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Why Ordinary Antivirus Fails To Protect Your PC

What antivirus software “protects” your computer?

Some of the common ones I see on client computers are:

  • Norton
  • McAfee
  • Trend Micro
  • BitDefender
  • VIPRE
  • AVG
  • Avast
  • Avira
  • Microsoft Security Essentials or Windows Defender
  • ESET NOD32

Bad news, my friend.

I’ve got bad news if you’re using one of these products – your PC ISN’T as safe from viruses and malware as you believe.

Older isn’t better in this case

All of these antivirus programs use 25-year-old technology to block viruses and malware.  It’s called virus definitions.

Multiple times every day, these software manufacturers push updated virus definitions to your computer.  It’s basically a list of known bad threats they have discovered that shouldn’t be allowed on your PC.

Two Flaws

I’m sure you can see the two major flaws with this.

First, it’s impossible to keep the list on your computer up-to-date. 

Cybercriminals are always writing new scripts to attack computers. 

It’s only after these new viruses are released on the Internet and have done their damage that antivirus vendors know they exist, reverse engineer how they work, and add them to the “bad list.” 

This process can take days or even weeks – leaving your computer completely unprotected.

Second, it’s easy to bypass the list.

Hackers know how these lists scan incoming files to determine whether it is good or bad, whether it should be allowed or blocked. 

So they modify their code just enough so your antivirus software doesn’t recognize it as being malicious – simply because it’s not on “the list” in the virus definitions database.

Think of it as using a fake ID.

Use Technology To Fight Technology

What’s the solution?

Fortunately, there is a new antivirus software that utilizes the latest technology to combat against all types of virus and malware infections without using a list.

This antivirus protection stops any threat – known or unknown – from damaging your computer. 

How?

It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to determine if the actions a particular file or program is performing are normal or malicious.  If it’s malicious, it immediately shuts it down.

There are no outdated virus definition lists and no days or weeks of your computer being vulnerable.

I’ve Seen It Work

I installed this new protection on a client’s computer in late October.  On New Year’s Eve, while I was vacationing in Arizona, I received an email alert that the Cybersecurity Antivirus had stopped a hidden, malicious file stored in the computer’s recycle bin from encrypting all her files and rendering her computer inoperable.

The report showed exactly where the file was located and specifically what files on the computer it was trying to modify.

Because it immediately quarantined it, this client didn’t experience any problems.  And more importantly, she didn’t have to shell out any money for a virus removal.

You Decide

Antivirus software MUST be installed on your computer.  Anything is better than nothing.

But is it smart to use antiquated technology that doesn’t really protect your computer from the latest threats? 

You spend between $0 and $100 for antivirus “protection,” but end up having to spend $100-$200 more to clean up your PC when that “protection” fails you (and it will).

 Alternatively, the Cybersecurity Antivirus protection can keep your computer safe and keep money in your pocket for less than $150 a year.
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How To Secure Your Online Accounts From Hackers

What do your online banking website, your email account, and Facebook all have in common?

They all require you to log in. You’re prompted to enter your username and password to gain access.

As cybercriminals desperately seek to steal your personal information, they’ve gotten really good at cracking usernames and passwords.

Unfortunately, this basic level of security is no longer effective on its own to prevent others from accessing your personal online accounts. This leaves you at serious risk for identity theft, fraud, and other scams.

In today’s column, I would like to briefly show you a foolproof way to keep hackers from breaking into your online accounts – even if they know your password.

2 is the magic number

Two-factor authentication is an advanced method of website security. It forces someone trying to gain access to a website to prove they have the right to enter.

Two-factor authentication requires two different forms of identification, both of which must be correct, to successfully be allowed entry.

Compare it to completing a transaction at the license branch. You’re often required to provide two documents to prove your identity – such as a birth certificate proving you are who you say you are and a utility bill proving your mailing address.

What you know & what you have

Tech expert Leo Notenboom describes two-factor authentication like this:

“Authentication has almost always been in the form of something you know – for example, a password. … Two-factor authentication adds something you have to the requirements to prove you are you. … You must possess something specific that is completely unique to you and only you.”

Google What?

The Google Authenticator app makes setting up two-factor authentication extremely easy.

1. Install the app on your smartphone.
2. Enable two-factor authentication on the website you wish to secure, such as Facebook or your online bank account.
3. Associate the Google Authenticator app with your account by either typing in a code or scanning a QR image.

Once you complete this process, the Google Authenticator app will begin displaying a random six-digit number every 30 seconds. These numbers are completely unique to your account and your cell phone.

Now when you (or anyone) attempts to log in to that particular website, it will prompt for the username/password AND the random number displayed in the Google Authenticator app on your phone at that time to be entered.

Without both correct pieces of information, access will be denied.

Other Methods

You can also use simple text messaging to set up two-factor authentication, if you don’t have a smartphone or don’t wish to use Google Authenticator.

Most websites offer you the option to configure your cell phone number as a verification method.

When you (or anyone) attempts to log in, a text message with a random code is sent to your cell phone. You enter that code, along with your password, to prove you’re authorized to access the site.

Securing your important online accounts with more than just a username and password is critical. Security breaches happen every day, even with “secure” websites.

Two-factor authentication provides the best way to keep unwanted intruders out of your personal accounts.

If you’d like more information about or assistance with setting up your accounts with two-factor authentication, feel free to call my office at (812) 386-8919 or email me at scott@calibre-cs.com.

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How To Determine If A Website Is Safe

Scrolling through your Facebook news feed, you see a friend shared a link to an interesting story.  It’s obvious it will take you to a different website if you click on it.

Or maybe you’re a recipient of one of those emails a friend sent to everyone in her address list.  You’re encouraged to click on the link to watch a funny video clip.

Because you’re a faithful reader of this tech column, you know you’ve got to be careful on the Internet.  Viruses and malware lie in wait to infect your computer.

So how can you tell if a website is safe to visit or not – before you browse to it?  How can you be sure your PC won’t become infected?

The bad news

Unfortunately, there’s no guaranteed way to assure a website is completely safe or virus and malware free.

The good news

But there are some fairly reliable tools you can use to help gauge the safety of a website before you visit it.

First, you can use online web-based scanners to examine the web address.

·      Norton SafeWeb – https://safeweb.norton.com/

Security vendor Symantec offers this website to provide you an analysis of a website’s reputation.  Most of its information comes from the general public who submit reviews based on their interactions with the websites.  So you must still use caution because these reviews are not necessarily legitimate.

·      Comodo Site Inspector – http://app.webinspector.com/

Comodo Site Inspector, a free service by the popular cybersecurity vendor, will scan a URL for twelve potentially harmful components that could damage your computer.  The scan can take several minutes to complete.

·      ScanURL – https://scanurl.net/

Similar to Norton SafeWeb, ScanURL.net checks multiple databases such as Google SafeBrowsing, Web of Trust, and PhishTank to see if a site has been reported as a potentially malicious site.

Second, you can implement DNS filtering on your router.

DNS can be considered the phone book of the Internet.  Each website address (like www.calibreforhome.com) points to a specific server address comprised of numbers where the site is hosted, known as an IP address.

OpenDNS offers a free service for home users, allowing you to filter all your Internet traffic through their DNS servers, which are programmed to block known harmful websites.  It can also speed up your web browsing, compared to using your Internet Service Provider’s default DNS servers.

You can check out their packages at https://www.opendns.com/home-internet-security.

Finally, you can install a web filtering software program on your computer.

The Managed Web Protection we offer prevents you from visiting websites known contain malware, spyware, adware, and other infections.  It also functions as a parental control tool – keeping your kids and grandkids from visiting inappropriate websites.

Of course, the safest method of all – don’t click!

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What You Should Learn From “The Day The Earth Was Hacked”

Europol, the intelligence agency of the European Union, called it a “cyberattack of an unprecedented level.”

Starting early Friday, May 12, a massive ransomware infection called WannaCry quickly spread to hundreds of thousands of computers in over 150 countries.

It crippled entire hospitals, car manufacturers, telecom companies, and even affected U.S.-based FedEx, demanding a $300 ransom to be paid in Bitcoin for the data files it held hostage.

Failure To Do This Leaves The Door Wide Open

Why did this ransomware inflict so much damage when it could have been easily prevented?

First, companies and individuals failed to keep their computers updated with the latest security patches.

Microsoft discovered the vulnerability exploited by WannaCry and issued a patch back in March. Computers with the update installed were not affected.

Yet, an enormous number of PCs obviously weren’t updated, providing an open door for the cyberattack.

In my experience, most small business and home users neglect to regularly install the ever-important Windows Updates. They either don’t know how or never think about installing them.

Worse yet, many refuse to allow a knowledgeable IT provider to take care of these tasks for them at a minimal cost.

The Antivirus Myth

Second, most of the affected PCs used ineffective or no antivirus protection.

The first question I always get asked after a client’s machine becomes infected is, “Well, I have [insert name of a popular antivirus program, usually a free one]. Shouldn’t it have prevented this?”

Truth is most antivirus programs sold today use ancient, 25-year-old technology. They simply don’t protect against how today’s threats attack and infect computers.

In the previous column two weeks ago, my Director of Service Operations, Christian Hinojosa, warned about the inadequacies of free antivirus programs – like AVG, Avast, and Avira. These are some of the worst protection when it comes to ransomware like WannaCry.

But even many of the paid antivirus programs fail to block deadly viruses and malware.

Only a slim handful of paid antivirus software effectively blocks many of the behavior-based, zero-day threats regularly attacking your computer. And they’re not ones you find on the shelf at Walmart or Best Buy.

The Worst Is Yet To Come

While WannaCry’s reach rapidly extended throughout the entire civilized world, it only lasted a few days before it was stopped in its tracks.

The purchase of a simple $11 domain name by an observant security expert broke the criminals’ code.

Those thieves know exactly what they did wrong. You can bet they’re already working on a version 2.0 that won’t be stopped as easily.

At Home or At Work – You’re At Risk

Are you a home user who only checks email and browses Facebook?

Are you a small business owner with one or more computers critical to running your daily operations?

Do you work in an office, warehouse, or other organization with computers?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you have computers at risk for the next big attack.

It would be wise to make sure you’re well-protected before disaster strikes. Keep in mind these six tips:

1. Regularly update all your computers with the latest patches.
2. Install antivirus software designed for today’s threats.
3. Implement edge protection to build a wall around your home or business network that will keep unwanted hackers out.
4. Provide on-going training to family members and/or employees that helps them identify phishing email, scams, fake websites, and other malicious attempts to infect your PC or steal personal information.
5. Maintain regular, automated, OFF-SITE backups of all important documents and data on your computer.
6. Consult with a knowledgeable IT professional to provide these five solutions for you. If they can’t, find an expert who is educated and able to offer complete security. It really is cheaper than the alternative.

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The Real Costs of “Free” Antivirus Protection

When Alan brought his computer to us because he couldn’t access any websites, he never suspected the culprit would be this one seemingly harmless thing.

Our technicians put his computer through rigorous troubleshooting, but were unable to immediately find the cause of his problem. After more in-depth testing, we discovered one small setting preventing Alan from browsing the Internet.

Alan had been using AVG Free Antivirus – one of the most popular free antivirus programs. However, his troubles began when he uninstalled AVG prior to having us install our Advanced Managed Antivirus protection. Even after being “removed,” AVG was still trying to commandeer his Internet connectivity. His problem was solved by removing the remaining hidden AVG drivers.

Little things like these are what make free antivirus solutions less than optimal.

While the prospect of free protection from malicious viruses and malware may seem appealing at first, the cost further down the road is far less attractive and significantly more.

Here are three reasons why you should think carefully about risking your PCs security with a free antivirus program:

Pathetic Protection

What is the point of having an antivirus program installed on your computer if it’s not able to protect you from the latest viruses and malware attacks?

Paid antivirus programs have more frequently updated features and are always kept up-to-date with the latest virus definitions. Most free solutions, however, offer only minimal protection.

In a study conducted by PC World, free antivirus programs allowed an unsettling 15.2% of malware slip through their detection.

Real-time protection is also rarely an option when you are not paying for your antivirus software. You may be protected from common viruses attacking your computer, but many new, more highly sophisticated viruses could easily get away with infecting your PC and stealing your personal information before being detected.

Annoying Advertisements

The last thing you want when trying to rid your computer of malware is intrusive and annoying adware.
Many antivirus companies partner with advertisers so they can make money off their free products. Free antivirus utilities commonly hijack your browser, homepage, toolbars, and search engine. This generates more revenue for them and more trouble for you.

Free antivirus solutions rarely detect or stop unwanted adware. These programs often seem helpful and legitimate – advertised as being used for couponing, finding lyrics to your favorite songs, or even checking the weather.

But these programs gain an alarmingly elevated level of access to your computer. They leave your computer extremely vulnerable to malicious attacks.

Adware such as this results in even more pop-ups, advertisements, and even spam emails. Stuff you’re trying to prevent in the first place!

Something else to think about …

Why do all the free antivirus programs bombard you with ads to upgrade to their paid version? Even they know the paid version is more effective.

Unwanted Utilities

One of the more annoying and potentially dangerous aspects of free antivirus programs are the extra “features” that come bundled with them.

Free antivirus solutions are often bundled with a plethora of other largely useless and problem-causing utilities.

Some contain a bundled proprietary search engine or homepage. But these are a mere rebranding of Ask, Yahoo, or Bing search engines.

If you wish to use one of these search engines, you’re better off going to the legitimate website.

Some antivirus programs also attempt to redirect your web browsing through their servers promoting added protection. Ironically, this often results in security holes due to poor product development, leaving you even more vulnerable to outside attacks than before.

Buyer Beware

While a “free” virus program may be enticing to you, they are often littered with too many downfalls to be a truly good value.

Computer professionals who recommend you use a free antivirus program are doing you a major disservice. They often make more money off cleaning the virus infections and fixing other problems caused by the free programs than they do by offering you a highly effective paid antivirus software.

So what should you do?

Paid antivirus protection costs far less than you would expect. Premium antivirus software is the best option for your computer’s security and for your pocketbook.

If you absolutely cannot or simply refuse to pay for your antivirus protection, you should be extremely confident in your ability to safely navigate the web and steer clear of any and every suspicious website, email, or pop-up.

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Tales of Three Clients (And The Moral of the Stories)

Richard received an email from his web designer last month informing him she had taken an opportunity that no longer allowed her to maintain his company’s web site. He immediately forwarded the information to me requesting I “handle it.”

He knows his time and energy as a small business owner are best spent building his business and serving his customers. It’s wasteful for him to fumble around with computers, his website, and other tech issues.

Ever since Richard asked me to support his computer needs over seven years ago, he’s viewed our relationship as that of a trusted advisor. He knows we have his best interests at heart and will make the right recommendations and decisions for him because we understand his business and his technology needs.

For example, when the sales rep for his accounting software calls his office to process the annual renewal, he gives them my phone number and tells them to speak with me. He refuses to talk to them.

Because of this relationship, I can proudly report his computers and network have had NO major issues causing loss of data or significant interruptions in his business. The small, common computer problems are very infrequent and solved quickly.

But I have several clients – both business and residential – who are unlike Richard. They prefer to make changes or tackle computer problems on their own without consulting a computer professional.

Just today, as I’m writing this column, a client frantically called me within minutes of the Frontier technician leaving his office after installing the DSL Internet service. He discovered his two computers couldn’t communicate with each other. Nor could he print to either of his wireless printers.

A quick phone call to me prior to changing his Internet service providers would have prevented his moment of panic, his computer problems, and a costly emergency service call.

Here’s another story:

The other evening while wasting time on Facebook, I saw a friend’s post soliciting help in hooking up her Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) cable modem. She couldn’t find any place in her house with the connections for the cables.

One person commented, “Find a teenager in your neighborhood or call one of your grandkids.”

To many, setting up a cable modem should be easy and take less than five minutes. But I’ve had instances where it necessitated a 30-minute phone call to get it working after it was properly connected.

Grandkids who are “computer geniuses” and family members who “work for Microsoft” keep computer repair shops across this country in business. They know just enough to royally screw up your computer or network – leaving you to foot a hefty repair bill to clean up their mess.

So what’s the moral of these stories?

Find a computer professional you know, like, and trust.

Then let them handle EVERYTHING related to your technology – whether it’s at your home or your business.

Call them BEFORE changing service providers, installing new software, buying a new printer or other hardware, or disconnecting any cables.

The money you spend for advice and direction from someone who knows what they’re doing (i.e. someone who does it every day for a living) will be CONSIDERABLY LESS than what you’ll shell out to fix something you or someone else broke.

As the old saying goes, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.”

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You Can Avoid Becoming A Victim

Fraud

“Hi, Scott. I need to give you my new credit card information. My old card got hacked, so the bank sent me a new one.”

I receive calls like this almost every week from clients who have recurring transactions set up with us.

Scams, fraud and identity theft are on the rise. A sad reality of the 21st century.

Did you know …

  • 13.1 million U.S. consumers lost almost $15 billion because of identity theft in 2015, according to a Javelin Strategy and Research study conducted last year?
  • credit card fraud could jump from $4 billion to $10 billion by 2020, according to a February 2016 CNBC report?

All this is despite the advances in new security features, like the EMV chips in debit and credit cards.

If you haven’t been the victim of a computer scam, fraudulent bank or credit card use, or identity theft, you probably know someone who has. The negative effects cause incredible frustration, cost hours of lost time, and results in the loss of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Becoming aware of how scammers, cybercriminals, and identity thieves work and knowing how you can protect yourself is critical in this age.

In honor of National Consumer Protection Week, March 5 through 11, I’d like to provide you with this information. But I would need considerably more space than what I’m graciously given here in this column.

So I’ve created a new three-part video series where I share practical and little-known consumer safety tips.

These tips provide you the knowledge you need to be a smart consumer, even when scammers catch you off guard. Armed with this information, you’ll avoid falling victim to scams, identity theft, and fraud.

Common Computer Scams
In the first video, I’ll teach you how to quickly and easily identify the three most common computer scams. Some are blatantly obvious, yet many people fall hook-line-and-sinker for them. After watching this video, you won’t be one of those people.

How Identity Thieves Work
In the second video, I’ll describe some of the sneaky ways identity thieves steal your personal information. It’s not just through your computer, either. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is for these criminals to go undetected and how at-risk your privacy is.

How to Protect Yourself
In the final video, I’ll give you 10 specific actions you must take to protect yourself – in both the physical and digital worlds. You’ll be given the steps, resources, and tools necessary to keep your personal and financial information as secure as possible.

You can sign up to view the videos for free at on the home page of this website – www.calibreforhome.com.

I promise I’m not going to try to sell you anything, and I won’t be filling your email inbox with useless junk messages.

I simply want to help combat the growing trend of fraud and identity theft. The best way for me to do that is by sharing with you what I’ve learned as I deal with it on a daily basis.

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Beware the Fake Windows Support Scam

It was early Monday afternoon when Larry’s phone rang. “Hello,” he greeted the caller, expecting it to be a friend or family member.

“Hi. I’m calling from Windows technical support. We have detected a problem with your computer,” the caller proclaimed in an almost unintelligible accent. “I need to log in to your computer to check to see what is causing the problem.”

Suspecting something to be fishy about this, Larry told the caller he should call back in an hour. Then Larry immediately called me to inquire if this was legitimate.

This type of scam has been around for years, but is still going quite strong. Callers – often from foreign countries – pose as computer support technicians from companies like Microsoft, Norton, and other well-known computer industry names. They try to convince the victim that their computer is running slow, is infected, or has problems that they need to check out.

To make you “believe” what they are saying, they instruct you to go to your computer, pull up the Windows Event Log and observe various warnings and errors appearing there. Although most of these entries are no cause for alarm, these scammers adamantly assert these are problems that must be fixed immediately – for a cost!

They then ask you to provide credit card information either over the phone or via a web site to pay for the service. Once they receive confirmation of the payment, the scammer then asks you to download software that allows them to access your computer over the Internet, which allows them to make changes and install software.

Unsuspecting computer users who fall for this scam suffer several problems. First, they pay an exorbitant amount of money for unneeded “repairs.” Second, their computer becomes loaded with useless and often-times virus-infected software. Third, they may become the victim of identity theft.

What should you do when you get one of the calls? Hang up! Don’t waste your time talking to them. Definitely do NOT perform any actions they ask you to take on your computer.

Be warned, though, that some of these scammers are very persistent. People have reported receiving numerous calls, even after explicitly telling the scammer to not call back.

Larry asked a really good question when he called me: “How do I know if something like this is real or fake?”

You should only consider phone calls from companies that you personally know, trust, and do business with to be legitimate. Although Microsoft is the maker of the Windows operating system on your computer, you don’t actually do business with them. So they will never call you to tell you there is a problem with your computer.

Your Internet Service Provider or your local computer repair company are probably the only two who might call you to let you know about an issue with your computer.

Even then, if you do get a phone call from someone purporting to be them, don’t immediately follow their instructions. Look up the phone number for that company and call them back yourself to inquire if they called you about a problem (don’t ask the caller for their number).

Another tell-tale sign of most scammer calls is if the person calling has a foreign accent. Most of the trusted companies you do business with have employees who speak the English language very well and without a noticeably foreign accent.

Phone scams have been around for a long time and promise to be a nuisance well into the future. Play it safe. If it doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t. Hang up and call a computer support professional you know and trust. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration and problems.

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Christmas Shopping For A New PC? Avoid These Pitfalls.

When it comes to buying a new computer, it’s always tempting to go for the “special buys” or “great deals” offered by big retailers. These are the computers advertised for $299, $399, and even $499.

The upfront cost is appealing and sounds like a great bargain. But are you really saving money in the long run?

Most individuals begin their computer shopping by looking at the price. Unfortunately, this is the wrong place to start.

Your new computer purchase should be dictated by your needs – both now and up to five years in the future. Are you only using your computer to do light Internet browsing, checking e-mail, and typing letters in a word-processing program? Will you be doing anything with digital pictures or videos?

Many of the computers offered at appealingly low prices usually have just enough power to run the basic components of the computer. To keep the price low, manufacturers use slower processors and slower hard drives. Overall, the performance of the computer suffers.

Users often find that these machines don’t function the way they want them to, requiring them to spend hundreds of dollars to upgrade the computer to obtain satisfactory performance.

Some brands also use lower quality parts in the machines to help keep prices low. These lower quality parts fail more frequently, requiring costly repairs sooner than later.

Finally, all the computers lining the shelves at the big box stores are loaded with unnecessary programs, fondly referred to by computer professionals as “bloatware.” These programs take up space on the computer’s hard drive and can slow the computer down. In some cases, they create the potential for conflicts and other computer problems.

So what looks to be a great deal and a money-saving purchase more often than not becomes a money pit. Frequent and costly repairs erase any savings you may have had on the purchase price.

A reliable, quality computer system doesn’t have to cost a fortune. But when buying a computer, it is important to consider the total cost of ownership rather than just the cost of buying it.

A trusted computer professional that understands your needs can help you make a wise, money-saving purchase, creating a more enjoyable computing experience.

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5 Myths About Virus Infections

Computer Virus

Our tech bench at Calibre Computer Solutions always has at least one computer (usually more) on it that’s been infected with some type of virus or malware. Nasty infections requiring specific removal tools and processes have increased dramatically over the past year.

The number one question I’m asked is, “How did this get on my computer?  I have antivirus protection.”

In today’s column, I would like to dispel five common myths most computer owners believe about viruses and spyware. Learn these, make the recommended changes, and your risk of infection will be greatly reduced.

MYTH #1 – If I have an antivirus program, my computer is safe.

Unfortunately this is not entirely true. Having a good antivirus program, such as our recommended Managed Antivirus, is an important step in the right direction.

However, malware creators work hard to sidestep the common protection programs either by exploiting newly discovered security holes before they’re patched or by using “social engineering” to trick users into opening infected files directly.

While there is no guarantee of total safety, experts recommend a combination of the following for reasonable protection:

  • Professional antivirus software – NOT the free AVG or Microsoft Security Essentials
  • Regular software updates for your operating system (Windows or Mac OSX), Java, Adobe products, and Internet browsers
  • User education (e.g. “If you don’t recognize the sender, don’t open the attachment”)
  • Perimeter defense (firewall, hosted spam filtering, DNS protection)
  • Regular, automated backups

MYTH #2 – If I use a Mac, I don’t have to worry about viruses.

Once upon a time this was mostly true. When Macs were a tiny slice of the overall market, it just wasn’t worth the malware writer’s time to learn how to infect Apple computers.

With the growing popularity of the Apple Mac though, comes a growing interest from online criminals. In 2012, over 600,000 Mac computers were infected with the Flashback malware, and security maker Sophos currently tracks over 4500 Mac-specific viruses and malware currently in use around the world.

Like PC users, the time has come for Mac users to add antivirus software and make sure they are being diligent with software updates and backups.

MYTH #3 – My mobile devices can’t get infected.

Also not true!  The fastest growing segment of both malware quantity and malware profitability (for the criminals creating these things) is the smartphone and tablet market – more specially, Android-based devices.

iPhones and iPads are still largely malware-free, though a June 2012 article in Forbes magazine titled “There is too malware on the iPhone!” makes the point that iDevice users should not assume they are completely invulnerable.

With the rise in Android malware, it is important to install protection software on your mobile phone or tablet. I recommend using VIPRE Mobile Security.

MYTH #4 – No one would be interested in hacking into my computers.

Really?  I hear this a lot, often from people who:

  • Have a reasonably powerful computer, and
  • Have a high-speed internet connection

That’s really all criminals need.

With that computer infected and under the control of a malware-enabled criminal botnet, it can be used to send thousands of spam messages per day, attack other computers on the Internet, or control other infected computers so that authorities can’t trace the real controller’s point of origin.

They can also watch every keystroke you enter in the computer, looking for patterns that might be credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank accounts, and passwords. These can be bundled and sold on the online black market. Since the entire process is automated, it’s common for thousands or even hundreds of thousands of infected computers to be under the control of just a handful of people.

The take-away here is, no matter how unimportant you think your computer might be, you should still take precautions to protect yourself AND others.

MYTH #5 – If I do get infected, it just means I’ll get some error messages or pop-up ads.

Unfortunately this is also wrong. As I mentioned above, malware is a serious, money-making business for the creators. We already talked about some of the ways they can make money – hijacking your computer to send spam or to capture your credit card information for example. In those cases, people generally have no idea their computer is infected until they notice problems on their credit report.

A more aggressive version of malware is becoming more common though.

Imagine this scenario – You turn your computer on one day. Instead of the normal startup screen, you get a message saying that your computer’s files are encrypted and the only way to get them back is to wire $300 to the hackers. After they receive the money, they will give you the password to get all your data back. (Although they’re more likely to just demand more money).

These are increasingly common strategies that these online criminals use to make money.

To fight back, use these three tips:

  • Use strong protection (see point 1 above)
  • Backup regularly
  • Use strong passwords and change them often

Make sure any hosted email accounts you may have, including Gmail or Hotmail, include a second authentication method such as a cell phone or alternate email account. Usually with this in place, you will be notified whenever your primary password is changed, and you can contact the service provider immediately if you weren’t the one who changed it.