Having just retrieved my computer from The Computer Hospital (yes, that’s actually the name of the company), I was compelled to write this post. On Sunday morning I clicked on a link from a trusted colleague and, within seconds, hundreds of boxes popped up on my desktop with messages saying that my disk was corrupted and unreadable and that my RAM was unstable and may cause system shutdown.
Of course, this wasn’t my first trip around the computer virus block so I knew not to click on any of the boxes that claimed to be able to help me fix the problem. I immediately ran scans on BOTH of my anti-virus software programs (I’ll explain in a bit why that was not the right way to go) and watched as every document on my desktop disappeared. Within 90 seconds, all that was left on my desktop were the Recycle Bin and an Internet Explorer shortcut. That was pretty scary. I immediately took my computer to The Computer Hospital to see if they could wipe the virus and retrieve my data. Luckily, they were able to do just that. They removed twenty viruses from my computer!
I consider myself a fairly Internet-savvy person. I know not to click on suspicious emails or to visit certain types of sites. I very rarely click on links within Facebook or Twitter, opting instead to go directly to the website where the article is supposedly living so that I’m not re-directed to a malicious site or inviting spammers to flood my friends’ walls with their malicious links. I read a lot of articles on Internet security and, as I mentioned above, even ran two anti-virus software programs all in an effort to avoid the misery of viruses and spam. What I learned from my computer saviors really surprised me so I wanted to share these with all of you.
Today I learned that:
1) You can get a virus from a reputable or legitimate website. In fact, studies show that you’re more likely to get a virus from a legitimate site than from one with adult content.
2) The worst sites for getting a virus are actually local news sites. Somehow, the virus programmers get their viruses into the ads on these sites and, whether you click the ads or not, your computer can get the virus. One of the techs said that he got a virus from the Chili’s restaurant site. Simply put, consider every site to be a threat!
3) The first time I got a virus, I clicked on the boxes that popped-up and was taken to a website that offered to fix the problem. Luckily, I realized this was a scam. What I didn’t realize is how damaging the scam could be. The techs told me that a man recently came in with some real problems. He’d clicked on the boxes, went to the website and entered his credit card information. He then sat and watched as all of his personal information scrolled across his desktop. He assumed this was part of the fix. The next morning, his computer still wouldn’t boot and he soon came to realize that, overnight, his credit cards had been maxed out and his bank accounts cleaned out.
4) I’d always heard that Apple computers were less vulnerable to viruses. This is not necessarily true. The fact is that Apple only has about 15% of the home computer market so these virus programmers don’t bother to write viruses for Apple. As Apple’s market share grows, so will virus programs that affect them.
5) As I mentioned, I’ve been running two anti-virus software programs (one paid and one free) and still twenty viruses got through. I’ve been told that the most effective anti-virus duo is MalwareBytes (Pro version, $24.95) and Microsoft Security Essentials (free). My techs tell me this is the very best combo.
6) Whatever anti-virus program you use, it should be set to scan daily, not weekly or monthly; especially if you are online often. Also be sure that you set the scan times for a time of day when your computer will likely be turned on. The scan can’t happen when the computer is off.
7) If you contract a virus, shut down the computer immediately. Don’t run your anti-virus scan at that time. Turn the computer off, then restart in Safe Mode and run your anti-virus software from there. Immediately shutting down the computer will disrupt whatever activity the virus is trying to perpetrate on your computer.
If you’ve never had a computer virus, consider yourself lucky, but don’t think that it can never happen to you. Writing virus programs is a big business for a variety of reasons. For more information on different types of viruses and spam, their capabilities, and the reasons people write them, check out this guide from Sophos entitled Viruses and Spam: What You Need to Know. I found this very helpful in understanding the types of viruses and spam there are out there and why people write and distribute them.
Have you ever been the victim of a computer virus or spam? Let me know your story in the comment section below. And please feel free to share this article if you found it helpful.