Virus Threats – Malware Myths and Misconceptions

internet safety securityVirus Threats and Malware Threats – Know the Real Story

Virus threats and malware are subject to so many myths and misconceptions, that it’s hard for anybody to know what to think. Here are a few of the most common myths about Viruses, Trojans and other Malware, along with some tips from a computer repair shop.

Myth 1: I am Fully Protected from Viruses Because I Have an Antivirus Program on My PC

Many people ask us how they can get a virus when they have Norton, Kaspersky, McAfee or some other Antivirus or Internet Security program installed on their computer.

The answer is that NOTHNG is 100 percent effective against virus threats and malware. If Hackers can break into government computers with their sophisticated security programs, they can certainly break into your PC. Being too confident in your security software can lead to a virus repair job. [Read more…]

Virus Infections from Fake Support Sites

Virus Infections After a Support Call?

tech support virusOver the past few months, our Computer Repair shop in Tucson has had had dozens of customers come to us with virus infections after having called an alleged technical support site for companies like HP, Microsoft, Dell and even Intuit (Quicken and Quick Books).

The support person got the customer to allow them to make a remote connection so they could diagnose their computer. Invariably, they would scare the customer and tell them their computer was in bad shape with spyware and virus infections, Windows problems and hard drive issues. They would tell them that these were the real source of their problems and that they could fix them. Then they gave them a ridiculous price, often $200 – $300 to repair their computers. Gee, we do it for only $130. [Read more…]

6 Common Myths About Web Safety – Part 2

internet safety securityWelcome to Part 2 in this series.  Computer Viruses, Malware, Trojans, and other internet threats (commonly referred to as “Malware”) are rampant today, so I wrote his series to shed light on the subject and help dispel the most common myths.

Of course, we’re here to provide virus & malware removal services, should your PC or laptop get infected.

Myth #3: Only Naive Users get Malware and Viruses

[Read more…]

6 Common Myths About Web Safety – Part 1

internet safety securityComputer Viruses, Malware, Trojans, Spyware, Adware, Rootkits, Bootkits…. a wild menagerie of threats to be sure.  I’ll use the generic term “Malware” to refer to all these types from now on.  You may not have even heard of some of these forms of infections.  What the heck can you do?  How worried do you need to be?  The truth is, we’re all subject to these risks, but the better informed you are, the safer you’ll be.

This will be a series of posts where I’ll try to give you a simple rundown of the most common myths that get people into trouble.  How many parts will there be in this series?  That depends on how much time I have to write, or how sleepy I am if I’m writing at night.  I’m guessing two or three.

 

Myth #1: I Must be Safe Because I’ve Never Had a Virus Infection

Guess again my friend.  How would you know, when most malware and Trojans are designed to be stealthy and work behind the scenes without your knowledge?  That’s the whole point!  Yes, some types of malware do get your attention, especially the ones trying to sell you fake software, but this is only one type of infection.

Others may be lurking behind the scenes trying to steal your passwords, credit  card numbers, etc.  Eventually, if there are enough of them on your computer, you’ll notice performance slowdowns, lockups, error messages or even crashes.  This may be the only warning you’ll get that something is wrong, but by then it may be too late.

You won’t believe how many computers come in to our shop for other types of repairs, where we find viruses and malware galore.  As part of our troubleshooting, we always run a quick scan and sure enough, most of them have some type of infection.  They’re not always serious, but it goes to show how common this problem is.

Myth #2: Only Porn, Gambling and Other “Questionable” Sites are Dangerous

Of course, these are by far the riskiest sites out there, so you should avoid or at least minimize your visits to such sites (nudge-nudge).  Did you know that an estimated 83% of trusted, legitimate sites are hacked and infected with malware?  Now that’s scary!  The bigger sites monitor their sites, but hey can’t always keep up.  Most of the time they’re clean, but you can’t know if they’re clean when you visit them.

Why do they target these sites?  Because that’s where the money is!  They are popular, high-traffic sites, so they’re the best way to distribute the infections.  Most of the time they just hack the site.  If they can’t get in that way, they use other tricks.  One for example, is to pose as an advertiser wanting to post an ad on a legitimate site.  Once they’ve submitted and paid for their ad, they’ve built up trust with the site.  Then later, they post an update to their ad, embedding malicious code in it and voila… they’ve infected the site.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Top 10 Simple Online Privacy Tricks Anyone Can Do: Tip 3

Use Multiple or Disposable Email Addresses to Avoid Spam and Stay Secure

There are two concerns here.  One is reducing spam and the other is avoiding viruses from emails.  Here are two approaches.

 

1)     Reducing Spam: Use Multiple eMail Accounts.

I get a lot of resistance from customers on this, because it seems confusing, but it’s really not.  Just create 1 or 2 more email accounts with a free email provider like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail (Live Mail) or AOL.  It costs nothing and can greatly reduce the hassle and risk of spam and viruses.

Use one of these addresses for sites you don’t want to hear regularly from, like newsletters or coupon sites you’re only mildly interested in, or any new site you haven’t heard of, where you suspect they’re going to bombard you with spam.

I like to use them for product registrations, like when I buy a new printer, because I know they’re going to spam me with all kinds of product offers and deals.  Sure, I may want to look at these occasionally, but only when I feel like it.  I don’t want them cluttering up my regular mail inbox.

Do not add any contacts to the address book.  You don’t want to worry about a worm infecting it and sending spam to your friends.

This is also a good way of separating different aspects of your on line life into different areas, associating each area with a different email address.

 

2)     Security and Reducing Spam:  Use Disposable eMail Accounts.

A more aggressive way to reduce spam in your inbox is to use a disposable email addresses for websites you suspect might be very risky or questionable.  These are also great for sites you want to check out once (out of curiosity) but don’t want to go back to, or ever hear from again.

Many such sites require you to register with your email address before you can see their content.  These could be sites like forums, or “marketing” sites that offer business tips and help, but are really about harvesting email addresses so they can spam you.

For this, you can use a service like Trashmail or 10 Minute Mail.  You’ll use these temporary email addresses to get the necessary “confirmation email”, check out the site, and avoid the spam that might come your way.

 

That’s it for now.  We hope you are finding this series of articles useful.  Stay tunes for the next installment later this week.

As always, if you need more help in any area of computer repair in Tucson, or general support, please visit our Saguaro PC Tech Website or Facebook page.

Top 10 Simple Online Privacy Tricks Anyone Can Do: Tips 1-2

Tips 1 & 2: Passwords and Security Questions

These first two tips go hand-in-hand, so make sure you use them both.  Read on……

 

1. Create Secure, Easy-to-Remember Passwords

Secure passwords are the best, but not if you can’t remember them.  Most of you already know this, but are you implementing it?  There are a lot of tricks to creating easy, memorable passwords without making them easy to guess.  You can research this on Google, but I’ll give you a few ideas.

1)  Don’t use the same password for every website, especially banking sites.

2)  Alternate UPPER and lower-case letters, as passwords are case-sensitive.

3)  Use special characters, such as #,%,@, or !. Either add them or replace a letter with one of these characters.

4) Use a common base password (like a pet’s name), then add pattern of numbers that means something to you (like your kids’ birthdays).  Or perhaps add the initials of the website it’s for.

Example:  If your cat’s name is Muffy, your kid was born in 1964 and the password is for Yahoo Mail, you can use MuFFy1964YM.  For a Wells Fargo password, say your birthday is May 5, 1945.  You can use MuFFy1945WF.  Get the picture?

5)  Shift your fingers up one row and to the right (or the left, since they don’t quite line up) on the keyboard from the actual letter you want.  For instance, instead of “muffy“, type k8tt7.  Use whatever rule you want, but stick with one rule, so you don’t get confused.

 

2. Security Questions.  Keep them as Private as Your Passwords

Strong passwords are important, but they’re useless if your security question is something anyone can answer.  Most websites have ways to recover or reset your password if you forget it by using security questions, also known as “challenge questions”.  When you answer these correctly, the site lets you change your password, or will email it to you.  What would happen if a hacker, coworker, your kid, or an angry “ex” knew the answer to this question?  I shudder to think!

Instead of going the traditional security question route, you could use a formula to create a memorable, yet indecipherable security question.  For instance, you could use word association to make the question easy for you, but hard for others, for example:

  • “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” could be answered with your favorite Iron Maiden album instead.
  • Put in your mother’s birthplace when the question asks for your birthplace.  Get the picture?

Here’s another trick, but it’s not available on all websites.  Some sites let you create your own privacy questions.  If they do, definitely go for this option, as it opens up a whole world of options.

2. Create Secure, Easy-to-Remember Passwords

Identifying Common Internet Threats to Your Computer – Part 1

Introduction:  Landscape of the Battlefield

Nowadays it seems you can’t stray off the path of major sites like Google, Amazon or Yahoo without getting some useless program installed on your PC.  You may even fear risking your security by unwittingly letting some malicious program install itself on your PC.

As you browse the web, you see all these “free” programs and utilities promising you make your PC run better.  A very small percentage of these are useful, but they often come bundled with all sorts of additional programs.  You end up installing programs that you never heard of without even knowing it.  Yes, these legitimate programs can trick you.

It doesn’t take much to get your computer infected or clogged up with so much junk software that it slows to a crawl.  Additionally, you may also end up with malicious programs that can cause even greater havoc.

It is the intention of this article to discuss the characteristics of the major internet threats out there, helping you to be aware of them, and hopefully stay out of trouble.  This knowledge was learned from our years of experience as computer technicians, having “seen it all” and having repaired thousands of computers.

One Big Big Word of Warning: Your Antivirus or Internet Security program will NEVER be 100% Effective!

Our customers always ask why they got hit when they were running a good Anti-Virus program.  The reason is because the crime syndicates that create these programs have large numbers of excellent programmers and strategists that change up their programs and methods as quickly as several times a day!  No security program can keep up.  If you are unfortunate enough to hit a page that was just hacked, the infection will get through.

To keep you eyes from glazing over, we divided this post into category sections, each one dealing with one aspect of the subject.  This post contains the first two subject categories.

Note:  We won’t be saying much about viruses.  Viruses are still out there, but they are actually not used much these days and are rarely the real problem.  The real problem is “Spyware” and/or “Malware”.

 

Threat Category 1:  Scare-Ware and Scam-Ware

These programs are designed to take money from you, plain and simple.  We’ve all heard of the e-mail scams that tried to get you to send money to someone in a poor country.  Since most people are aware of these scams by now, they hardly work anymore.  Thus a new scam has appeared to take its place.

The most popular scam nowadays is to distribute programs masquerading as “security programs”.  These programs pop up out of nowhere and tell you your computer is severely infected and that you’re in grave danger of losing your identity, or whatever (thus the term “scare-ware”).  They insist that the only way to repair the issue is to purchase the program.

These programs often appear to be valid, although they’re absolute fakes.  They sometimes use the names and even the logos of well-known security programs, even those of Microsoft itself!  Most people can’t tell the difference.  If you look really close, you’ll notice some differences, but most people won’t see them.

Once these programs get through, they often hijack your PC.  You can’t get on the web.  You can’t get to the control panel or launch any of your utilities.  If you have a security or antivirus program, they will disable it so you can’t run a cleanup scan.  Getting rid of these programs can be quite difficult and sometimes requires a bit of “reverse hacking”.

It’s interesting to note that hardly any of these programs are created North America.  If you look closely, you’ll notice poor syntax, weird slang terms that are never used, or simple misspellings.  So where do these programs come from?  Mostly Russia and the Ukraine.  Many of the developers are members of organized crime syndicates.  That’s why they’re not afraid of being sued for using legitimate companies’ logos.

 

Threat Category 2: Spyware

Spyware is a term used to describe software that…. you guessed it…. spies on you. These programs are not usually harmful, but they can be over time.  They are often the main component of most of the free stuff you see out there.  Common examples include mouse icon replacements, “fun” cursors, screen savers, “smiley’s” and wallpaper.  One that we see all the time is called “Fun Web Products”.

How do these people make money if their product is free?  Well, by collecting all kinds of data about you, then selling it to marketing companies.  This data is then used to advertise products to you.  If these programs ask you to “register”, using your email address, it would then be sold to marketers, resulting in your inbox getting stuffed with spam.

Spyware has some more dangerous variants.  There are dozens, but the nastiest are programs called “keyloggers”, which can monitor what you type and possibly get your passwords.  This could then of course compromise actives like online banking.

A Common Question: What is Malware vs. Spyware?

Malware is sort of a “catch all” name for all “MALicious softWARE”.  Both viruses and spyware fall into sub-categories of Malware. The common purpose of all these programs is to disrupt the normal operation of your computer and/or compromise your security (ie take your money).

That’s it for now.  Check back in a few days for the next part in this series.  Also please check out our website for more about us and how we can help if you get virus or spyware infection.  Be safe everyone!

To Continue to Part 2 of this Article, Click Here

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