Computer repairs and PC support, Nailsea, Clevedon, Portishead

Computer Security... 

Cyber Crime is becoming a major world wide problem.  You need to protect your personal information from a wide range of attacks, from viruses and telephone scams.  It is vital, therefore, that you have an efficient anti-virus package with a good firewall installed on your PC. 

However, it doesn't matter how good your anti-virus software is, if you give someone permission to access your PC remotely, whether by clicking on a link contained in an email or by allowing remote access, they will be able to bypass whatever security you install!

Always follow these simple rules...

  • Train every user in your home or office to be aware of PC Security.  Good discipline is the best defence against viruses and hackers.

  • Back-up your important files regularly, particularly if you have business critical data.  DO NOT LEAVE BACKUP DRIVES PERMENANTLY PLUGGED INTO YOUR PC.  NEVER TRY TO BACKUP TO A CURRENT BACKUP DRIVE IF YOU SUSPECT YOU HAVE BEEN INFECTED.  IT IS GOOD PRACTICE TO CYCLE A COUPLE OF BACKUP DRIVES SO THAT YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE COPY.

  • Never allow anyone to remotely access your PC unless you explicitly trust them.  DO NOT ALLOW ANYONE WHO TELEPHONES YOU OUT OF THE BLUE TO REMOTELY CONTROL YOUR PC NO MATTER HOW GENUINE THEY SOUND. 

  • Always install a good quality Anti-virus package.  We recommend Bullguard, but Norton and Bitdefender are also very good.  The free packages, such as AVG and Avast offer good, but basic, protection - remember when it comes to PC security you get what you pay for.

  • Install Malwarebytes free anti-malware software as well as an Antivirus package.  Malwarebytes offer both free and a paid for packages.  Their paid for package does offer excellent all-round protection.  However, the free version of Malwarebytes is an excellent backstop, finding malware and viruses that the main packages often miss. 

  • Never open attachments unless you are expecting them. Remember some viruses will appear to come from people who you know and trust. Get your correspondents to email a confirmation email first.  Be suspicious of emails from UPS, FEDEX or other companies giving details of parcel deliveries, purchase orders or invoices you are not expecting - a common way of distributing Ransomware.

  • A lot of people share jokes, cartoons and funny animation and send them to each other in emails. Most are fine but some will be infected.  It is safer to ask people not to include you in their distribution list.

  • Look at the wording of emails carefully. Many (if not most) virus infected emails come from people whose first language is not English - look out for poor grammar, wrongly used or mis-spelt words etc.

  • When deciding on an email address avoid using your name, e.g. avoid john.smith@btopenworld.com. Spammers often randomly put first and second names together with common ISP addresses. Use a nickname or alias, e.g. nailseabob@btopenworld.com. This will reduce the incidence of spam if nothing else.

  • Choose a 'strong' password.  Passwords should be 8 characters or longer and comprise of a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.  Avoid peoples or pets' names, parts of your address, birthdates etc. because they are too easy to guess.  Never use the same password on every site you visit.  It is probably impossible to have a different password for every site you visit. At the very least, use different passwords on shopping sites or on-line banking sites.

  • Only give out your email address to people you trust - make sure they also run Anti-Virus software.

  • If you run a network, avoid 'mapping' a network drive. Some viruses are 'network aware' and will treat a mapped network drive as a local drive and so infect it.  Obviously, in some situations you cannot avoid using 'mapped drives'.  It is particularly important, in that circumstance, that you maintain strict discipline , as far as PC security is concerned, and backup using a three device cycle.

  • Be careful what you download from the web - pirated music, games and software from file sharing sites is frequently infected.

  • Microsoft issues updates to Windows weekly.  These updates include security improvements which are vital to keeping your PC secure.  Never turn off Windows Updates.

For the latest information and advice, or to report an attack on your PC visit  http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/  Actionfraud UK is a website setup by Police in the UK to help combat on-line fraud.


Telephone Scams...

It is becoming more common for fraudsters to telephone unsuspecting people claiming to have identified a problem with their PC and offering to fix it.  If you allow them access to your PC they download a small program that enables them to remotely control it.  Whilst doing so, they have pretty much unlimited access and are able to copy files to their own computers without you knowing they are doing so.  They can also install viruses or software that locks your PC until you pay them an 'unlocking' fee.  Frequently, they install software that searches your PC for credit card or back account details. 

The reality is that  it is virtually impossible for anyone to tell that your PC is faulty.  IF ANYONE TELEPHONES YOU OUT OF THE BLUE CLAIMING THEY HAVE DETECTED A PROBLEM WITH YOUR PC SIMPLY PUT THE TELEPHONE DOWN.
 

If your PC is infected by a virus and which, in turn, attaches viruses to emails you send out you may get a phone call from an irrate receipient.  In those circumstances say sorry and promise to run a virus scan.  Do not let someone to access your PC to do a scan for you.  They are likely to be 'scammers'.


What is Malware...

Malware is  general term which covers all the types of programs which can attack your PC, including viruses, ransomware, keystroke loggers and PUPS.  

Viruses can be keystroke loggers, which monitor keys you type to try and identify credit card details or website log on credentials.  They may open 'a back door' to your PC so that someone can 'hack in' and remotely control it.  Some are cookies that track the websites you visit and feed that back to a marketing company who then tries to target you with advertising based on the sites you visit.  Some can be file downloaders which download unwanted programs, which then install on your PC. 

Many of the files that anti-malware software finds are not in themselves dangerous, just irritating.  They are often known as PUPS (Potentially unwanted programs).  A PC that is heavily infected with PUPS can be VERY slow, experience loads of pop-up windows, redirect you to dangerous websites and, in extreme cases can stop the PC openning genuine software.

Many of the best known anti virus packages, which are good at protecting against viruses, are poor at protecting you against these.  We recommend Malwarebytes (see note at bottom of page) as a backup to your exisiting anti-virus package.  Running Malwarebytes weekly will keep your PC clear of the PUPS and other malware your main anti-virus software may miss.


Ransomeware...

Many fraudsters distribute viruses via email.  They either attach a file to the email, which infects your PC when you open it, or insert a link in the email which takes you to an infected website.  These viruses can either encrypt your hard drive stopping you from accessing your documents, photos, email or programs without paying a fee.  This is called ransomware and is becoming very common.  Once your hard drive is encrypted there is nothing that can done to recover your data (unless you pay the ransom and not always then). 

Ransomware is typically distributed via email.  You may receive an email that looks as if it comes from a genuine company, often UPS or Fedex.  They contain a link, supposedly taking you to a webpage that gives information about a shipment they claim they are sending to you.  This link installs the encryption software and then encrypts your PC.  Whenever you try to open a file a window appears  telling you that the file is encrypted and tells you how to pay to have the files un-locked. 

The software is very clever and searches your hard drive for files to encrypt. If your PC is a part of a network and has a 'mapped' network drive, i.e. a connection to a folder on the server, for example, it will encrypt the files on the server as well.  This can be disastrous for a company if there is no backup.  Thousands of companies and organisations, including hospitals and other medical centres, have been affetced.

You should bear in mind that if you leave a backup drive permanently plugged into your PC this will be encrypted as well. 

Clearly, the best way to avoid being hit by a ransomware attack is not to follow links or open attachments you are not expecting.  However, the fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated and it can be difficult to recognise that you are being attacked.  It is vital, therefore, that you backup important files to an external drive (or memory stick) on a regular basis.  The best way is to cycle three backup devices, one in the machine, one somewhere secure and one off site.  Then cycle them everyday.



Rootkit Viruses..

The most common forms of rootkit either damage the PC’s they infect or redirect the systems' resources for purposes ranging from pranks to gratifying their authors' egos to crime. Some are simply utility applications. An example of the latter is a rootkit that provides CD-ROM emulation capability allowing video game users to defeat anti-piracy features that require the original installation media. Rootkits can test resistance to assorted potential attacks. However, malicious rootkits siphon and transmit private/sensitive data, for example: PINs, account passwords, credit card particulars, etc. Some rootkits can operate successfully upon multiple operating systems.



Trojan Horse Viruses...

A Trojan horse is similar to a virus in that it can harm your computer, however it is potentially more dangerous. This is because it sits on your machine and waits quietly to be triggered by a malicious user on the Internet who has installed it on your computer before it wreaks havoc.

The 'trigger' is usually a particular date in the future, but it can be something as simple as waiting for you to install a certain piece of software on your computer. Some can even be activated remotely by their authors (the malicious users), as and when they want to gain access to and control of your computer.

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Trojan horse programs can be used to take complete control of your PC by an unauthorised third party. They are often used to steal information such as Internet banking details for malicious (and commonly, fraudulent) purposes.

In some extreme cases, identity theft can take place as a result of sensitive and confidential information being stolen from a computer by a user using a Trojan horse installed on that machine. This is when someone uses personal information about another person in order to pretend to be that person. As one can imagine, the consequences of this can be very serious indeed.


What to do if you get virus warnings from others...

Virus hoaxes are very common. If you get an email from someone warning of an imminent virus attack treat it with a pinch of salt. It's almost certainly a hoax. And, whatever you do, don't pass the warning on without checking first!

By passing a warning on, you may feel you're being a good Samaritan. But if it's a hoax, you are actually adding to it and helping to spread the hoax to other users. This in turn causes unnecessary panic amongst people, which is exactly what the originator of the hoax wants to happen.

You should independently verify for yourself that it isn't a hoax by visiting Symantec's Anti Virus Research Center and searching their hoax database.

If it is there, then simply ignore the hoax and do not action it. However, if it isn't there, then, and only then, pass the warning on. Remember, Chinese whispers can cause damage!


What to do if your computer is infected by a virus?

First and foremost, you should run your virus checking program on your machine to detect and remove the virus. As new viruses emerge all the time, make sure you have updated your anti-virus software with the latest virus definitions.  If you can, download and run the free version of Malwarebytes. 

If you are unable to remove the infection then please contact us on 07442 491921

If you do not have any anti-virus software installed on your computer, we strongly advises that you install a package immediately.

NOTE!  You will note that we recommend that you install Malwarebytes on your PC.  It is important to say that we don't get paid  or receive any financial gain from recommending this product.  We recommend it because it is VERY good.....



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