The Security Risks Involved With Rogue Software, Scareware and Fake Antivirus Programs

For many years online attackers have used many different forms of rogue software, also known as “Fake Antivirus Programs” or “Scareware” to lure unsuspecting computer users into divulging personal information and install malware. The rogue software programs almost always have the look and feel of legitimate and well known security programs by reputable companies. They display bogus scan results with exaggerated detections of malicious software that they have detected on your system, while constantly trying to pressure you into purchasing the full version of the rogue software to remove the detected and totally bogus threats. Fake antivirus programs may be installed by the use of many different and creative techniques. Some may be installed during visits to infected websites by drive-by installations, while others may be installed by tricking less experienced computer users into clicking on pop-ups that display legitimate looking warning messages related to needed software or browser updates. After they are installed on your computer, they make various registry changes and also install hidden components in hiddens locations. Mostly with the intention of hindering any attempts to uninstalling them and also to display annoying pop-ups. In addition to the pop-ups, you may also be redirected to malicious websites, during an online search, that may actually install additional security threats on your system. Keyloggers may also be installed on your system as a part of some of these malicious programs, which could steal personal and online account information.

Some of the rogue software programs may be removed thru standard techniques, such as thru the “Programs and Features” section of the control panel. While more stubborn forms of the fake antivirus programs may require professional assistance from a computer support company.

The first step that you should take before you pick up an infection is to install a reputable antivirus and also firewall program with “Application Process Control” features. Nothing is foolproff though, but with the proper operating system and software updates, plus some added caution on your part while you browse online, you can minimize your risk of a virus infection.

The importance of maintaining a secure and dependable offsite backup of your important personal and business data

It’s important to always keep up-to-date backup copies of your important personal and business data. Just in case your computer suffers some type of hardware failure, data corruption or stubborn computer virus infection. Your fist backup should be kept with you onsite. But in case of other major catastrophes such as, business and residential equipment theft, natural disasters and also fire damage, it’s also a good practice to store an additional copy of your data at a secure and dependable offsite location. You could store your important business data at your home, in a fire resistant safe. And you could also store a copy of your home data at your office. That way you never have all of your eggs in the same basket.

Another option for offsite data storage would be with a cost-effective, secure and also easy to use online backup or cloudcomputing services. Depending on which provider that you choose and the options that they offer with their cloud storage subscriptions, you should be able to backup the important data from all of your sensitive devices, including your personal computers and your smartphones. And many providers also offer device location services with their subscription. Which helps in the event of a loss or theft of your devices such as, your laptop computer, smartphone and also your tablets. Most of the computer support businesses that you come across today also offer online backup services. And if you’re asking yourself, why use a local cloud storage provider, when I could just sign up with a company like Carbonite? The answer is simple, Carbonite is headquartered in Boston, MA. And their customer support center is located in Lewiston, ME. Now, wouldn’t you rather have access to support for your subscriptions from a local computer service company? A company that can handle any issues that you may need resolved in person. Or would you rather deal with a company that is based in some other state that you don’t reside in?

Smith Technical Resources now provides online backup services from our Nashville, Tennessee support center for our clients nationwide. We also support our cloud storage services with swift on-site support in the middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky areas. Contact us today with any questions that you may have about online backup solutions. We will be happy to answer any question that you may have.

Do you have your important computer software installation discs stored in a safe place?

If you had a situation that involved the need for you to re-install your important software applications or possibly your operating system, could you easily locate your installation discs at your home or business? And what about the software application cd-keys and serial numbers?  It may sound like a trivial question, but misplacing your installation discs can turn a small situation into something more time consuming. And the same thing applies to the cd-keys and serial numbers that will possibly be needed for you to be able to successfully re-install your applications and/or your operating system. Now I’m not suggesting that you become a pack rat or anything of the sort. We’re definitely not trying to see you in an episode of A&E’s Hoarders, but you should keep your software installation discs and serials in a safe place. If your desktop computer or file server ever has a crippling problem, such as a hard drive failure or serious virus infection, those installation discs will definitely help with a speedy repair or possibly a complete system reload.

If you have managed to misplace your installation discs or alternate installation media, you can request a replacement possibly from your computer retailer or the software company that handles your particular software application, but it may cost you. And in some situations, you might be pushed into purchasing your software all over again at the full price.

It probably would only take you a few minutes to get most of your important installation media together and store it in a safe place. So just in case you ever have to deal with a computer software re-installation situation, start preparing now. Spending just a few minutes today, might just save you many hours of down time later.

Choosing the proper type of computer data backup method

It’s important that you choose the proper computer data backup method for your specific situation. There are a few different backup techniques that you can select from, but it’s important that you select the best method, just in case you ever need to extract data files from those backups. There are four basic data backup types, and they include, complete system backups, full backups, differential backups and incremental backups. Each backup method has it’s own advantages and disadvantages. Complete system backups are the most thorough of the group. With this method, all of your hard drive data is backed up, including the operating system and it’s files, all of your user data, including your documents, photos, music, office documents, system settings, etc. Next in line are full backups. They are very similar to complete system backups, but the primary difference with this method, is that they usually don’t include the operating system and system files in the backup archive. Most of your remaining user data files are included though, but it still depends on your file selections during the backup configuration process. Differential backups on the other hand only backup selected data files that have been modified or changed since the last data backup was completed. An incremental backup archives selected files at specified times, which you set when you first configure the backup. The backup schedule can be changed later to suit your changing needs if the need arises. Or it could be triggered by file changes that you select to be monitored.

Each backup method has disadvantages though. With the complete system backup, even though it covers the entire contents of your hard drive, including the operating system, the backup files will be very large in size. And each additional complete backup will be just as large, unless you tweak the backup a bit, but that depends on what particular backup software that you plan on utilizing. Next are the full backups and they include most of your data files, except the operating system, but they are still usually somewhat large in size. And if your system is in really bad shape, meaning that you need to reload everything on it, including the operating system, then you’re going to be out of some extra time, because you will need to reload the operating system, plus the device drivers before you restore files from the full backup archive. Differential and incremental backups have the same problem. Your data files are archived when changes are detected at certain intervals or on a specific schedule. They usually don’t include the operating system files though. They are  both still excellent additions to a complete system backup though, because after a complete system backup, you could perform differential or incremental backups of your data to conserve hard drive space and cut down on the backup archive size.

The backup method that you choose will depend on a few factors including, your particular situation, the amount of time that you can tolerate your computer(s) being down and what resources that you have access to. Smith Technical Resources‘ computer technicians usually perform complete system backups, because we always prepare for the very worst and we like to minimize any down time that our clients may have to possibly deal with.

When did you last backup all of your important computer data?

What if your computer became infected with a virus or trojan that actually wiped all of your important data, or even worse, a mechanical failure with your hard drive? Many years  ago I actually came across such a virus. And I had to reload my entire system from backups. Do you have an up to date and verified backup up your important data? And what about your software installation discs? If your hard drive bit the dust this minute or you just needed to re install everything from scratch, including the operating system, do you still have copies of all of your software installation files and your operating system discs? Or have your installation discs somehow ended up acting as beverage coasters and are now useless in reference to their original purposes, because they’re now too damaged to be read by an optical drive?

This scenario is something that you all should give great thought to. And if you’re not prepared for the worst, start planning now, just in case. Because bad things seem to often occur when we are least prepared for them. And yes, you could contact a computer repair technician after the disaster strikes, but if they have to perform a data recovery operation, because your computer data is corrupt, unreadable or flat out gone, things might start to get a little expensive and somewhat time consuming. So spend a little time now backing up your data and save your money later.

Do you currently have an updated antivirus utility installed on your smartphone?

Hopefully you are actually utilizing an effective antivirus utility on your smartphone to lower your chances of becoming a victim of one, or possibly more dangerous trojans that specifically target tablets and smart phones. It doesn’t matter if you are a “PC” user or a “Mac” user. If your smartphone is an Iphone or an Android based device, they’re all vulnerable to virus and malware threats. In their quarterly Threats Report, Intel subsidiary Mcafee  stated that they had found over 8 million new kinds of malware in the second quarter of 2012. And that was an increase of 23% from the first quarter of the year. There are now more than 90 million unique strands of malware out there just waiting to come into contact with an unprotected mobile device, desktop computer or file server. Which could happen under many circumstances such as, by you visiting an infected website,  downloading and opening an infected e-mail message, simply previewing a message within Microsoft Outlook that has malicious links embedded within it or by installing applications or games from questionable sources. And that just covers the standard desktop computers and servers. And it is true, Microsoft Windows based systems are still the primary target of the majority of viruses and trojans, but don’t get too happy just because you’re a Macintosh user, because there are viruses that infect your systems as well, such as the “Flashback” virus.

Unprotected smartphones are vulnerable to viruses, trojans and malware just like desktop computers are without any virus protection installed. Keep in mind that a smartphone  is basically just tablet personal computer that you make phone calls from and that you also play the occasional game of Angry Birds. And they should be protected with antivirus software just as a regular computer needs to be. Mcafee has found over 13,000 different kinds of malware that specifically target mobile devices. And that could be done with techniques such as drive-by installs at infected websites, malicious text messages, questionable apps and games that were downloaded through the use of file sharing, and even from the markets themselves, which include both the Android market and the Iphone app store. You’re not truly safe anywhere with your internet connected devices. So the best approach to save yourself possibly a ton of grief later, is to simply install virus protection on your devices and computers before something bad happens. And most of all, be careful with the sites you visit, the software that you install on your devices and the messages that you preview or open on your desktop or your smartphone.

There are many great choices when it comes to antivirus software utilities. And a great deal of them are free for personal use, such as Avast and AVG. But keep in mind that an antivirus utility can’t completely protect your smartphone or even your desktop from every single virus threat. You still must be careful with what sites you visit, what e-mail messages you preview or open and especially with what files you download and install.

When did you last clean the inside of your desktop computer’s case?

It doesn’t matter if you have an excessively dusty home or a spotless one. It’s always a good idea to clean any excess dust from the inside of your desktop computer’s case. With a can of moisture free compressed air, blow out the dust build-up in and around your desktop computer’s case, on the motherboard and in the power supply. This should be done about every 3 months or possibly more often if your desktop computer equipment is being used in an excessively dusty area. The internal components, such as the memory, the hard drive and expansion cards need to be kept cool at all times and when there is excessive dust build up inside the desktop computer case, the dust functions a lot like a nice warm blanket, helping to hold a great deal of the heat in. And over time it can cause hardware failure and file corruption. So save yourself some grief by keeping your system’s internal components free of excessive dust build up.