Almost every call I have received over the last few months has to do with a client getting some type of computer virus. What is going on? I wanted to write an article today to answer a few of the top questions I am asked when recovering a computer that has a virus on it.
First up: How did I get this virus? "Was it from an email attachment?"
Mmm...probably not. I believe this use to be more prevalent when email was younger but now the scanners on your computer and on the server that hosts your email have pretty much taken care of that. I also believe that hackers (by their nature) try to hit the most popular avenues to try and spread their nasty code. Currently those avenues are social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Where you got a computer virus from is now like asking where you caught your cold from last time your were sick. Almost impossible to know.
Ok...so enlighten us! Begin lengthy technical description:
A lot of what I've been seeing is what is called Rogue Security software which is a form of computer Malware that deceives or misleads users into paying for the fake or simulated removal of malware. They are almost ALWAYS Trojan inclusive disguised as a browser plug-in, extension, image, screensaver, archive file, multimedia codec, p2p software, or a free malware scanning service. Most recently malware distributors have been using drive-by-downloads which exploit security vulnerabilities in web browsers, pdf viewers, or email clients to install themselves without any manual interaction.
In LAYMANS TERMS:
What you see is misleading and nasty, and you don't have to feel bad you got this because you didn't really do anything or click on anything. The virus is on your computer because it wasn't protected well enough.
"Should I stop my kids from going on Facebook?" Facebook is ok
NOOO! I won't even get into how huge social networking has become. I'll save that for another day. In theory, you can just as easily get a virus from sheboyganpress.com
"Am I going to lose all my files?"
No. Not that I've ever seen anyway. I suppose it's possible though. Once the virus is gone, things will be back to normal. Worst case is the computer is backed up (save personal files) and then restored to the condition it was when you first purchased it. We-Upgrade LLC can typically do this in about 2-3 hours.
"There is some weird stuff popping up on my screen. What do I do!?"
The first thing to do when you see something strange on your PC that you have never seen or installed before is NOTHING! Do not click ok, scan, cancel, "x out", abort, terminate, remove viruses, do not pass go or collect $500. Take your hand off the mouse and gently hold the Alt key and while you do that press the F4 key. Repeat. Repeat. This is the windows command for CLOSE. This may or may not work. If you have Malwarebytes on your computer try opening and running that program NOW and do what it says. If you don't you can download it HERE If you still see strange things going on shut your computer down completely and call us.
"Is there no HOPE? What can I do to protect the computer from this happening again."
The fact is, we are all doomed....HA, I'm just kidding. Here is my awesome list to protect your Windows based PC from this crud:
- Install antivirus software. If you haven't already purchase something, there are adequate FREE software available for personal use. Microsoft Security Essentials and AVG Free are great options. These software options are always running, protecting your computer from an attack.
- Install Malwarebytes and run that Monthly. Another free program that serves as a backup of the above, a redundant system so to speak. If you see something strange, run this program, update it, and do a quick scan. It is, in my opinion, the best Malware scanner and removal tool out there today.
- Do not ignore the following updates when they appear down near your clock in the tray because they minimize the chances of an exploit: WINDOWS, ADOBE READER, JAVA, FLASH
- This is another great excuse for me to tell you to BACK UP YOUR IMPORTANT FILES. I dont' care if it's online, to a flash drive, cd's, zip drive, tape, floppy disks, whatever. Just make sure to have 2 copies of whatever you deem important because otherwise you will loose it.
- I feel the most important step is to STOP USING INTERNET EXPLORER!!
- Download and install firefox here: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/personal.html
- Select the options to use this as the default web browser and to import history and settings from internet explorer.
- In FIREFOX now install the following plugins to further protect your computer while browsing the web:
Hopefully this article has helped you understand a little bit better about modern day viruses, where they come from and what to do to protect yourself.