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If you've been hanging around these parts for a while, you may recall that I turn my nose up at security software. Save for what's built into Windows and my browser, I don't use it. Haven't for years. Total number of virus/malware/phishing issues to date: zero. (Every time I write that, I fear I'm jinxing it, because I have mad jinx power -- but I'm still batting 1.000 on security.)
Okay, but, reality check: There's one thing I really do fear, and that's ransomware. Garden-variety viruses are, at worst, a hassle, but ransomware is serious. If hackers manage to sneak that crap onto your PC, your data is done for -- unless you pay the ransom, that is, which will likely run you hundreds of dollars. And even then there's no guarantee you'll get what you need to decrypt all your files. (Remember: sometimes the kidnappers kill the victim even after they've gotten their money.)
Ugly stuff. It happened to my mother-in-law's home computer and my brother-in-law's company. It's real, and it sucks.
Even worse, few of the big-name security utilities promise full protection against ransomware. Thankfully, there's a small utility designed for exactly that, and it's cheap. In fact, today it's even cheaper than usual.
For the next 48 hours, WinPatrol is offering WinAntiRansom for 55 percent off. That means you can get a 1-user license for just $6.73, 3-user for $8.98 or 5-user for $11.23. Those are one-year licenses, but the developer has generously offered to give you the same annual renewal price.
WinPatrol and WinPrivacy are also on sale, but I'm not here to discuss those.
I'll be the first to admit I'm no security expert, but WinAntiRansom appears to rely on whitelisting: Only approved programs are allowed to run. The software takes a layered approach to protecting your files and system, the first layer promising to prevent any software from encrypting your files.
Does it work? I have no idea. WinPatrol lists numerous videos showing the software in action, but I could find only one review -- and although it concludes with a five-star rating, it doesn't appear to be based on any real-world testing.
That said, on paper it sounds like a thoroughly effective tool, and the videos do appear to legitimately show it blocking a wide range of ransomware.
So on the one hand, I think you can safely exist on the Internet without third-party security software. But, man, ransomware -- it's almost certainly worth these few bucks to protect yourself.
Bonus deal: Well, that didn't take long: The new version of Samsung's VR headset has already gone on sale. Today only, and while supplies last, A4C has the refurbished Samsung Gear VR 2016 for $69.99 shipped -- 30 percent off the list price. (And it's in "immaculate, like-new condition," according to the vendor.) It's compatible with most of the latest Samsung phones, though you should definitely not use it with the Note 7. I still say this is the single best way to experience VR that doesn't cost $600 or more. Read CNET's review of this 2nd-gen headset.
Bonus deal No. 2: It's tablet Tuesday! Amazon really veered toward the low end with its latest batch of tablets, but earlier models were packed with awesomeness. Today only, and while supplies last, Woot has the refurbished Amazon Fire HD 8.9 4G LTE tablet for $89.99, plus $5 for shipping. That's for the 32GB model; get 64GB for just $10 more (no-brainer, IMHO). Couple things to note, though: These may have cosmetic blemishes, and delivery will take at least a week. As for the 4G, it's optional via AT&T; a one-time payment of $50 buys you 250MB per month for the first year.