PC Support Scams – Beware of These Threats

PC Support Scams Are Everywhere

pc support scamHave you gotten a PC Support Scam on your PC yet? If not, you will! What does this type of Malware attack look like? Just look at the image to the left. Pretty convincing, eh? Yes, it says Norton, but it’s fake. Anybody can copy a logo.

What else happens? Well, you’re sitting at your computer and suddenly it freezes. You see a big window pop up and say that your computer is under attack from a virus and you’re instructed to click to repair, or call a fake tech support number.

It can say lots of other scary things too, like that your hard drive is about to die and you must call immediately or you will lose all your data. It can also be a message from a fake technician from Microsoft telling you to call the right away. Sometimes, you might even get a phone call from a scammer saying they’re from Microsoft. [Read more…]

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…]

5 Tips to Avoid Android Malware: Be Aware When Downloading Apps

android marketEveryone loves free apps, especially Android users (phones and tablets). While most of these apps are legitimate, the number of free Android apps that are actually malware keeps increasing. Android users are more at risk than iPhone and iPad users because the the Android market is much more open than Apple’s.  This means more choices, but also more risk.

[Read more…]

FBI Virus Removal Cases Still Common

Virus Removal Woes Continue:

FBI Virus Removal TucsonFBI virus removal jobs keep coming to our shop. Will this annoying thing ever go away?

I hate to say it, but the only reason it’s still around is because people are falling for this scam!

Of course, the customers we see, are the ones that don’t fall for it and come to us to remove it. I should mention that along with the main scam, it installs all kinds of other spyware as well.

This is actually typical of most viruses. They bring their friends along! That’s why when we do a virus removal, we don’t stop when the offending virus is removed. We do further analysis and cleanups as well. We use no less than four different scanning and removal tools, as well as some manual work.

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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 2

Welcome to part two of this article.  We hope you enjoyed part one (click here if you missed it).  Here we will discuss the last two most common threats, as well as some other methods hackers use to trick people into infecting their machines.


Threat Category 3:  The Trojan-Horse

These programs are extremely common and popular.  They are a delivery method that works by fooling people into allowing some form of sinister program onto their PC’s.  They often come to you looking like something that is completely safe, or even desirable (hence the name).

Most of them just sneak onto your PC without your even knowing it.  The creators of these programs will hack a legitimate website and plant the Trojan on it.  Then when you visit that site, it downloads onto your computer.

The varieties are endless, so we’ll just mention one example.  Years ago, there was a program that used animated fireworks to display “Happy New Year 2000” on the PC screen.  Every time you ran the program, all it seemed to do was display this nifty animation in the form of a screen saver.  Another form of this technique was a cute program called “Bonzi Buddy”, where a cute purple gorilla danced around your screen.  What people didn’t know was that in the background, lots of nasty things were happening, such as logging your keystrokes, searching your PC for personal information, or launching pop-up ads.

A newer, more popular one these days is a Toolbar or other program that finds you coupons or great shopping deals.  Most of these “Shopping Assistants” are just crap used to launch pop-ups and send you spam.  There are a couple of “legitimate” coupon programs out there (like the “Coupon Printer” program).  If you come across such a program, avoid it.  There are other ways to find deals on the internet.  Being lazy and relying on a “shopping assistant” can get you in trouble and cost you hundreds in virus repairs, offsetting any “savings” they might find you.


Threat Category 4:  Back Doors

The sole purpose of these programs is to allow an authorized user to access or control the infected computer.  A popular one called Back Orifice, was one of the most complex and nasty programs ever made.  It allowed a remote user (ie hacker) to take “pictures” of what was being displayed on a PC screen, watch what was being typed, record sound from a microphone, create files, read data files and even delete files on the affected computer.  Back Orifice was a major problem worldwide and caused internet providers to institute major new security practices that still used to this day.


Methods Used for Distribution – How They Trick You Into Getting Infected

Method 1: Misspelled or Slightly Modified Web Address (URL’s)

The easiest way to get people to infect their computers is by tricking the eye.  Who would think that you can get a virus from popular sites such as Google, Amazon or Yahoo?  Or worse still, from your bank’s website?

The chances someone hacking these sites and setting them up to spread Malware is VERY small.  Even if someone does get lucky and hacks these sites, their 24/7 security staff, whose sole job is to monitor the sites’ traffic and watch for any irregularities, will fix the hacks in mere moments.

Yet this happens all the time.  The hackers spread emails and links to  infected web pages that appear like the real thing.  However if you look closely at the URL, or web address they took you to, you’ll find a slight typo or variation of the name.  Let’s take Bank of America for example:

Real URL    =bankofamerica.com

Fake URL1 =bankoofamerica.com

Fake URL2 =bankofamerica.js.com

Did you catch the differences?  How can you see these before you click?

When you hover you mouse over a link on a web page, the URL to the page will appear in your browser’s “Status Bar”, located at the bottom of your browser window.  Note that there is an option to turn this bar on or off in your browser’s “View” settings.  Make sure it’s on.  This is the most effective way to analyze a link before you click on it.


Method 2: Links Posted on Chat Rooms and Instant Messages

If you like to do instant messaging, or get on online chat rooms, be careful.  Never click on a link from someone you don’t know.  They may post a link to a “cool website”, some great pictures, or a good program you should download.  These links can bring you to a site that hosts malicious software and you could end up with any of the infections we mentioned above.

I know lots of folks like to meet new people this way.  That’s fine, but don’t trust people until at least you’ve interacted with them for a while.  Hackers and other nasty people tend not to be regulars on chat rooms.  Get to “know” people first.  Of course some nasty people, like stalkers, can stick around for a while trying to get peoples’ confidence, but that’s rare and is just a risk you take in the online world.


Method 3: Misleading People on a File’s True Nature by Hiding Part of the File Name

All malicious threats are programs. Programs can be written to do anything, from word processing, to photo editing, browsing the web, or just about anything else you can think of.  There are nasty ones out there too, that can do things like steal your passwords, launch pop-ups, or even delete files.  All programs have an identifying feature that they all share.  That feature is the “file type”, which is signified by the file extension.

Note:  A Lesson on File Types & Extensions:


When we talk about a file type, what we mean is “what kind of file is it?  Is it a picture, a document, a spreadsheet, a video, a music file or a program?  How do we know what type of file it is?  By what’s called a “file extension”.  This is the series of 3-4 letters that come after the “dot” in the file name, for example:

File1.jpg is a picture, signified by the “jpg”.

File2.mp3 is a music file, signified by the “mp3”.

File3.docx is a Word document, signified by the “docx”.

File4.exe is a program, signified by the “exe’.

File5.bin is also a program.

The main takeaway here is to recognize programs, as these are the only things that can be a virus or spyware threat.  The file extension for most programs is exe, which stands for “executable file”.  They can also be bin or bat files, but these are far less common.  Now you have a good understanding of the subject..

Okay so now you know this.  Are you safe yet?  No!  Why?  Because by default, Windows is configured not to show the file extensions.  This was a very stupid move by Microsoft.  They argue that this make things less confusing for the end users.  We highly recommend that you turn this feature on.  How do you do this?

Go to the “Control Panel” and look for an item called “Folder Options”.  Open this and you’ll see a tabbed window open up.  Click on the “View” tab and find an item called “Hide extensions for known file types”.  Uncheck the box next to it, and click OK.  If it’s already unchecked, leave it that way.  Now you’re a little safer.

So how do you use this knowledge to protect yourself?  When you see a file attached to an email, or are led to one by hitting a link to download something, you can now see if the file is truly what you were led to believe it is.  If you were led to think it was a cool picture, or a nice song, make sure the file extension is not exe, bin or bat.  If it is, you’ll know you were being misled and get out of there fast!

What the hackers do is fool you by naming a music file for example, as “CoolSong.mp3.exe.  If you had the file extensions turned off, you’d only see the name “CoolSong.mp3”, and you’d think it was a song.  Launch it and whack, the program runs and you’re infected!  Sneaky, eh?  This trick was very common with the free music download programs, like Lime Wire.  I can’t tell you how many customers of ours got infected this way.

That’s it for this post.  We’ll be posting more good articles on computer issues soon, so stay tuned.

As always, we welcome you to learn more about our company.  Please visit our Website or Facebook page.  Thanks!

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