Monthly Archives: July 2012

What Happens When Your Paid Antivirus Subscription Expires?

Note: This covers PAID antivirus programs. There are free antivirus programs that, because they are not under a time license, basically don’t expire.

What happens when your paid antivirus subscription expires? In a nutshell: Your antivirus program stops updating itself. But what does that mean and what are the ramifications?

To understand this, first you have to understand how traditional antivirus programs work. I’ve explained this before, but here’s the gist of it: Your antivirus program protects you from malware trying to infect your computer by keeping a list of all known malware. It then compares every file you open, every file you download, every email you get, and so on, to its master list of  “bad guys”.

Because malware creation is such a dynamic subject, the list of known malware grows daily. In order to be effective, your antivirus must have the latest additions to the list of “bad guys” to recognize them. To the degree that it doesn’t have the most recent additions, it won’t be able to detect the most recent infections.

So, a typical antivirus program updates its list at least once a day. Some are configurable and can be set so they update themselves several times a day.

Now, let’s say you have a yearly license in your antivirus and it’s about to expire. Typically you get warnings and pop-up windows that alert you to the fact that your license is about to expire. So what happens if it does? Does the program stop functioning?

No. Typically, your antivirus program still works even if your license has expired. BUT, your vendor will probably not allow updates to happen. So, as days, weeks go by, your antivirus program’s list become more and more outdated. To that degree it won’t be able to detect the latest infections. The more outdated, the less effective. You get the idea.

The above is so true, that an up-to-date,  free antivirus program is probably more effective than a paid expired one. Even if the paid one is fancier and has more features etc., it’s somewhat useless without an up-to-date definitions list.

Normally when your expired antivirus license is renewed, your antivirus will resume updating itself and you will stop getting warnings about it. Sometimes it requires asking the antivirus program to perform an update in order to bring the list up-to-date, and then it resumes doing it automatically from that point on.

Strong Passwords

Last article covered in what ways your email account can be hacked. Since it is related to the password strength your email account has, I thought we should now cover how to create a strong password.

A strong password is one that is hard to guess. Oversimplifying some might say, yet it’s the basic definition of it. Therefore having your password be ” joe” when your email account is “” is not very hard to guess. That would be at the extreme end of weak. So what’s at the other end?

A good, strong password:

1. Contains uppercase and lowercase characters,

2. Contains at least one number,

3. Contains at least one of the characters over the numbers in your keyboard ( !@#$%^&*() ),

4. Does not contain a word that can be found in the dictionary, and

5. Is at least 8 characters long.

OK so now we know what a strong password is, but we have a problem. How do we craft one that can ALSO be remembered? I mean, “g5OmCU)k” might be a strong password by definition, but who the hell is going to remember it? This is where mnemonics – a memory tool, any device or technique that aids information retention –  comes in handy.

Rather than going on a lengthy written explanation of how this all works, let me give you a link to a video that explains it all very well in under 4 minutes. Watch it and then come back to finish reading this article. Here’s the link to the video:

As you might have noticed, the last problem posed in the video, how to remember multiple passwords when you use one per each different authentication required, is solved by the use of a password manager. I personally use RoboForm to keep my 90+ passwords secure, and it even has a feature that will generate random strong passwords for me when required, which can then be stored and thus does not need to be remembered.

May your email account remain secure.