Over recent months I have been receiving calls from people concerned about getting phone calls from people claiming to be from Microsoft providing false claims that you have a computer virus, and to follow a few steps of their steps to remedy this. Don’t listen to them, they are part of a new virus scam designed to try and gain access to your computer to release a virus to gain personal information from you to gain access to your money, even so bold as to ask for your credit card details so they can clean your computer for a fee. THIS IS A SCAM.
Well, they say knowledge is power so I thought I would write an article explaining, computer viruses and how to protect your computer from them.
What is a virus?
A computer virus is designed to pass from computer to computer much like the flu passes from person to person. It’s persistently nasty, keeps you from functioning normally and often requires something powerful to remove it. A computer virus piggybacks on other programs or digital documents to launch itself on your computer, and it is designed to either harm your computer software or to gain access to your personal information.
There are many different types of viruses and they all come under the banner of Malware (short for Malicious Software). Examples of malware include, Worms, Trojan horses, Spyware or Rogue security software.
Just like the flu, each year new viruses are launched and are more complex then the year before, back in the good old days they used to be made by young computer nerd’s who just like to watch things blow up so they would make a computer virus to get that same type rush. These days viruses are a lot more sophisticated and are used by organised crime syndicates to steal money.
What is a worm?
A worm is computer code that spreads without you needing to do a thing. Most worms begin as email attachments that infect a computer when they’re opened. The worm scans the infected computer for files, such as address books or temporary webpages, that contain email addresses. Worms then spread automatically through email messages, networks, or operating system frequently leaving a trail of computer glitches in its wake.
What is a trojan horse?
A trojan horse is a malicious software program that hides inside other programs. It enters a computer hidden inside a legitimate program, such as a screen saver. Then it puts code into the operating system that allows a hacker to access the infected computer. Trojan horses do not usually spread by themselves. They are spread by worms, or downloaded software.
What is spyware?
Spyware can install on your computer without your knowledge. These programs can change your computer’s configuration or collect advertising data and personal information. Spyware can track your Internet search habits and can also redirect your web browser to a different website than you intended to go to.
What is rogue security software?
A rogue security software program tries to make you think that your computer is infected by a virus and usually prompts you to download or buy a product that removes the virus. The names of these products frequently contain words like Antivirus, Shield, Security, Protection, or Fixer. This makes them sound legitimate. They frequently can prevent applications, such as Internet Explorer, from opening. Rogue security software might also display legitimate and important Windows files as infections. Typical error messages or pop-up messages might contain the following phrases:
“Warning! Your computer is infected by 2783 viruses, spyware and adware.”
How do you know if you have a virus?
There are many symptoms, but no two computers display exactly the same. In general you will find the computer is running slower, or the internet is decidedly slower. Your computer may be behaving erratically, like programs just turn off or on for no reason. You may find new programs on your computer that weren’t there the day before, or when you open your internet the first webpage has changed to something different, you may find files go missing, or your computer starts to crash.
What can you do to protect yourself from all these Viruses?
My philosophy is that prevention is better then a cure:
- Make sure you have good antivirus software, from reputable sources like Norton, McAfee, Trend Micro, Avast or Kaspersky, each of whom offer differing levels of protection.
- Make sure you have an internet firewall active, whether it be the Microsoft firewall that is built into your windows computer or it comes as a package with one of the above Antivirus software packages. This will stop the majority of worms and Trojan horses from entering through your computer gates.
- Keep your antivirus or your operating system updated.
- Don’t open messages from people you don’t know, just delete them or mark them as spam.
- If you are asked by a webpage to enter your details to download a free piece of software, ask yourself why?, See if they have a contact phone number if you not sure, if it looks shonky chances are it is shonky.
- Limit your own information on the Internet. If you do spend a lot of time on the internet, then get yourself another email address you can use just for sites you are not sure about, or subscriptions, and keep you current email only for friends and relatives.
- For social sites like Facebook, make sure you know how to use the privacy settings, and limit photos of yourself and others so not everyone can have access to them.
- Make sure you limit your personal and bank details that reside on your computer just incase a worm does manage to get through.
- Just like a regular check up at the doctor, every six months have your tech guy come out and do a good thorough search and clean of any hidden viruses that may be lurking. Your tech guy should have the tools and up to date know how on what to look for and what to remove. If you don’t have a tech guy, you can find my details below if you are unsure about your computer.
Above all, you don’t need to go over the top, with paranoia. If you have set yourself up with some good antivirus software and a firewall and are mindful of the tips I’ve outlined, then you can have great enjoyment surfing the internet, safe in the knowledge that you are protected.
Oh, and if you get a phone call from someone claiming they are from Microsoft, ask them for their employee number, their direct phone number and tell them you will get your ‘tech guy’ to call them back, see how quickly they hang up..