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Posts Tagged ‘Malware’

because you writeNumber two son comes to me with his brand new laptop already strangled by malware. It’s the type of malware that tells you your computer is infected with malware, to click-here for the solution and to have your payment details handy. The malware has passed through the machine’s defences as a result of being invited to do so due to a lack of caution on the part of the user, and a desire to get sparkly free stuff from a download website. It takes a couple of hours to get rid of the problem.

Then a relative is excited at having received an email telling her she’s won £200,000,000 on the Mega Euro Lottery. All she has to do is “click here” and be ready with her personal details. I’m tasked with convincing her it’s a scam, and not to “click”.

“Did you enter such a lottery?”

“Not that I recall, but I might have been entered automatically, and what if it really is £200,000,000?”

Then number one son comes to me with his old and cranky laptop, infected – yes – with malware. This is of the type that tells you you have a “security” problem and to “click here” – again the result of a lack of understanding of the dangers of download websites, and the lure of free stuff. This was a tenacious little worm and took the whole afternoon to sort out.

Then my wife’s complaining her email is no longer working, and could I sort that one out as well? Said email account had been hacked and suspended by the service provider. Hacked how? Poor password security, easy to remember, easy for a robot to crack. The service provider’s systems responded promptly, extent of damage unknown. Crap cleared out, passwords reset, but I’m not allowed to make the password wholly secure because a secure password is impossible to remember (not true), and writing them down is bad security (very true). We compromise.

Monday evening and my aforementioned relative is contacted by telephone, and an officious, “foreign sounding” voice advises her of criminal activity on her “computer”. She does not have a computer as such – just an iPad. Is that what they’re refering to? Em yes. By now she’s suspicious and hangs up.

All of this breeds an atmosphere of siege, a paranoia there’s a determined army of bad people out there scaling the walls and trying to get at you, that computers are dangerous things best handled with rubber gloves. And without being too alarmist, I’m afraid it’s true.

I’ve worked with computers since 1977 and the legendary Sinclair ZX81. You couldn’t do a lot with that machine, but it was the start of a revolution, of computers moving into our homes. At first they did no harm, just annoyed you when they didn’t work. Then they all got networked and became the gateway to passing the contents of your bank account to a criminal.

I can deal with most of the things that ail domestic computers. Most people, however, can’t, and this makes them vulnerable. Most people in fact aren’t even aware of the risks, yet we are all pushed to getting ourselves online, every single one of us, using the leaky computer as our window on the whole of life – paying bills, applying for state benefits, managing life savings. But where there’s money involved, criminals will circle like flies around poop.

And therein lies the problem.

Probably less than ten percent of the population, the IT crowd, understand this fully networked world. Half of them are good guys, tending corporate and government systems, the rest are criminals out to steal your money. We have either trust blindly in this thing we don’t understand, or reject it, cut up our debit cards, do all our bank dealings in branch, face to face with a cashier we know because we went to school with them, and go back to using cheque books. But the branches are closing, those friendly cashiers are stacking shelves in supermarkets and cheques are no longer accepted. Even the basics in life now have to be applied for “online,” and advice is an anonymous voice at the end of a crackly line that could be coming from the other side of the universe.

There is no going back.

Our computer systems are insecure and always will be, and the majority of us citizens aren’t experts, nor can we ever be, nor should we need to be, because our lives, our real lives, are mostly lived outside that box. But there are things we can all do to minimise the risk of falling victim to Hackers and Cyber- Scammers, and unfortunately the first thing is to learn how not to trust the email or the telephone call from anyone you do not personally know – and especially not the communications claiming to be from your bank or your internet service provider.

Scams are so sophisticated we cannot trust anything that enters our home via the telephone wire. But even adopting this level of defensive caution, it’s not going to stop us from occasionally having to spend the whole weekend repairing damage, and advising others of the dangers of “clicking here”.

I’ll write some more on this later, but for now if your computer’s been strangled, visit the bleepingcomputer for a solution. I can’t recommend these guys enough.

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And how to remove it

I’ve nearly fallen for this one a few times: You click on what looks like a legitimate link – your anti-virus software may even have approved it with a little green tick – then up pops an ominous Microsoft panel telling you your PC is infected with all these nasty viruses and trojans and worms and things and you need to “click here” to get rid of them. The more computer savvy  among you will sense something isn’t quite right. If you’re lucky you will have realised that official-looking Microsft window is actually a  fake and what you’re about to do as your mouse hovers over the “click here” button is install a peculiar piece of Malware that’s going to annoy the hell out of you.

Number two son fell for this one yesterday evening with the result that my main PC was temporarily home to the dreaded Cyber Security malware program. The payload for this particular beast is that at random intervals it will kid you thinking you’ve got all these nasty files on your computer, it will even simulate a “blue screen of death” PC crash, telling you it was due to one of those nasty files.

The only way to get rid of these so-called infected files, it says, is to upgrade to the full version of Cyber Security. But the chances are the only nasty files you’ve got on your compter are those that comprise the many-headed hydra that is Cyber Security. Cyber Security is not a virus or malware scanner at all. It’s sole purpose is to panic you into “upgrading” Cyber Security, which costs you money. In other words it’s a scam – don’t do it.

Once it’s on your PC you cannot uninstall it directly – it will evade you. It will even prevent you from resetting your computer to a “last-known good” position. You basically have to kill it with a proper Malware scanner.

If  you’ve got Cyber Security on your computer, don’t panic – go over to the bleepingcomputer website and follow the instructions there. It’s quite straight forward. You download three separate pieces of software, the main one being the Malwarebyes – anti-malware scanner. It can stake several hours for the scan to complete, after which time your computer should be clear. Mine was, and I can recommend this solution.

There are lots of Malware scanners around, but they don’t all come in a free version.  They’ll say they’re “free to download”,  which isn’t the same thing of course, and what seems to happen is they’ll say: “yep, you’ve got Cyber Security all over your PC, but if you want to get rid of it you’ll have to pay us some money first”. The solution outlined at Bleepingcomputer, won’t cost you anything. This is a very interesting and informative site all round, and I’m sure I’ll be visiting it again if there’s anything at all I’m not sure about regarding my computer.

While it seems there are many clever people out there using their brains to concoct dastardly traps for the innocent and inexpert computer user, there are others working to thwart them.

Once it’s on your PC you can’t uninstall it. You basically have to kill it with a Malware scanner.

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