective next July. I know that Malwarebytes Premium has added features over the years. My question is: Do I still need a separate antivirus program or does Malwarebytes Premium now perform anti-virus functions as well as giving anti-malware protection?
A related question: If I still need a separate anti-virus program, which do you recommend?
— Bill Bumpas, Seattle
A: We’re in a transition period of semantics. In the early days, the main computing hazard was viruses — computer programs that replicate themselves by inserting their own code in your computer. Anti-virus programs were developed to detect and remove them. Since then, other nasty types of malware have been created. Ransomware encrypts your data and you’ll be required to pay a fee to get a key to decrypt it. Spyware can capture your keystrokes — including passwords you enter — and other input. And adware can afflict your computer with unwanted advertisements.
Anti-malware programs and anti-virus programs may … or may not … provide the same protections. And in fact, Malwarebytes Premium — which costs $3.33 per month — provides protection from various kinds of malware, including viruses. It doesn’t, however, have a top anti-virus rating on tests run by independent labs that I’ve seen. So, yes, you may want to run a separate anti-virus program. I run Malwarebytes alongside Microsoft Defender, which is part of Windows.
Q: I have a Lenovo Ideapad 110 running the current update for Windows 10. All too frequently the computer runs extremely slowly and I consistently get “application not responding” in everything I try to use. It takes as much as five minutes for applications to start up. I am running the Comcast-supplied Norton anti-virus and use the premium version of Malwarebytes. They show no problems. When I look at Task Manager, the CPU usage in these instances is 95% to 100%, yet when I scroll through the list I don’t see any app usages that add up to anywhere near that.
— Matthew Brantley
A: Yes, that amount of CPU usage will certainly drag things down. This is a problem I can’t address without a hands-on look.
But what I would suggest is this …
Without being connected to the internet, disable Norton and Malwarebytes. See if the problem recurs.
If it doesn’t, I’d suggest adding them back one at a time to see which is causing the problem. You can always try different anti-virus and anti-malware software.
If the problem persists, it will take a lot more troubleshooting. Or … you could skip the uncertainty of troubleshooting by reformatting your drive and reinstalling Windows. The downside is that you’ll have to reinstall any programs you still want to use.