Posts Tagged ‘Viruses’

3 Secrets to Avoiding Viruses and Malware

I posted this 4 years ago and reprinted it two years ago, but felt it was time to publish it again.  If you want to know how NOT to get infected, this is it…

Viruses, spyware, adware, worms, trojans, rootkits, bots… they are all terms referring to what is generically known as malware, software that does bad things.  It might log your keystrokes, then send those keystrokes (like when you log into your bank) to the bad guy, it might use your computer to send spam email, it could pop up on your screen telling you that you’re infected with all kinds of viruses and you need to buy their virus removal program, and it won’t go away until you do.  No matter what it does, you DON’T want it on your computer.

Unfortunately a lot of computer users think that since they have anti-virus software on their computer they can’t get viruses, so it’s ok to be somewhat reckless on the internet.  Well, thinking that you won’t get infected because you have anti-virus software is like thinking you can’t get killed in your car because it has airbags.  You drive your car 120 mph into an oncoming truck and see just how well that airbag protects you.

So, if your anti-virus software can’t completely protect you, what can you do?  Follow these three guidelines (I call them secrets because so many people don’t seem to be aware of them) and it will be very hard for your computer to get bit by a bug.

imageDON’T OPEN ATTACHMENTS AND DON’T CLICK ON LINKS IN EMAIL. Email and web pages are the primary avenue of attack for the bad guys.  Clicking on links in email is a easy way to download a virus or get taken to a web site full of malware looking for ways to get into your computer.  The same goes for attachments, opening an attachment is like playing Russian Roulette with your computer.  So how do we make this a practical guideline?
If you’re expecting the email, then of course it’s ok to open.  If you were at a family reunion last weekend, and someone in the family sends you an email with photos attached and in the email says “here are some photos from the reunion”, then of course, open them and enjoy.  But if you get a message from a friend of yours and all it says is “check out this video of you on the Internet!”, don’t click on the link!  In all likelihood your friend has a virus on his/her computer, and the VIRUS sent the email, not your friend.  This is a common way that a virus spreads.  It goes through your email address book and sends a generic message to everyone that appeals to our natural sense of curiosity.  You get that email and the first thing you think is “wow, what is this video that my friend is talking about?”  2 seconds later you find yourself clicking on the link because you’re curious.  At this point it’s too late and you’ve probably infected your system.
I know you’d like to look at that PowerPoint file of the cute kittens and puppies, or follow that link to read about the 3 headed baby, but just resist the urge and keep your system safe.  If you think the link is safe but you hear my words echoing in the back of your mind, just remember that the actual destination of the link can be hidden, so to be safe open your web browser and TYPE the address in yourself:
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KEEP YOUR COPY OF WINDOWS AND OTHER SOFTWARE UP TO DATE. The bad guys are always looking for a new way to get inside your computer.  The most important (and likely) targets are your operating system (Windows), your web browser (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Google Chrome), Adobe Acrobat Reader (for viewing PDF files), Adobe Flash (used to view video on sites like YouTube and most animation) and Java (by Oracle.)  In fact Java is quickly becoming the bad guys’ favorite way to get into your pc.  Java is used to allow programmers to write a program that can run on different operating systems without having to customize it.  There aren’t a lot of programs out there that require Java, and probably the best thing you can do it just REMOVE Java from your computer.  Just go to your Control Panel and click on Add/Remove Programs (Windows XP) or Programs and Features (Vista and Windows 7) and select Java for removal.  If you later find out that you need it, you can go to Java.com and download the latest version.  If you have Java and you know you need it, be sure you have the latest version (as of this writing, version 6 update 22.)

For Adobe Acrobat Reader and Flash you can go to Adobe.com/downloads and make sure you have the latest versions.

Firefox and Safari are good about notifying you when you need to download and install an update, Google Chrome pretty much just does it for you in the background.  Internet Explorer will get updated the 2nd Tuesday of every month when the Windows Updates are pushed to your computer.

Microsoft updates Windows the 2nd Tuesday of every month, so it’s important that you have automatic updates turned on and you install them when you see the icon in your taskbar tray.

It’s very important that you update your computer as soon as you get a notification, be it for Acrobat Reader, Java or Windows.  The moment these updates are published, the bad guys are analyzing them to see how they can take advantage of people who DON’T update their computers.  Also, sometimes the bad guys find the flaws first, and already are exploiting computers before the fixed are published, so don’t put this off.

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USE MOZILLA FIREFOX WITH THE “NO-SCRIPT” ADD-ON. Each web browser has things to like about it: Internet Explorer for its integration with Windows, Google Chrome for its speed, Apple Safari for its speed and more “Mac-like” appearance (and I do like the “Top-Sites” feature.)  But I always recommend Firefox with no-script because it’s the absolute best way to avoid having a malicious web site get into your computer.

So what is “no-script”?  For that matter, what is a script?  Think of the word “prescription”.  A prescription is a set of instructions from your doctor to the pharmacist, you may be delivering it but you’re just the messenger – the pharmacist reads and follows the instructions.  In the world of the Internet, scripts are instructions from the web server (the computer at the other end delivering the web pages to you) to your computer.  Scripts themselves are not inherently evil.  Scripts are necessary just for you to read this page, in fact most sites you visit employ some scripts to automate how the page looks or what information you see.  Unfortunately web browsers are a little too quick to accommodate the instructions from web servers, and a site that has been set up by a bad guy (or compromised by one) can deliver all kinds of nasty stuff on your computer, just by going to a web page.

No script is what’s called an “add-on”.  Think of it like a mini-program that plugs into Firefox, like an accessory.  There are TONS of different add-ons you can use with Firefox, I use 3 or 4 but No-script is an absolute must.  No-script prevents ANY and ALL scripts from running on a web page without your approval.  What’s nice about no-script is that once you’ve approved a site, you don’t have to do it again.  For example, you trust Google and maybe use Gmail, so once you’ve approved Gmail, you won’t have to do it again.  So the first week or so you’ll be approving lots of web sites because it will be the first time No-script has seen them, but it will eventually calm down, and just intervene when you go to a new site for the first time.  The VALUE of no-script comes into play when you accidentally mis-type a web site, say Goggle.com instead of Google.com, or Foznews.com instead of Foxnews.com.  The bad guys purchase these names because they know every know and then people make mistakes, and they just wait for you to come to them.  They also design their web pages to show up high when you search on popular topics.  For example, back in February if you searched for Jessica Biel screensavers or maybe Jennifer Aniston screensavers, about HALF of the search results took you to sites with malicious software just waiting for you.

If you should happen to click on a search result that takes you to a web site that you’re sure is not what it’s supposed to be AND you’re running No-script, then the very worst thing that will happen is you’ll see some text and perhaps graphics/pictures – but that’s all.  NOTHING will be able to install itself onto your computer, all you have to do is click on the back button go back where you started and you can rest easy knowing your computer is safe.  For a DETAILED step-by-step walkthrough of installing Firefox and setting up NoScript, see my post in Apps/Tools or click here.

There you have it.  It seems like a lot at first, but it will save you aggravation and money in the long run if you’ll just convince yourself that it’s worth it (ask my clients who unfortunately had to pay over $200 to get their computer running again after picking up some nasty viruses.)  Follow the above steps, you’ll be glad you did.

It May Not be the Viruses That Drive You Crazy!

Viruses are nasty – you don’t want them.  They are like bad guys breaking into your home.

Most of you are pretty good about doing the right things (if you’re been keeping up with my blog here) so you don’t get a major infection.  But I’ve noticed a RAPID rise in what I call “weeds”, and the worst part is you KNOW they’re there – and THAT’s when my phone rings.

They “technically” are not viruses, they just “help” you find sites on the web or redirect you to sites you “wanted” to see but just didn’t know you wanted to see them.  I call these things “weeds”.

Most anti-virus programs don’t catch them because YOU gave them permission (interpreted as you WANTED those programs) to be on your computer.  But when downloading something, you (probably without knowing it) gave them permission to install onto your computer.

I’ve had lots of calls the last few weeks for things like this – they get in the way of getting to where you want to go on the web.  And even if you get there – you might get swamped with pop-ups and ads that you don’t want to waste your time with.

I have a client whom needed a full rebuild on his computer because it wouldn’t boot up.  Turned out to be a bad hard drive.  We needed his product key for Microsoft Office 2010 so we could re-install it onto the new hard drive.  After removing the hard drive and attaching it as a USB drive to another PC I was able to see the files on it, however despite downloading several programs designed to extract that valuable product key, none were able to.  I did notice however that many of them offered to install additional software to “improve” my computing experience.

Needless to say, even though I said “no” to their generous offers for the additional software, I had a ton of junk added to my system.

I uninstalled the obvious programs I didn’t ask for, and then MalwareBytes found a ton of others that they also installed.

 

The Summary:  Don’t install “free” programs to fix your computer problems.  A quick call to me (for which I usually don’t’ charge for unless it runs long) might provide a solution to whatever it is you’re trying to fix.  Once you download something to help you “convert YouTube” videos or “speed up my computer” or whatever, you’re probably going to get a weed and once that happens, you probably have a lot and unfortunately it costs the same to pull weeds as it does to remove viruses because I have to make sure nothing gets left behind.

I’m TRYING to save you money.  Please —–  CALL me before you try to fix your own computer problem.  I hate taking (but I will) your money if you didn’t heed my advice.

There Be Viruses Among Us!

imageI’ve have THREE clients this week get viruses on their computers.  I’m not typing this because I’m exercising my fingers.  PLEASE listen – this is how to AVOID getting infected in the first place, and will save you getting scolded by me about what you DIDN’T do. 

Today is the second Tuesday of the month – that means updates from Microsoft will be coming your way, and that also makes it an excellent time to remind you to keep your eye out throughout the month for updates from Adobe (Acrobat Reader and Flash) and Oracle (Java.)

Don’t forget – these are SECURITY fixes. If you DON’T do them, you’re giving the bad guys an easy back door into your system. There are as many as eleven different flaws being patched this month, so be on the look out for them.

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I Beg You Please —- Don’t Click!!!

imageI still to this day have clients of mine getting infected because they clicked on a link in an email or opened an attachment.  DON’T!!!!   How many times do I have to say this.  I’ve seen church members get infected because they trusted email from their pastor (who got infected and the VIRUS sent email to his entire contact list.)  I have clients who got email from their very best friends and got infected because they clicked on the link in the email.  So I’ll say it again…  DON’T CLICK THE LINK OR OPEN THE ATTACHEMENT.

My rules are very simple, don’t click on a link or open an attachment in email unless ONE) you know the person and MOST IMPORTANTLY TWO) you are expecting it.

If the email doesn’t meet both requirements, don’t click.  If you do, you may end up calling me for an expensive repair.  I DON’T want you calling me for that reason.  I just want you to tell your friends how good I am at saving you money.

PLEASE don’t make me preach at you again.  Keep up with the latest news and security issues at my blog here:  http://www.Tek-Chic.com/Blog.   I update it every day or two so take a minute each day to be sure you’re up to date on what you need to know about your computer.

Don’t Let THIS Happen to You! (yep, it’s real)

Virus

16,481.  What’s that number?  That’s the number of infected files I found on a client’s computer.  This is what can happen when you don’t update Windows, Java, Adobe Acrobat and other programs you use.  Not keeping your software up to date opens the doors to let the bad guys get into your system.  In this case, they got in, disabled Windows Update, blocked other programs from updating, and invited in a bunch of their friends. 

Needless to say, cleaning this up takes quite a bit of time.  If you don’t want to find yourself in this situation, it might be a good time to review my article from November, “3 Secrets to Avoiding Viruses and Malware.”

Limewire to Shut Down Dec. 31

Reuters reported today that LimeWire, the file-sharing service used by many to swap music in shall we say a less than legal manner has lost its court battle and will be shutting down at the end of the month.  As an IT professional who fixes computers with viruses, and having NEVER seen a computer with LimeWire on it that DIDN’T have a virus, I can’t say I’m sorry to see them go.  Now, this doesn’t mean though that the LimeWire software will just go away on computers, people will still be able to use the peer-to-peer properties, but hopefully people will just uninstall it.  If you have LimeWire on your computer, PLEASE remove it ASAP as it is a great way to get a virus on your computer from someone pretending to have the latest hit song available.  Here’s the link to the article:  http://reut.rs/TekChic0240

3 Secrets to Avoiding Viruses and Malware

Viruses, spyware, adware, worms, trojans, rootkits, bots… they are all terms referring to what is generically known as malware, software that does bad things.  It might log your keystrokes, then send those keystrokes (like when you log into your bank) to the bad guy, it might use your computer to send spam email, it could pop up on your screen telling you that you’re infected with all kinds of viruses and you need to buy their virus removal program, and it won’t go away until you do.  No matter what it does, you DON’T want it on your computer.

Unfortunately a lot of computer users think that since they have anti-virus software on their computer they can’t get viruses, so it’s ok to be somewhat reckless on the internet.  Well, thinking that you won’t get infected because you have anti-virus software is like thinking you can’t get killed in your car because it has airbags.  You drive your car 120 mph into an oncoming truck and see just how well that airbag protects you.

So, if your anti-virus software can’t completely protect you, what can you do?  Follow these three guidelines (I call them secrets because so many people don’t seem to be aware of them) and it will be very hard for your computer to get bit by a bug.

imageDON’T OPEN ATTACHMENTS AND DON’T CLICK ON LINKS IN EMAIL. Email and web pages are the primary avenue of attack for the bad guys.  Clicking on links in email is a easy way to download a virus or get taken to a web site full of malware looking for ways to get into your computer.  The same goes for attachments, opening an attachment is like playing Russian Roulette with your computer.  So how do we make this a practical guideline?
If you’re expecting the email, then of course it’s ok to open.  If you were at a family reunion last weekend, and someone in the family sends you an email with photos attached and in the email says “here are some photos from the reunion”, then of course, open them and enjoy.  But if you get a message from a friend of yours and all it says is “check out this video of you on the Internet!”, don’t click on the link!  In all likelihood your friend has a virus on his/her computer, and the VIRUS sent the email, not your friend.  This is a common way that a virus spreads.  It goes through your email address book and sends a generic message to everyone that appeals to our natural sense of curiosity.  You get that email and the first thing you think is “wow, what is this video that my friend is talking about?”  2 seconds later you find yourself clicking on the link because you’re curious.  At this point it’s too late and you’ve probably infected your system.
I know you’d like to look at that PowerPoint file of the cute kittens and puppies, or follow that link to read about the 3 headed baby, but just resist the urge and keep your system safe.  If you think the link is safe but you hear my words echoing in the back of your mind, just remember that the actual destination of the link can be hidden, so to be safe open your web browser and TYPE the address in yourself:
image

image

KEEP YOUR COPY OF WINDOWS AND OTHER SOFTWARE UP TO DATE. The bad guys are always looking for a new way to get inside your computer.  The most important (and likely) targets are your operating system (Windows), your web browser (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Google Chrome), Adobe Acrobat Reader (for viewing PDF files), Adobe Flash (used to view video on sites like YouTube and most animation) and Java (by Oracle.)  In fact Java is quickly becoming the bad guys’ favorite way to get into your pc.  Java is used to allow programmers to write a program that can run on different operating systems without having to customize it.  There aren’t a lot of programs out there that require Java, and probably the best thing you can do it just REMOVE Java from your computer.  Just go to your Control Panel and click on Add/Remove Programs (Windows XP) or Programs and Features (Vista and Windows 7) and select Java for removal.  If you later find out that you need it, you can go to Java.com and download the latest version.  If you have Java and you know you need it, be sure you have the latest version (as of this writing, version 6 update 22.)

For Adobe Acrobat Reader and Flash you can go to Adobe.com/downloads and make sure you have the latest versions.

Firefox and Safari are good about notifying you when you need to download and install an update, Google Chrome pretty much just does it for you in the background.  Internet Explorer will get updated the 2nd Tuesday of every month when the Windows Updates are pushed to your computer.

Microsoft updates Windows the 2nd Tuesday of every month, so it’s important that you have automatic updates turned on and you install them when you see the icon in your taskbar tray.

It’s very important that you update your computer as soon as you get a notification, be it for Acrobat Reader, Java or Windows.  The moment these updates are published, the bad guys are analyzing them to see how they can take advantage of people who DON’T update their computers.  Also, sometimes the bad guys find the flaws first, and already are exploiting computers before the fixed are published, so don’t put this off.

image

USE MOZILLA FIREFOX WITH THE “NO-SCRIPT” ADD-ON. Each web browser has things to like about it: Internet Explorer for its integration with Windows, Google Chrome for its speed, Apple Safari for its speed and more “Mac-like” appearance (and I do like the “Top-Sites” feature.)  But I always recommend Firefox with no-script because it’s the absolute best way to avoid having a malicious web site get into your computer.

So what is “no-script”?  For that matter, what is a script?  Think of the word “prescription”.  A prescription is a set of instructions from your doctor to the pharmacist, you may be delivering it but you’re just the messenger – the pharmacist reads and follows the instructions.  In the world of the Internet, scripts are instructions from the web server (the computer at the other end delivering the web pages to you) to your computer.  Scripts themselves are not inherently evil.  Scripts are necessary just for you to read this page, in fact most sites you visit employ some scripts to automate how the page looks or what information you see.  Unfortunately web browsers are a little too quick to accommodate the instructions from web servers, and a site that has been set up by a bad guy (or compromised by one) can deliver all kinds of nasty stuff on your computer, just by going to a web page.

No script is what’s called an “add-on”.  Think of it like a mini-program that plugs into Firefox, like an accessory.  There are TONS of different add-ons you can use with Firefox, I use 3 or 4 but No-script is an absolute must.  No-script prevents ANY and ALL scripts from running on a web page without your approval.  What’s nice about no-script is that once you’ve approved a site, you don’t have to do it again.  For example, you trust Google and maybe use Gmail, so once you’ve approved Gmail, you won’t have to do it again.  So the first week or so you’ll be approving lots of web sites because it will be the first time No-script has seen them, but it will eventually calm down, and just intervene when you go to a new site for the first time.  The VALUE of no-script comes into play when you accidentally mis-type a web site, say Goggle.com instead of Google.com, or Foznews.com instead of Foxnews.com.  The bad guys purchase these names because they know every know and then people make mistakes, and they just wait for you to come to them.  They also design their web pages to show up high when you search on popular topics.  For example, back in February if you searched for Jessica Biel screensavers or maybe Jennifer Aniston screensavers, about HALF of the search results took you to sites with malicious software just waiting for you.

If you should happen to click on a search result that takes you to a web site that you’re sure is not what it’s supposed to be AND you’re running No-script, then the very worst thing that will happen is you’ll see some text and perhaps graphics/pictures – but that’s all.  NOTHING will be able to install itself onto your computer, all you have to do is click on the back button go back where you started and you can rest easy knowing your computer is safe.  For a DETAILED step-by-step walkthrough of installing Firefox and setting up NoScript, see my post in Apps/Tools or click here.

There you have it.  It seems like a lot at first, but it will save you aggravation and money in the long run if you’ll just convince yourself that it’s worth it (ask my clients who unfortunately had to pay over $200 to get their computer running again after picking up some nasty viruses.)  Follow the above steps, you’ll be glad you did.

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