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Do You REALLY Have Computer Problems?

When Brenda called our office early last week, she reported that every time she booted up her computer several pop-ups warned that her computer had multiple problems needing fixed.  No matter what she did, they prevented her from doing anything on her computer.  And they wouldn’t go away.

A couple days later, Robert called requesting an appointment for us to remove viruses off his computer.  He described his problem almost exactly the same as Brenda.

Scores of clients have brought their computers to us over the past year with these annoying, intrusive programs preventing them from being able to surf the Internet, check email or anything else.

These programs carry names like PC Optimizer Pro, Speed Optimizer Pro, My PC Backup, and Windows Registry Cleaner.

While these programs technically are not viruses, they do exhibit many characteristics of malicious software.  They become deeply rooted into the Windows operating system, hijack your web browsers, and overall just create a major annoyance when using your PC.

The programs, called PUPs (potentially unwanted programs), reportedly scan your computer and discover all kinds of problems – invalid registry entries, junk files, and erroneous system settings.  They offer to fix these problems with the promise that your PC will run better.  The catch is you have to purchase the software.

Unfortunately, I have seen many instances where allowing these programs to “fix” the problems it finds actually creates more serious problems – usually requiring professional repair.

These programs also tend to act like a magnet, attracting other malicious software to become installed on your computer.  Every computer I have examined containing Optimizer Pro-type software has had numerous other similar programs causing pop-ups and other “error” messages.

Most of our clients are unaware of how these programs got installed on their computers.  Typically, they are bundled in the installers for other free software – like free video recording or streaming software, PDF creators and download managers.  It can also be included in custom installers from reputable download websites.

This is why it is very IMPORTANT to pay close attention when installing software.  Read every screen and look at all the options that are automatically check-marked.  Most software installers allow you to choose what you want to install.

Using the custom install option is always the safest.  This allows you to deselect anything that you’re not sure about, especially unwanted software.

Most importantly, never install software that you don’t trust.  When in doubt, don’t.

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What Every Computer User Must Know About Software Updates

Ever had your computer disabled by a nasty virus infection?  Many of your family, friends and neighbors have. Our phones continuously rang and a steady stream of clients poured in with infected computers the first week of this month.

All of the PCs had active virus protection software installed and working. So what happened?  What allowed these viruses to overtake these machines?

The answer was the same for every single person: they had not installed critical updates for several software programs on their computer.

Unlike the early days of computer viruses, pornographic or salacious websites are not the primary source of infections. It can be an innocuous website like Facebook, MSN or Yahoo. It can come from an email sent to you by a friend or relative.

Everyone who browses the Internet today knows better than to not have antivirus software installed on their computer.

But the problem is – we think the antivirus software is THE single source of protection against our computer becoming damaged by hackers and viruses. The fact is, it’s not.

You HAVE to keep your computer protected by installing critical updates for Windows and other programs on your computer.

You’ve most likely noticed (and ignored) when programs like Java, Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, or iTunes alert you an update is ready to be installed. These updates contain important changes that improve the performance, stability and security of the program.

Installing these software updates is critical to keeping your computer protected against crippling virus infections and stolen personal information.

CITES Security, a division of the technology department of the University of Illinois, clearly describes the damage that can be done when you neglect to install updates for your various software programs:  “Just visiting a compromising website with a vulnerable version of Internet Explorer can allow attackers to access your computer and install software that steals your personal information. Being infected like this is known as a drive-by download. The software that infects computers through this vulnerability collects information, including user names and passwords for various sites, including bank and email accounts.”

Vulnerable AppsAs seen in the accompanying illustration, Kaspersky Lab, a computer security company, discovered that the unpatched software most targeted by web exploits (think, virus writers and hackers) are: Java – 56%, Adobe Reader – 25%, Windows and Internet Explorer – 4%, Adobe Flash – 3%, Android Root (for mobile devices) – 2%, and other – 11%.

So what do you need to do?  Install the updates when you’re prompted!

Most people, however, hesitate doing these updates because of the justified fear it could be a fake program waiting to infect your computer.

Two solutions exist to solve this problem: 1) let your computer professional take care of the updates for you. At Calibre, we have a service that automatically installs all the critical updates via the Internet on a regular basis. This completely eliminates your worry about clicking the wrong thing or messing up your computer. Or 2) Do it yourself by regularly visiting http://www.ninite.com to manually download and install updates for common programs.

Bottom line, keeping your computer updated – in addition to using effective antivirus software – will greatly reduce the risk of your computer becoming infected with a virus.

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Why Didn’t My Antivirus Protection Prevent This?

When Jeff* called our office last Thursday, I could hear the frustration in his voice. He had been browsing the Internet the night before when a pop-up appeared on his screen alerting his computer was infected with viruses.

The Live Security Platinum window warned that hundreds of infections had taken over his computer. It wanted him to enter his credit card number to purchase the software, which would remove the viruses and allow him to get back on the Internet.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t Jeff’s first exposure to this fake antivirus program. This was his third time this year with his computer becoming infected – twice within the last two months.

“Why didn’t my antivirus software prevent this from happening?” he asked. “Isn’t it supposed to keep viruses off my computer?”

The number of infected computers brought into our shop has spiked over the last two weeks. Almost every client has asked me the same question: “Why didn’t my virus protection software work?”

It’s a legitimate question. Whether it’s a free or paid antivirus software program, you expect that it will do what it’s supposed to do – keep viruses off your computer.

The truth is, keeping your computer virus-free is not as simple as installing an antivirus software program and that’s it. Virus writers have written much more sophisticated infections that require a multi-layered approach to protecting your computer. This article will help clear up some common misconceptions many computer users have regarding virus protection and prevention.

First, not all antivirus software programs provide adequate protection. Paid antivirus software is generally a better choice than the free ones. They provide more frequent virus definition updates, better technical support options, advanced scanning capabilities, and no advertisements. This translates into much more effective protection for your computer.

But even among purchased antivirus programs, big differences exist in how well they protect your system. Our recommended antivirus software, based upon our experience and testing, is our Managed VIPRE Antivirus.

A word of caution: you do NOT want to install more than one antivirus software program on your computer. Doing so will cause a number of problems because they will be “fighting” with each other.

Second, protecting your computer requires more than just installing an antivirus program. Hackers and malware writers create new ways of infecting computers almost every day. Viruses are becoming more and more complex and can evade the detection of even the best antivirus software.

Web site filtering services provide an added layer of protection to steer you away from virus-infected and fraudulent websites. For parents, web site filtering also offers parental control options to keep children away from adult and other non-appropriate web sites.

Third, invest in a good router, even if you have only one computer. A router provides a hardware firewall that keeps your computer from being directly exposed to the Internet. This helps prevent hackers from breaking into your computer.

Finally, use common sense and caution when on the Internet. Many virus infections can be prevented simply by being careful. Abide by this simple rule:  When in doubt, don’t!

Here are a few basic rules to remember:

  • Don’t open emails from strangers.
  • Don’t open email attachments, even from people you know, unless you are expecting them to send you a file. (When in doubt, don’t!)
  • Don’t click links in emails. Type the addresses directly into your web browser to access a web page.
  • Never send personal information, such as password, bank account or credit card numbers, to anyone by email.
  • Avoid websites that appear to be suspicious.
  • Keep your computer system patched with the latest Windows updates and updates for Adobe products and Java.
  • Use a safer web browser, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
  • Carefully read any pop-ups that appear on your screen. Do NOT click on any links that ask you to install unfamiliar software programs.

There will always be the risk of your computer becoming infected with a virus when you are connected to the Internet. Because the threats are constantly changing, there is no way to protect your computer 100%.

The flu shot doesn’t guarantee you won’t get the flu; it just helps minimize the risk. Implementing the steps outlined above will help reduce your risk of computer virus infections, not guarantee no infections.

*Not his real name

When Jeff* called our office last Thursday, I could hear the frustration in his voice. He had been browsing the Internet the night before when a pop-up appeared on his screen alerting his computer was infected with viruses.

 

The Live Security Platinum window warned that hundreds of infections had taken over his computer. It wanted him to enter his credit card number to purchase the software, which would remove the viruses and allow him to get back on the Internet.

 

Unfortunately, this wasn’t Jeff’s first exposure to this fake antivirus program. This was his third time this year with his computer becoming infected – twice within the last two months.

 

“Why didn’t my antivirus software prevent this from happening?” he asked. “Isn’t it supposed to keep viruses off my computer?”

 

The number of infected computers brought into our shop has spiked over the last two weeks. Almost every client has asked me the same question: “Why didn’t my virus protection software work?”

 

It’s a legitimate question. Whether it’s a free or paid antivirus software program, you expect that it will do what it’s supposed to do – keep viruses off your computer.

 

The truth is, keeping your computer virus-free is not as simple as installing an antivirus software program and that’s it. Virus writers have written much more sophisticated infections that require a multi-layered approach to protecting your computer. This article will help clear up some common misconceptions many computer users have regarding virus protection and prevention.

 

First, not all antivirus software programs provide adequate protection. Paid antivirus software is generally a better choice than the free ones. They provide more frequent virus definition updates, better technical support options, advanced scanning capabilities, and no advertisements. This translates into much more effective protection for your computer.

 

But even among purchased antivirus programs, big differences exist in how well they protect your system. Our recommended antivirus software, based upon our experience and testing, is our Managed VIPRE Antivirus.

 

A word of caution: you do NOT want to install more than one antivirus software program on your computer. Doing so will cause a number of problems because they will be “fighting” with each other.

Second, protecting your computer requires more than just installing an antivirus program. Hackers and malware writers create new ways of infecting computers almost every day. Viruses are becoming more and more complex and can evade the detection of even the best antivirus software.

 

Web site filtering services provide an added layer of protection to steer you away from virus-infected and fraudulent websites. For parents, web site filtering also offers parental control options to keep children away from adult and other non-appropriate web sites.

 

Third, invest in a good router, even if you have only one computer. A router provides a hardware firewall that keeps your computer from being directly exposed to the Internet. This helps prevent hackers from breaking into your computer.

 

Finally, use common sense and caution when on the Internet. Many virus infections can be prevented simply by being careful. Abide by this simple rule:  When in doubt, don’t!

 

Here are a few basic rules to remember:

·         Don’t open emails from strangers.

·         Don’t open email attachments, even from people you know, unless you are expecting them to send you a file. (When in doubt, don’t!)

·         Don’t click links in emails. Type the addresses directly into your web browser to access a web page.

·         Never send personal information, such as password, bank account or credit card numbers, to anyone by email.

·         Avoid websites that appear to be suspicious.

·         Keep your computer system patched with the latest Windows updates and updates for Adobe products and Java.

·         Use a safer web browser, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

·         Carefully read any pop-ups that appear on your screen. Do NOT click on any links that ask you to install unfamiliar software programs.

 

There will always be the risk of your computer becoming infected with a virus when you are connected to the Internet. Because the threats are constantly changing, there is no way to protect your computer 100%.

 

The flu shot doesn’t guarantee you won’t get the flu; it just helps minimize the risk. Implementing the steps outlined above will help reduce your risk of computer virus infections, not guarantee no infections.

 

*Not his real name