Posts Tagged ‘virus’

I’m Thinking They Didn’t Have Good Backups

Illustration file picture (REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files)A hospital in Hollywood was hit by ransomware that encrypted all their systems over a week ago, and they’re still not back up.  THIS is why I say BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP!!!  Here’s the link to the article…

What’s Worse Than a Well Written Virus?

Answer?  A poorly written virus.  I’ve told you about CryptoWall and CryptoLocker, the viruses that encrypt your data and have you pay hundreds of dollars to get your data decrypted. 

Well, there’s a new variant of this type of virus out there, this one is called PowerWorm.  It also encrypts your data, and yes – the bad guys demand a ransom if you want your data back.  One problem, they did such a bad job writing their encryption code, that the decryption process doesn’t work, so you WON’T get your data back.  It’s not that they won’t get your files back, they can’t.  It’s lost – forever, whether you pay the ransom or not.

So obviously you shouldn’t pay in the first place.  What you need is a BACKUP of your data that’s not directly connected to your computer (like a USB external drive.)  That’s because most of these viruses also will look for and encrypt data on those backup drives.

Solutions?  If you use USB drives for backup, I recommend having a second backup drive that’s not connected and just swap them out on a weekly or monthly basis.  Another way is to have a cloud-based backup like Carbonite (truth in advertising, I’m a Carbonite reseller) or Mozy or iDrive.

I say it again and again and again, and I’ll continue to do so….   Backup, backup, backup.  It’s MUCH cheaper and less stressful than having a drive fail, getting a virus or having your computer stolen.

700 Reasons Why You Should Be Using Carbonite

700 reasons?  Really?  Yes! 

I have a client who discovered what this means.  There is a particularly nasty virus going around.  It’s not really new, just a new variation.  I first told ya’ll about this two years.

The most common delivery method is via email as an attachment.  Here’s a pop-quiz boys and girls.  What is my number 1 rule regarding getting viruses and malware?  DON’T click on links or OPEN ATTACHMENTS in an email unless you know who its from AND you’re expecting it.

Well guess what?  My client OPENED the attachment in an email and all his personal files, documents, pictures, music and videos were encrypted so well that NO ONE was going to get them back with the encryption key.  Guess who has the key?  That’s right – the bad guys.  They are happy to tell you exactly what has happened to your files and how to get them back.  Of course, that key will cost you.

How much?  $700.  That’s right.  The only way to decrypt those files is with that $700 key.  But of course, THEN you have to backup those files to another drive before wiping the computer’s drive completely clean, reinstall Windows, all the apps and then restore the unencrypted files.  Another $200+

Oh, and this nasty virus will also encrypt any attached USB drive or connected network drive.  The ONLY safe backup is an off-site backup. 

Carbonite is online and off-site.  Even some of the encrypted files got automatically backed up, but the team at Carbonite knows all about this virus and saves multiple copies of your files so in cases such as this, they can strip out the encrypted files and just restore all your unencrypted files. 

So “truth in advertising”, I am a Carbonite reseller.  I make a few dollars a year from each subscription.  However, Carbonite is the best or I wouldn’t be telling you this. 

Carbonite is only $59.99 a year and gives you total off-site, disaster recovery level protection.   If my client hadn’t had Carbonite on his computer, he would have lost ALL his data and had to pay the $700 plus the expense of cleaning the computer – close to $1,000 total.  His Carbonite subscription saved him a LOT of money.  So consider how you would feel if you couldn’t get to your data without paying $1,000 to get it all back and know your computer was safe.  $59 a year is pretty cheap.  I use it.  When the fire in Steiner Ranch hit a few years ago, I didn’t worry about my data because it was backed up on Carbonite.  The house could burn to the ground but at least my important data was safe.

Send me an email [email protected] or call me at 512-981-7835 if you have questions or would like me to set you up with Carbonite.  You can go directly to and just get it straight from them, but my Carbonite customers can call me (no charge for Carbonite issues) and I’ll personally help you for the same amount.

Forget Your Anti-Virus Software, it Won’t Help You!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have anti-virus software on your computer, but I’ve seen computers infected with viruses that were running Norton/Symantec Anti-Virus (or a version of Norton protection software,) McAfee, Kaspersky, AVG, Avast, Trend Micro and Microsoft Security Essentials.

Companies will try to tell THIS software is the best or THAT software is the best (especially if you have to pay for it – because they get a kick-back.)

All your anti-virus software will tell you (if you’re lucky) is that you have an infection, and MAYBE it will remove it.  The problem is that there may be other infections that came along with the one you found that were missed by your anti-virus program.

A hopeless situation?  No.  Depending on anti-virus software to protect your computer is like depending on your seat-belts from protecting you from an 80 mile per hour head-on collision in your car.

The key ingredient is YOU.  WHAT you do.  I wrote an article 3 years ago on my 3 “secrets” to avoiding viruses and malware and the advise hasn’t changed.  Follow that advice and you’ll make it near impossible to get infected – at most places over a $100 clean up job.  My charge is $135 to remove infections.  Take a few precautions and save your money.  Read my article here if you haven’t read it before (or you need a refresher):

Now Here’s a Nasty Virus You Definitely Don’t Want

This particular virus, known as Cryptolocker is what’s known as “ransomware”.  What it does is encrypt your data files with an encryption key that only the bad guy can undo.  And they know what they’re doing, they are using VERY strong encryption.  What this means that without the key the bad guy has, you absolutely can NOT open your files, and there are no computer techs out there that are going to be able to help.  You might be thinking “I’ll be ok, I have an external hard drive I back up to”.  Well, if it’s plugged in, the virus will find those files and encrypt them to.  What the virus can’t touch are the online backup services like Carboinite, Mozy, etc.

The virus open a screen on your computer demanding $300 within 3 or 4 days, or the key capable of removing the encryption will be deleted, leaving your files forever scrambled.  There have been reports that people who have paid actually got their files back.

Most infections seem to be coming in the form of email links that run a program from the web, so I’ll repeat myself for the um-teenth time, DON’T click on links (or open attachments for that matter.)  If you do get this infection, you’ll have to pay the $300 and HOPE you get your data back, and THEN you’re going to need to have your hard drive wiped, the operating system reinstalled along with your programs and then your data restored.  That’s the only way to be sure the virus is completely gone.  Painful – yes! 

So don’t let a tempting email trick you into clicking that link – you may really, really regret it.

So Far Over 45,000 Facebook Users Hit with the Ramnit Virus

imageActually, Ramnit is a worm that steals your login credentials, then transmit malicious links to their “Friends” with the intent the link will get clicked on, infect the friend’s computer and continue to spread in the same fashion.

Since most people (hopefully not those of you who regularly read my blog) tend to use the same password for everything, the bad guys, after getting your Facebook login information now probably have your email login.  With your email they can find out a lot about you, like where you bank, your credit card holders, etc.

Facebook is downplaying the significance of Ramnit, however they do say “People can protect themselves by never clicking on strange links and reporting any suspicious activity they encounter on Facebook. We encourage our users to become fans of the Facebook Security Page ( for additional security information.”  Since this is ALWAYS good advice, it’s hard to find fault with a response like that.

This is a variant of a virus that first appeared almost two years ago and is designed to steal information.  If you haven’t read my November, 2010 article on how to avoid viruses and malware, you can read it here:

The Bad Guys are Getting Better at Fooling Us

imageIf you’re running Windows XP, then you know probably (and hopefully) know what the Windows Update web site looks like.  Well, the bad guys are trying to convince you that their site is the same thing, but it’s not.  Strangely enough, you only see this if you’re using Firefox (and the REAL Windows Update only works with Internet Explorer – clue #1.)  Clue #2 is a pop-up that tells you that you need to update your copy of Windows.  That’s NOT how Microsoft notifies you.  You will see the typical yellow shield in the lower right task tray if you have updates.  So if you click the pop-up and download the “update” from their website you’ll actually be downloading a virus.

So the same advice that I’ve always given still applies, if you get a pop-up that says you’re computer is infected, DON’T CLICK on it.  The only warning you should be getting is from your own anti-virus software.  If you don’t know what your anti-virus software looks like, then it’s time you opened it up and take a look.  Run a manual scan so you know what it looks like.  That’s the best to not get fooled by fake anti-virus software.  If you’re using No-Script in Firefox as I recommend in my November article, you probably won’t even see the pop-up and be tricked into clicking.

I’m a Mac, and I’m a Virus

imageEven though Macs are a tiny percentage of the home computer market, someone has taken the time to write a virus just for the Mac.  It’s a variant of a common virus seen attacking PC’s and it’s just for all the Apple owners who were told (or thought) they couldn’t get a virus on a Mac.  InfoWorld has the article on what it looks like, how you get and what it does.

Watch a Movie – Get a Virus

Well, it isn’t quite that easy, but Adobe – who is gaining a reputation for a “we’ll get around to fixing it someday” attitude, has (yet again) problems with their Flash player and Acrobat PDF Reader. When you watch a video on YouTube and most web sites, they are using the Flash player in your web browser.  PDF files are usually viewed using Acrobat Reader.  Both have serious flaws that can allow a malicious flash or PDF file to run code (i.e. virus) that you probably wouldn’t be expecting.  So 1) be sure your programs are up to date. Go to to get the latest Flash Player (you can UNCHECK the box for the McAfee Scanner piggybacking on the download.)  If you MUST use Acrobat Reader (most of you don’t), go here and again uncheck the McAfee box.  If you’re on Windows, I recommend using Foxit Reader for view PDF files instead of Acrobat.  It’s smaller, faster with fewer security issues.  Get it here:  And just like the McAfee, when you get to the “Ask” toolbar in the installation, you can UNCHECK the boxes and DECLINE the agreement (it’s just for the toolbar) and the Foxit installation will continue.

Stay safe out there!

Malware That Demands a Ransom

This isn’t really a new concept in the world of malware (malware is just a generic term for viruses, spyware, adware…. basically anything a bad guy tries to put on your computer), but it seems they’re getting more aggressive about separating you from your money.  The malware in this article specifically breaks everything on your computer except your browser, telling you that you can buy their software to fix your computer, which of course it doesn’t.  Read about it here:  Remember – DON’T click links or attachments in email unless you’re expecting the message, and use Firefox as your browser with the NoScript plug-in.


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