Monday, 15 July 2013

How to Help Prevent Viruses and Spyware From Infecting Your Computer

1) EDUCATION and Common Sense must be used on the Internet. That's right - YOU have power to stop these infections dead in their tracks with no ifs, ands, or buts. If something doesn't feel right about what you see on the screen, don't do it!! Don't press the button.
2) ALWAYS keep Windows and your Anti-Malware software updated - it can't fight what it doesn't know! Only run ONE anti-virus software program. Multiple anti-spyware scanners may be used, however (like Ad-Aware and Spybot Search and Destroy, for example).
3) Use a software firewall. Windows 7 comes with an adequate firewall that monitors incoming AND outgoing connections. The Windows firewall in Vista and XP are passable but do not monitor outgoing connections (like when spyware tries to "call home") Check out a free firewall like Comodo Firewall with antivirus - it's free and it works great. Again, only one anti-virus (and one firewall), okay?

4) When you are browsing, stay away from porn sites, hacker sites, party poker sites, and any sites with funny characters or where the domain name (such as does not make sense. When you are doing searches on the Internet, be careful what you are clicking on. Don't just click a site that looks appealing if you don't recognize the domain. Critically think about the way the domain and the rest of the URL looks. If it looks scary, don't go there. Same thing with Facebook and MySpace links! Find another, safer looking place to go (think of URLs like you think of a dark alley - you never know if danger lurks!). You can use a website checker (Symantec and McAfee both have one with their Security Suite and AVG uses one, even with their free anti-virus software) but again, remember that nothing is 100% guaranteed.
5) Here is a way to make the bad pop-up go away (note - this ONLY works if you have NOT clicked anything yet and the malware has not infected your computer): Press the CTRL and ALT buttons (hold them down) and press the DEL (or DELETE) button once. If Windows XP or before, Task Manager will start; if XP (with Quick Logon disabled), Vista or 7, click "Start Task Manager." Make sure the Programs tab is highlighted. Click the all Internet Explorer programs one at a time and click End Task until the bad pop-up goes away, and guess what - You were saved!
6) Some techs advocate unplugging the computer from the power when they see a bad popup like this, or if a laptop, holding the power button for 5 seconds. One caveat to this method, however: this is a hard shutdown, and it can actually ruin your Windows installation and possibly your hard drive. Therefore, I do not personally recommend this method except in a dire emergency. Know the possible consequences however, should you decide to try it!
Other kinds of attacks that the bad guys use to try to get your personal information have nothing to do with installing software on your computer.
Phishing attacks can come from email, or from a rogue web page that is disguised as the real thing. A couple of years ago, rogue emails were sent out to millions of people that looked like they came from their stock broker, bank, PayPal, or eBay. The email stated that the account was in default, or that their password had expired, or scared the user in some other way (this is known as Social Engineering in the computer security world). The user, not thinking about a possible scam, clicked on the link and freely entered all of their personal and banking information into the rogue web page. Needless to say, many people lost a lot of money by not critically thinking about what they were doing, or even looking at the entire domain. Here is an example of a rogue webpage URL: "http:// www.". Note that "eBay" is in the URL, but the actual domain is - this would be a Russian website, with the page URL disguised as an eBay page. The title could even say something like "eBay - Change Password." ALWAYS know the TRUE domain and NEVER provide personal information unless you typed the URL in yourself, or used a trusted favorite (also known as a bookmark).
"When it comes to software on the Internet, we need to ask ourselves - did it come to me, or did I go to it?"
If it came to you, run away (or close the browser window). If you went to it, you probably knew what you were doing and where you were going.
Another security risk on the Internet:
Craigslist has become hugely popular over the last few years and for many people it works well, but unfortunately it is fraught with scammers as well! Here is the way the scam usually works:
You list something to sell on You get an email from someone who is interested (they are usually afraid to call!). The person states they are very interested in the item and want to buy it immediately, sight unseen (a definite warning flag). They offer to send you a Moneygram or cashier's check for much more than the item is worth. You get to keep some extra for your trouble, they say, but they also want you to pay the shipper an extraordinary amount to pick up the item and ship it to the "new" owner. The scam is that you pay your hard earned money for the shipping, lose the item, and to boot the cashier's check turns out to be a fraud. Not a very good day in Craigslist land, was it?
Amazingly enough, someone tried to scam me in much the same way on Craigslist! I had two people email me after I listed an advertisement to repair laptops that said they had 7 laptops to fix, and the laptops were currently out of state. They told me to name my price and they would ship the laptops. The scam was I would get paid with fake money, and I would pay the "shipper" to ship the computers - but, I would be out of my money, there are no real computers to fix, and the fake money would be lost.
Okay, now that you have this great information on what the malware is, how it gets on your computer, why antivirus software cannot protect you from it, and how to stop it if it tries to get on your computer, what do you do if you still get bit?
You could try performing a "Google" search for the symptoms and look for web pages that tell you how to remove the infection. For example, if you have a box that comes up that will not go away, and it calls itself "Security Tool," search for that term on Google. You don't need to go to paid techy sites such as; is a GREAT place to go for advice - a lot of people on that site have tons of experience removing malware and are happy to help for free.
Note that sometimes you are really going to have to get your hands dirty and possibly learn much more about this removal stuff if you want to try it on your own. And, it's a scary world out there.
But, there is always an alternative. You can hire a professional to help you - you can look in the online yellow pages or do an online search, or look in your local phone book. Choose someone that is reasonably priced but not cheap - cheap always comes at a price you may not want to pay. Look for a business that has been around for a while - ask them when you call how long they have been doing this and what the success rate is. Sometimes the computer is so badly infected it really needs to be wiped clean. You will want your data saved, too. The true pro will offer a flat rate to do all of that. Do not be afraid to ask questions - that is part of what you are paying for.
I hope this report has been beneficial to you, and I also hope that it has helped prevent your computer from getting infected at least once or twice. We aren't perfect, and even I have had the "opportunity" to do my own damage control once or twice.

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