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Book Review: Windows Virus and Malware Troubleshooting by Andrew Bettany and Mike Halsey

Summary: A very useful volume that discusses what malware is, how to defend against it and how to remove it. Clear and simple instructions are given on ways to improve security on your PC, as well as how to deal with malware that may end up on your PC. Recommended.

Presented in a very easy to read writing style, this book immediately appeals due to the clear, concise and no-nonsense approach taken when discussing malware, what it is, how it can attack and affect your PC, how to defend against it and what to do if the worst should happen and your PC gets infected.

The first chapter provides a nice potted history of viruses and malware on PCs, discussing the various types and how both the proliferation and seriousness of infections has risen from the very first, typically benign examples to the modern day infections such as ransomware that has been in the news so much recently.

Chapter 2 deals with prevention and defence, and introduces the many security features that are built into modern versions of Microsoft Windows to help stop the initial infection. There’s a clear progression in security features as newer versions of Windows have been introduced, and it’s interesting to compare the versions of Windows that were most susceptible to the recent ‘WannaCry’ ransomware attack. Looking at the features discussed (and having been to a few presentations on the subject), this provides an excellent set of reasons for an upgrade to Windows 10 if you’ve not already done so!

Chapter 3 discusses defence in depth and includes information on firewalls, including the Windows firewall, as well as organisational firewalls (I.e. hardware firewalls and appliances) and how to generate a multi-layer defence. While at first glance this section appears to be more targeted at the organisational user, it’s actually also targeted at the home user with a hardware router/firewall combination, and some clarification that this is the case would, I feel, have been useful here. This chapter also bizarrely includes a section on keylogging software, which I feel would have been more useful in the first chapter

This chapter also provides some information on blacklists and whitelists (I.e. internet filtering) and the Internet of Things (IoT). For both of these sections I feel that there’s perhaps been a bit of a lost opportunity, for example a brief discussion of the filtering options available might have been helpful for home users (e.g. my Netgear router at home comes complete with an OpenDNS-based filtering option that can be enabled and configured quickly and easily and seems to provide reasonable protection) and further information on IoT security recommendations, particularly changing the default username and password on devices would be beneficial here.

Chapter 4 deals with identifying attacks starting with how malware infects a PC and providing pointers on how to identify both internal and external attacks. I was very pleased in this section to see information on social engineering and the role that this plays in malware infections.

Chapter 5 provides a very useful list of external resources that can be utilised to help protect your PC and clean a malware infection, including the Microsoft Malware Protection Center, a great location for finding updates, additional security recommendations and products etc. This chapter also provides some limited information on third-party tools that are available. Again, I would have liked to see a more expansive list here, and it’s worth mentioning that many anti-virus vendors provide a free option of their products.

Chapter 6 deals with manually removing malware, and for me this was probably the most useful part of this book. What do you do when malware has ended up on your PC despite your best efforts and you’re now having issues running the automated tools to get rid if it? This chapter helps in this scenario, and provides some steps to take to identify what’s running on the PC, suspend and/or kill the process and remove the infection. In particular I’m pleased to see the Microsoft Sysinternals tools discussed (albeit briefly) as they are my ‘go to’ toolset when dealing with an infection on a PC. If you’re interested in these and how they can be used, it’s worth looking at some of Mark Russinovich'sCase of the Unexplained’ videos as Mark goes through the use of these tools in more detail.

There are one or two downsides; the book is only a slim volume. This has both plusses and minuses insofar as being slim, more people are likely to read it end-to-end and therefore benefit the most from it, however in one or two areas a few more details might be appreciated. For such a slim volume, it’s also more expensive than I would hope for at an RRP of £14.99, which may limit its take-up.

All in all however this is a very easily accessible book that provides great guidance on how to secure your PC, what to watch out for and how to deal with a malware infection. I’ll be encouraging a few people I know to buy a copy and read it!

Title: Windows Virus and Malware Troubleshooting
Author(s): Andrew Bettany, MVP and Mike Halsey, MVP
Publisher: Apress
ISBN-13: 978-1-4842-2606-3