If you're concerned about all the malware and ransomware attacks we've been telling you about, it's with good reason. Cybercriminals have stolen at least $24.1 million from people and companies in the United States in the past year, according to the FBI.
What would you do if a criminal in Iran or Russia remotely took control over your computer, tablet or smartphone and demanded you pay ransom that you can't afford?
It happens every day. People like you are suddenly cut off from communicating with your family. Which is exactly why you have an Internet security system protecting your computers, tablets and phones.
That's smart. But, you need to know this. All of a sudden, your antivirus program could be useless. Google just made what sounds like a tiny change that is having a huge impact on your security.
While you may not think of Google as an Internet security company, it owns one called VirusTotal. It's a database that Internet security companies from around the world use to inform each other about new threats.
The idea is that your Internet security company can contribute to that database, and see new threats, so they can update their software to keep you safe.
Unfortunately, a lot of antivirus companies do nothing but pull that data from VirusTotal, then sell it to you. Or they might give it to you for free in hopes of selling you other products.
Google has had enough of that, and so have reputable Internet security companies that contribute to VirusTotal. So, Google is cutting off the freeloaders. We don't know who they are, unfortunately.
Until last week, antivirus companies could access the paid version of VirusTotal without sharing their technology. They can't do that anymore. Until last week, companies that pay to access VirusTotal's database didn't have to share the research they collect on potential threats. Now, they must, or they're out.
To put the magnitude of this change into perspective, VirusTotal receives 400,000 submissions for potential viruses every day.
What this means for you is your antivirus program may not be keeping you safe. If they were relying on VirusTotal and can no longer use it, or they're choosing not to, your personal information and your computers can be at serious risk for attack.
If they're not getting up-to-date information on new attacks, they can't do much to protect you. This is an extremely important issue. (Be sure to share this information with your family and friends. We've made that easy. Scroll down the page and just click on the social media buttons to instantly get the word out.)
Note: This is an important reminder that you must have a highly reputable Internet security system on all your devices, whether they're Windows PCs, Macs, smartphones or tablets.