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I wrote a piece last month arguing that it was time for Apple to up its iCloud game, showing that the company is serious about cloud storage by focusing more on fast, reliable syncing, and by matching the functionality, storage capacities, and pricing of Google Drive.

In the WWDC keynote, Apple did exactly that. MobileMe may not, in Steve Jobs’ words, have been Apple’s finest hour, but it did at least include iDisk – an online drive we could access directly to store anything we liked – not just documents created in Apple’s own apps. It’s been a long time coming, but iDisk is finally back in the form of iCloud Drive.

The new iCloud pricing, too, looks set to be exactly what I asked for – comparable to Google Drive… 

Apple previously gave us 5GB free, then 15GB for $20/year, 25GB for $40/year and maxed-out at a paltry 55GB for $100/year. I pointed out that Google Drive, in contrast, gave us 15GB free, 100GB for $24/year and 1TB for $120/year.

What Apple has so far announced is this:

We still only get 5GB free, but 200GB for $48/year is exactly in line with Google’s 100GB for $24/year. That suggests the 1TB tier will also be comparable.

Apple maxes out at 1TB in contrast with Google’s 30TB, but to be honest, 1TB is likely to be enough for any individual or one-person business – and it’s of course possible to have one account per person in larger businesses. I’m happy enough with that.

I also complained about the lag you sometimes got in syncing via iCloud, and the less-than-seamless handoff when working on the same document on multiple devices. The proof will be in the pudding, but the Handoff feature in Yosemite appears to be promising instantaneous syncing between the same document on OS X and iOS devices – and Apple is touting this as just one of a number of “continuity features.”

There’s one other thing Apple has to get right to make iCloud a true replacement for all other cloud storage services: app support.

Dropbox has succeeded in making itself the default cloud storage option for any data that an app needs to sync or transfer between devices. There are a vast number of apps out there with Dropbox support baked right into them. It’s the reason I still have a (free) Dropbox account in addition to my Google Drive.

Fortunately, it looks like Apple is on track with that too: third parties can hook right into the iCloud Drive APIs. So if developers support iCloud Drive, that automatically creates support for third-party services that hook into it – which Dropbox will surely do.

It may even be that iCloud Drive kills Dropbox. Dropbox gives even less space than Apple for free – just 2GB (though referrals can take that up to 16GB), and then charges $199/year for 200GB (vs $48 on Apple’s new iCloud pricing) and an absurd $499/year for 500GB (vs $120 for twice as much on Google Drive). If it doesn’t fix that, it may not be around for too much longer.

So has Apple finally given me what I wanted, and turned iCloud into a serious product that will allow me to stop messing around with an untidy mish-mash of iCloud, Dropbox and Google Drive? Time will tell, but from what I’ve seen so far, I’m optimistic.

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Opinion: Apple Pay Is Easier Than Swiping A Card … Until It’s Not

Apple unveiled its mobile payment service Apple Pay last September alongside the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch later rolling it out to new iPhone users in October through the free iOS 8.1 software update. Dozens of banks and credit unions have flipped the switch on Apple Pay since then as more merchants have announced support or plans to accept the new payment method.

Apple Pay, which allows users to securely pay in stores using the latest models of the iPhone simply by placing the smartphone near a special terminal, uses your existing credit or debit card without revealing personal information like your name or card number to merchants.

In practice, Apple Pay is a real delight to use as a payment method as it feels a bit like you’re skipping the payment process altogether; I imagine moving from cash and checks to debit and credit cards years ago felt similar. There’s still a social oddity about paying with your phone in many parts of the United States in 2023, though, which I’m not sure happened with the transition to using cards.

This sort of social awareness experience doesn’t stretch overseas in parts of Europe and Asia where mobile-based payments have existed for years, and using Apple Pay in San Francisco or New York City probably only felt novel for a few days before becoming completely normal.

Paying for a cab by tapping my iPhone on a terminal from the backseat in NYC last year felt more futuristic than summoning an Uber from an app and paying with my thumbprint, almost like the cab was more tech-savvy than me.

In other parts of the country, though, the short-but-growing list of Apple Pay merchants and the feature being limited to one model of iPhone sometimes makes paying with your iPhone an awkward experience.

My best case scenario happened over the weekend when I picked up chocolates and an orchid from a local Winn-Dixie with self-checkout; almost like using Apple Pay in a social vacuum.

My worst case scenario followed the next day at Walgreens: terminal is picky at picking up the iPhone, still requests PIN input with my debit card, asks for an optional donation to an organization, presents cash back options, asks to confirm total. Four or so screens to get through all while a line builds up behind me. Had I paid by swiping my card I wouldn’t have noticed, but it crossed my mind that the process started by me waving my phone at the terminal.

What’s worse is the whole CurrentC episode that played out late last year causing problems even in big cities. Apple Pay worked at some non-official partners as expected, but later some of those merchants disabled support breaking expectations for shoppers.

Other merchants like CVS Pharmacy and Best Buy have terminals that display the contactless payment logo but manually disable support to block Apple Pay and other mobile payment solutions in favor of the upcoming CurrentC service.

Unless you follow technology news closely and know the backstory with Mobile Customer Exchange, you may attempt to use Apple Pay at one of these locations without success and be turned off by the experience. Hopefully this issue is resolved in the future.

Even some Apple Pay partners aren’t 100% prepared for accepting mobile payment services which makes using the service tricky.

Apple Pay worked flawlessly for me at Walgreens and McDonalds on the day of its launch, but the payment method did not work at my neighborhood Subway (an Apple Pay partner with terminals that support contactless payments) when I tried it a few weeks later. I also tried using Apple Pay at a local drug store with terminals displaying the contactless payment logo without luck.

In both instances the iPhone 6 knew something with Apple Pay was happening as it activated Passbook and displayed a message saying “Hold Near Reader to Pay”, but hiccups somewhere along the way (not distance!) couldn’t close the deal.

This is really where the way it feels to use Apple Pay comes in.

Swiping a card is largely the norm; paying with cash is acceptable; paying with a check is inconvenient, last decade, and increasingly not accepted by merchants, but not completely foreign. Paying with other methods are different. Despite contactless payments and mobile payment services existing years ahead of Apple Pay, the whole concept hasn’t become the new norm yet in the United States.

Apple also hasn’t actively marketed Apple Pay with the iPhone 6 using TV ad spots like it has other features like the Health app on iOS 8, sending voice messages, and using the camera. Not found in Apple’s recent TV spots for the iPhone: anything about Apple Pay.

There’s certainly no shortage of Apple Pay compatible iPhones out in the wild with over 74 million iPhones (a mix of old and new models) sold around the world last quarter.

Once the Apple Watch hits the market in April, even more people will be able to use Apple Pay as pairing the Watch with the older iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, and iPhone 5s models lets you use the mobile payment service in stores, according to Apple.

As ready for the Apple Watch as I am, though, I imagine paying with Apple Pay and the Apple Watch will have the social side effects of feeling like an early technology adopter even at official partner merchants like Walgreens and Whole Foods.

This is not to say that Apple Pay isn’t a winner, but that whole experience is more nuanced than that. In general, I use Apple Pay at least once a week around town. I’d love to use it everywhere for the security benefits alone, and I’m confident we’ll see more merchants accept the payment type over time.

My current Apple Pay use is at the same few locations each time, and I’m reluctant to try Apple Pay again at places where it hasn’t worked in the past. There are even a few mom-and-pop shops that recently added terminals with the contactless payment logo, but I’m about as comfortable asking if they accept checks as I am trying to hover my iPhone over that reader at those places.  Explaining the abstract concept of mobile payments to a cashier after a failed attempt isn’t a great experience, and trying again time and again inconveniences both the cashier and the person checking out.

Even without a marketing campaign in people’s living rooms led by Apple, mobile payment services like Apple Pay will become more common in the US—even helping services like Google Wallet—but I would love to see a bigger push from Apple to make Apple Pay feel as normal as swiping a credit card.

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Dropbox Ceo: Icloud Is A Lock

Apple’s iCloud, a service that brings together all of your desktop and mobile devices with seamless synch and cloud-based storage, is basically a lock-in, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston opined speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Praising his company’s cross-platform approach to file sharing, Houston blasted iCloud for imposing “bizarre limitations” on what users can do with their files, remarking that people shouldn’t really care what platform they are using in order to access their files anywhere and on any device…

Specifically, Houston criticized iCloud (via MacWorld UK) for being an exclusive Apple play, meaning folks cannot easily share their stuff between the iOS and Android platforms:

There will never be an engineer in the Apple cafeteria who’s like, hey I made the Android version of iCloud.

You shouldn’t have to care about the logo on the back of your phone or computer, it should just work with everything you have. That’s the kind of limitation we want to help remove for people.

It’s understandable that Houston would dismiss iCloud.

After all, Apple did try to acquire his cloud storage startup for a cool $800 million.

As Houston and his team wouldn’t budge, Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs got personally involved in negotiations, allegedly warning the Dropbox CEO that his service is “just a feature.”

Dropbox, as you know, is a cross-platform cloud storage compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux desktops as well as iOS, Android and BlackBerry smartphones and tablets. One of its biggest draws is that it takes care of the file format differences between platforms automatically and offers a free 2GB storage tier, with up to 18 GB via referrals (500 MB per referral).

In Apple’s parlance, Dropbox “just works”.

One of iCloud’s most annoying drawbacks stems from the inherently locked-down nature of the iOS file system: the service limits the Documents in the Cloud feature to specific apps. For example, a Pages document synced across devices via iCloud can only be accessed using the desktop and mobile Pages app.

If users want to access that document in another app, they must first export it, which creates a copy that no longer syncs with the original app.

That’s why Apple users need third-party alternatives, such as the excellent Files app by German developer Sonico Mobile (pictured below).

Files App by Sonic attempts to solve the iOS file sharing conundrum by providing a central repository for users’ files scattered across different cloud services and devices.

Ubuntu chief Mark Shuttleworth thinks it’s inevitable that at some point iOS and Android will converge in terms of cloud-based storage solutions:

Apple and Google will take their platforms and converge them as well because, from a security point of view, being able to audit and manage a platform that is widely used on all of your devices is a vastly better proposition than having fragmentation across the device landscape. 

I would have certainly welcomed a more open approach to file sharing in iOS, but Apple hasn’t indicated (yet) any intent to improve upon the locked down nature of iCloud document handling.

There’s (some) hope things could change with the release of iOS 7.

The best solution, in my opinion, would be to just integrate Dropbox directly in iOS 7 akin to Facebook and Twitter integration. That’s unfortunately a long shot given Dropbox is something of a direct competitor to iCloud.

Furthermore, Dropbox is a platform now, one supported by a myriad of third-party apps, so it’s not like it’s going away anytime soon.

Which service do you use to keep your files in sync?

Dropbox, iCloud or something else?

How To Choose A Cloud Hosting Service

Not sure what cloud computing is, or how it can benefit your business? In this article, I’ll introduce you to the cloud, help you interpret the buzzwords, and explain how your business might save time and money using a cloud hosting service such as Windows Azure, Amazon EC2, or Rackspace.

Discovering the Cloud and Cloud Computing

People use “cloud” as a buzzword when describing either the Internet or an intranet in association with some type of service or application offering. When you hear the term “public cloud,” think of the Internet; when you hear “private cloud,” think of your company’s intranet. Usually, “cloud” by itself refers to the public cloud.

The phrase “cloud computing” refers to Internet or intranet applications and services that you typically access, run, or manage via a Web browser. Such services often don’t require you to install software on your computer.

Here’s another way to look at it: Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than as a product. Instead of purchasing, installing, and running a program on your local computers, the program runs on the provider’s computers, and you pay a monthly or yearly fee for access.

You can find three main types of cloud computing service providers.

Software as a Service (SaaS) providers, such as Google Docs, Microsoft Office 365, and Salesforce, are services designed for end users. As such, they represent the end result of cloud computing.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings, such as Windows Azure, are services that IT personnel use in application development and for providing applications (SaaS) and Web hosting to end users. Basically, your IT staff gets remote access to virtual computers hosted at the provider’s data centers. PaaS providers typically offer a managed Windows or Linux operating system, which means that your business can dedicate more resources to development and fewer to configuring and maintaining the OS. The trade-off is that your IT personnel will have less control over the underlying OS.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers, such as Amazon EC2 and Rackspace Cloud Hosting, are similar to PaaS providers, but they usually offer your IT personnel more control over the OS. Although they typically don’t provide automatic OS updates, your business can use the raw infrastructure to develop and deploy applications on pretty much any platform or OS.

PaaS and IaaS Providers

I’ll focus on PaaS and IaaS providers here. If you’re familiar with the concept of virtual computing, you might think of these services as providing virtual machines (like VMware or VirtualBox) via the Internet.

PaaS and IaaS providers supply access to their shared data centers, giving you the reliability, redundancy, and security of a global enterprise data center network. This saves you time and money, because you don’t need to purchase and set up servers from scratch, and you pay only for the resources you consume. These services are particularly cost-effective for short-term projects, but they also deliver scalable, on-demand resources. For instance, within minutes you can double the amount of memory that your website might need to respond to a surge of end users.

One of the drawbacks of using a cloud computing host is that your data resides on another party’s servers. This arrangement might raise privacy and security issues for companies dealing with sensitive data, but you can mitigate the risk by employing data encryption and choosing a cloud host with security certifications and accreditations.

Most PaaS and IaaS providers offer per-hour pricing for each instance, role, or server. Each of these is, in essence, a separate virtual computer on which you can run one, a few, or even hundreds of applications.

Windows Azure

The PaaS platform Windows Azure can supply and manage the operating system, which is great if your applications don’t require a specialized OS. You can concentrate on building, deploying, and managing cloud applications without worrying about OS updates and patches.

Windows Azure offers three main roles, or OS choices.

Web role: This Windows Azure-supplied OS, preloaded with Internet Information Services 7, permits the development of applications using Web technologies such as chúng tôi PHP, and Node.js.

Worker role: This Windows Azure-supplied OS can run arbitrary code or host any type of application (including Apache Tomcat and Java Virtual Machines), and you can use it in conjunction with a Web role.

Virtual Machine role: You, the customer, supply the OS by uploading a Windows Server 2008 R2 (Enterprise or Standard) VHD image. Unlike with the Web and Worker roles, with this role (currently in beta) you’re responsible for keeping the OS up-to-date.

You can use any language, framework, or tool to build applications on Windows Azure. Features and services are exposed through REST (Representational State Transfer) protocols. The Windows Azure client libraries are available for multiple programming languages, and are released under an open-source license. They are hosted on GitHub.

Microsoft offers a three-month free trial of Windows Azure that includes the company’s Small Compute instance and other resources sufficient for IT personnel to test and become familiar with Windows Azure. Like other cloud hosts, Microsoft has a pay-as-you-go pricing scheme, a per-hour cost for each role when deployed. You can estimate your monthly bill using the company’s calculator.

Microsoft’s service level agreement guarantees 99.95 percent uptime for its compute services when you have at least two instances of a role running.

SQL Azure provides a scalable relational cloud database service built on SQL Server technologies that Windows Azure applications or your on-premises applications can use. It supports exporting and ongoing synchronization with your on-premises databases. You can pay as you go, or make a six-month commitment for reduced pricing; in either case, you can purchase this feature independently or along with other Windows Azure platform products.

Microsoft’s cloud storage lets you store structured or unstructured data for use with your Windows Azure applications or other applications via REST and managed APIs. You can also mount storage as virtual hard drives inside your Windows Azure applications by using the Windows Azure Drive feature, and you can move your virtual hard drives between private and public clouds. Microsoft offers pay-as-you-go pricing for Windows Azure Storage and Windows Azure Drive.

Next Page: Amazon Services, Rackspace, and How to Choose a Host

The Year Of The Oled Monitor Has Finally Arrived

CES 2023 might be different. LG came to the show with a flashy 45-inch ultrawide and a more practical 27-inch 1440p, both of which are available for preorder right now. Samsung has fired back with the Odyssey OLED G9, a flashy 49-inch super-ultrawide due for release in early 2023. They’re impressive monitors, and the OLED panels in them will go mainstream in displays from Asus, Acer, Alienware, Dough, and MSI, among others.

OLED competition is coming

The unending dawn of OLED for PC monitors was due, at least in part, to a lack of options. OLED panels are produced by only a few companies, most notably LG and Samsung, and a mere handful of panel options were available to monitor manufacturers. The low production volume of OLED panels suitable for monitors kept prices high.

But at CES 2023, that changed. We have ourselves a race.

LG’s Ultragear 27 OLED monitor.

Matt Smith/IDG

LG and Samsung leaned into OLED for the PC market in 2023. You’ve likely noticed the results if you’ve bought a PC laptop in the past two years. Laptops with OLED displays are much, much more common than they used to be, and now available in laptops below $1,000.

The war between LG and Samsung will also improve the affordability of PC monitors. Both have their own OLED panel technology: LG offers a WRGB OLED panel, while Samsung offers QD-OLED. And both have incredible influence in the world of display technology and are familiar with working with a wide range of partners.

Surprisingly, LG won the battle at CES 2023. Samsung’s QD-OLED, which is found in the Alienware AW3423DW and (of course) the new Samsung Odyssey OLED G9, looks spectacular. However, LG’s new 27-inch 1440p 240Hz OLED panel is a superb fit for mainstream PC gamers, and LG is ramping up production to support multiple third-party monitor makers. It’s likely this panel will dominate until Samsung can respond with a QD-OLED option of similar size.

Still the best gaming monitor you can buy

Alienware AW3423DW

Read our review

Best Prices Today:

CES 2023 was also a reminder that OLED technology faces broader competition. Several new Mini-LED monitors and laptop displays arrived from multiple manufacturers including Acer, Asus, Razer, and Lenovo. Samsung, meanwhile, continues to invest in Micro-LED, a panel technology constructed from tiny LEDs, and showed its latest generation of NEO QLED 8K televisions at CES 2023.

Affordable Micro-LED televisions are years away, and monitors will be even more challenging due to their smaller size. Still, Mini-LED and Micro-LED represent a long-term threat to OLED. Both can deliver much higher levels of brightness, and do so without suffering the risk of burn-in. The evolution of alternative panel technologies gives LG and Samsung incentive to improve OLED’s performance and cut costs. 

Subpixels remain an issue

OLED has many perks, but it’s not perfect. Most OLED panels found in computer monitors and laptops use a sub-pixel layout that differs from the RGB layout common to LCD displays. This can cause issues like color bleed or fringing around details and an overly pixelated look for small fonts.

Acer’s curvaceous Predator X45 OLED looks absolutely outstanding in person.

Matt Smith/IDG

Let’s set one thing straight: PC enthusiast hoping LG and Samsung have a cheap RGB-OLED panel up their sleeves should check their expectations. David Park, Senior Product Marketing Manager at LG, says the company’s use of an alternative layout (in LG’s case, WRGB) is purposeful.

Asus ProArt OLED PA32DC

Read our review

Best Prices Today:

Still, eagle-eyed PC enthusiasts have options. JOLED, a small company based in Tokyo, produces the excellent OLED panel found in the Asus ProArt Display OLED PA32DC, which I reviewed last year, and the upcoming Asus ProArt Display OLED PA32DCM, a premium 4K OLED monitor revealed at CES 2023. JOLED’s panels have excellent clarity, but the panels are produced in low volumes, which makes them expensive. They also don’t offer the high refresh rate of LG and Samsung panels.

Finally, mainstream availability is real

OLED’s image quality, pixel response times, and low input latency make it an ideal technology for PC gaming and, for many people, general day-to-day-use. Yet high pricing and extremely limited availability have kept OLED monitors out of most homes.

2023 is the year that will finally change. Acer, Asus, Alienware, Corsair, and Dough are among the monitor makers with plans to release new OLED monitors. Some monitors based on new OLED panels, such as Corsair’s Xeneon Flex, are already available: others are currently up for pre-order.

Asus

And this is just the start. “[LG has] plans to introduce different screen sizes, different form factors,” says Park. “Throughout 2023, you’ll hear more announcements from LG on different OLED monitors we’re going to bring to the market.”

How To Check If A File Has A Virus Before Downloading

Home » Tips » How to Check if a File Has a Virus Before I Download It?

You can check if a file or link has a virus before you download it and there are great free resources on the internet to do so. Nothing beats safe internet usage practices and smart browsing, though. 

I’m Aaron, an information security evangelist and lawyer with almost two decades of applied information security experience. I believe that the best defense against cyberattacks is a good education. 

Join me for a review of how to scan files for viruses before you download them and some of the features your computer likely has to protect you. I’m also going to cover some of the things you can do to stay safe when downloading files.

Key Takeaways

There are a number of tools you can use to check for viruses before you download them.

Virus scanning isn’t foolproof.

You should combine virus scanning with safe internet usage practices.

How to Check for Viruses?

All virus-scanning software operates effectively in the same way. The program looks for malicious code and other indicators of compromise in a file. 

If the program finds malicious content, it blocks or quarantines the file to prevent the malicious code from running on your computer. If it doesn’t find malicious content, then the program is free to run. 

There are a few online services that scan links and content for viruses. 

VirusTotal

VirusTotal is probably the most prolific service for scanning files and links for viruses. It was started in 2004 and acquired by Google in 2012. It aggregates virus data from many sources and applies that information to an analysis of your files. 

You may be asking yourself: is VirusTotal safe? The answer is yes. VirusTotal scans your file and lets you know whether or not it’s detected a virus. The only thing it records is information about the virus to improve its database. It doesn’t copy or store the contents of the file you upload for review. 

Gmail and Google Drive

Google’s Gmail service has built-in virus scanning capabilities for attachments. Google Drive scans files at rest and when they’re downloaded. There are some limitations to those services, like file size limitations for scanning in Google Drive, but overall they provide a good defense against viruses. 

Microsoft Defender

Ok, this one technically doesn’t scan files for viruses before you download them. Rather, it scans the file as you download it. If you have Defender enabled on your computer, files you download will be scanned as they are downloaded or immediately upon download. Importantly, the files will be scanned before you open them, which is what triggers a virus to work. 

Scanning for Viruses is Only One Tool in Your Toolbelt

Just because a virus scanner doesn’t find a virus doesn’t mean that a file is virus free. Some viruses and malware can be expressed in a sophisticated way and are hidden from virus scanners. Others download malicious code when executed. Others yet may be zero day viruses, which means that definition files don’t yet exist to scan for them. 

As a result of those issues, around 2023 the antivirus software market began a shift away from only definition-based detection to adding behavioral detection. 

Definition-based detection is where an antimalware program uses code scanning to identify malicious content like malware and viruses. Behavioral detection is where an antimalware program examines what happens to your computer to identify malicious activity. 

VirusTotal and Google’s services are good examples of definition-based antimalware detection. Microsoft Defender is a great example of antimalware software that uses both definition-based and behavioral detection.

There’s an excellent set of YouTube videos about behavioral detection and heuristic detection, which was the precursor to modern behavioral detection. 

Neither set of software is foolproof. You shouldn’t rely on antimalware software alone. Safe internet use is critical to keeping yourself virus free. Some things you can do include:

The more you know about secure browsing practices, the safer and less virus prone you’ll be. 

FAQs

Here are some common questions about checking files for viruses.

How Do I Know if I Downloaded a Virus on My Phone?

Fortunately, it’s highly unlikely you downloaded a virus on your phone. If you downloaded a pdf, for example, that runs a virus made for Windows when you open it then it won’t work on Android or iOS. Those are totally different operating systems. 

Additionally, the way iOS and Android operate makes traditional viruses ineffective. Most malicious code on those devices is delivered via apps. 

Can I Get a Virus from a File That I Downloaded but Didn’t Open?

Can I Check if a Zip File Has a Virus?

Yes. If you have anti-malware software on your computer, it’s likely that the software scanned the zip file on download. It’s also likely that the software will scan the zip file when it’s opened. 

You can also upload the zip file to VirusTotal or scan it manually. How you do that varies depending on the antimalware software you have and you should consult the manual or FAQ for that software to learn more. 

How Do I Know if I Downloaded a Virus?

You’ll know if your antimalware software tells you that you’ve downloaded a virus. Typically antimalware software lets you know when you have a virus and the files it quarantined so that you can review what to do with them. 

If you don’t see a warning, you may still have a virus. Look for significant performance impacts and slowdowns when you use your computer, or atypical behavior when you use your computer. 

Conclusion

There are numerous ways to scan a file for viruses both before and after you download it. Your best bet, though, is to practice safe internet browsing habits. Virus scanners can be fickle and your instincts can go a long way to keeping you safe online if you know what to look out for.

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