Mobile Phone Security

October 12, 2010

inQuo Computer Repair in Salt Lake City, inQuo Computer Support in Salt Lake City, inQuo Computer Repair in Utah, inQuo Computer Support in Utah

It’s coming people.  Like a tornado, selecting its victims at random, destroying lives and homes.  What is it, you ask?  Viruses and Malware on your handheld devices.

As if we don’t have enough to worry about with viruses on our computers, now we have yet another concern.  A recent attack on Android phones allowed hackers to remotely instruct the phone to send SMS text messages that cost $5 each, driving up the user’s phone bill and putting cash in the hackers pockets.  The Android users had downloaded a “free” movie player, and the exploit was installed in the background.

The “movie app” was downloaded from an outside website not affiliated with Google’s Android Marketplace.

Another scam does not send out pricey text messages, but rather, instructs the phone to dial an international number using a specific carrier.  The call is generally only made once a month, in the middle of the night, and most victims did not notice the charges for a few months.

So how can we protect ourselves from these malware attacks?

  • Only download apps from an official source.
  • Be wary of texts instructing you to download “updates” to your phone’s operating system.
  • Watch your bills closely.
Advertisements

How to Tune Up Your Computer

July 27, 2010

inQuo computer repair in salt lake city, inQuo computer support in salt lake city, inquo computer repair in utah, inQuo computer support in utah, inquo laptop repair in salt lake city, inquo laptop repair in utahEvery three thousand miles, you dutifully take your car into the shop for an oil change.  Most people were taught to perform regular maintenance on their cars when they were first handed the keys to the old family sedan.  By changing the oil, keeping the various fluids at the right level, and changing the filters, your automobile will run better and last a lot longer.

The same is true for your computer.  The longer you use a computer the slower it may become.  Many times, people think they need a new computer when all they really need to do is to perform some simple maintenance.

System and Software Updates

It is important to keep both your operating system and the software running on your computer up to date with the latest patches and upgrades.  Many times, the security of your system can be at stake if the software running on it is not updated regularly.  Both Microsoft and Apple operating systems regularly release updates.  Other programs can usually be updated by clicking the HELP menu inside the program itself.

Clearing the Cache

A cache on a computer is a place where temporary files are stored.  Many programs, including internet browsers, will store temporary files on the hard drive.  This can help the program fun faster, and save personalized settings. If the cache becomes too large, or the files become corrupt it may cause problems.  A good program to automatically clear the cache is CCleaner.  Easy to use and free!

Security Scans

Viruses, malware and spyware cause many issues for computer users.  They can slow the computer down, and cause issues with the security of your computer.  It is important to keep your antivirus software up to date, and run regular scans with it.  We also recommend using a program called Malwarebytes.  Free and easy to use, Malwarebytes can remove many threats that may be missed by antivirus software.

Hard Drive Optimization

As you install programs and save files on your hard drive, it can begin to get cluttered.  A defrag can help organize all of the files and programs that are physically stored on the hard drive.  This can help with the speed of running programs, searching for and opening files, and many other functions of your computer.

All of these maintenance steps should be done on a monthly basis.  By taking an hour a month to run the updates and security scans, your computer will run faster and last longer.


Keeping Viruses and Malware Off Your Computer

June 27, 2010

inQuo Computer Support in Salt Lake City, inQuo Computer Repair in Salt Lake City, inQuo Computer Support in Utah, inQuo Computer Repair in Utah, inQuo laptop repair in Salt Lake City, inQuo laptop repair in utah, inquo computer help in salt lake city, inquo computer help in utahThere are lots of nasty viruses and malware lurking on the internet.  Just how can you keep your computer safe?

DO keep antivirus software installed and updated on your computer.  Although some viruses and malware can sneak past some programs, the majority of them don’t.

DON’T click on any links from emails, instant messages, Facebook, etc., even if you know the person who sent it.  Their machine may be infected and sending out fake messages to spread the virus/malware.

DO regularly update your operating system with the latest security updates.  Most Microsoft systems will do this automatically, however, you may have to approve the installation of the security updates.  If you get a pop up you are unsure is a real update, just click START—WINDOWS UPDATE to manually run the update process.

DON’T use peer to peer sharing software programs like Limewire, Bittorrent, etc.  Not only is downloading and sharing programs and music illegal, a lot of those files have viruses hidden inside of them.  Some peer to peer sharing software is actually malware in disguise.

DO run regular virus and malware scans of your computer.  Your antivirus software will probably do this automatically.  You may also want to install an additional spyware/malware scanning program.  We recommend Malwarebytes (free on www.downloads.com).

DON’T visit questionable websites.  An obvious culprit are porn sites, but other ones may include sites offering “warez” (free cracked software), foreign sites (unless you can really read what you are clicking on) and even some popular children’s sites (lots of those kid’s sites require them to download special players and programs to play the free games, installing spyware and malware at the same time).

DO perform a registry scan on a normal basis.  The registry is like the key to a map.  It holds all the information about everything on your computer, from where files are saved, how programs run, etc.  Some viruses and malware will make changes to the registry which can cause many problems.  There are several free programs out there.  We like Ccleaner (free on www.downloads.com).  It is easy to use and very affective.

DON’T think that to clean a virus off your computer, you have to reinstall the entire operating system.  This is the first line of defense for some computer professionals and companies, but not inQuo.  We can clean 99% of computers without reinstalling Windows.


Email Hoaxes – inQuo’s Tech Tip Tuesday Newsletter

February 23, 2010
inQuo Computer Repair in Salt Lake City UtahAnyone with an email address has probably received an email warning them of a new virus outbreak, gang activity if you flash your headlights, or a medical warning about possible contamination from chopped onions.  These emails warn you of dire consequences and incredible health hazards.  Most of these emails are probably hoaxes.

You can spot these hoax emails by some of the ways they are written.  If they ask you to forward them to as many people as you know, or the subject line includes phrases like WARNING!!!! or URGENT!!!!, they may be a hoax.  The body of the email may show many forwards, meaning you have to scroll down a long ways to actually read the email.  That can be a sign as well.

It is best to assume that these emails are false until they can be proved otherwise.  We have compiled a list of websites that can help disseminate between the truth and false claims.

  • Snopes (www.snopes.com) – Perhaps the most well known website that seeks to dispel rumors and hoaxes, Snopes is a good resource to track those suspicious emails that have been forwarded to you.
  • Hoaxbusters (www.hoaxbusters.org) – Although the address is similar to a site that used to be funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, this site is not a government site.  It does have useful information about internet hoaxes though.
  • Scambusters (www.scambusters.org) – Another valuable site that has many recent posts, including information about Haiti Donation Scams.
  • Vmyths (www.vmyths.com) – An informative blog with good insights into internet hoaxes and myths.
A danger in forwarding emails is that anyone who has received that email before can also have their email address exposed.  Most people do not use the BCC (blind carbon copy) option when forwarding emails.

Some emails that you receive may sound like the truth, because the author has cited references to important sounding names or organizations.

Why do people do this?  Some people may write these types of emails to simply see how far they go.  Others may be writing them as a practical joke to friends, without realizing how far it will go.  There are some “news” websites that write satirical and untrue news stories for humor.  Sometimes, even those stories are picked up and rehashed in the form of hoax emails.  Some speculate that spammers, people who send millions of spam email messages, use the hoax email addresses as a way of harvesting email addresses

It is a good idea to check out the claims made by any of those kinds of emails before forwarding them on to everyone you know.  Use the sites above, or even just type the subject of the suspected email into your favorite search engine.


The Virus Issue Part Two of Three – inQuo’s Tech Tip Tuesday Newsletter Volume 12

December 18, 2009

The term “Virus” has evolved into a blanket term covering most types of unwanted software that can cause many different issues on your computer.  How can you tell if you have a virus, spyware or malware issue, or if there are other issues?

The Signs

The best way to tell if your computer may be infected is if there is unexplained or unwanted activity that occurs.  If your computer starts running extremely slow, takes twice as long to boot up, and if your high speed internet is reduced to dial-up speeds, you may be infected with a virus.  Those can also be signs of other problems, like a hard drive that is starting to fail, bad memory, a failing power supply, etc.

Some other easy signs are when you have an active antivirus/anti-malware software program that is scanning your computer, and it pops up with a warning about a virus.  Some viruses are designed to look like a legitimate warning.  Once you click on the fake warning, your computer may become compromised.

You may also get a bunch of un-wanted pop-up ads, and your web browser may re-direct you to websites that you do not want to view.

Removing the Infections

If a windows pops up telling you that you have a virus, and it wants you to click on a link or button, you may not want to do that.  Our rule of thumb is, if you get a suspicious warning, immediately close all the windows and programs.  Then run your Antivirus program by clicking START–ALL PROGRAMS, and choosing the correct program.  Let it complete a scan, and if it finds anything during that scan, you can take the recommended steps to remove or quarantine the infection.

If you run the scan, and nothing is found, yet you still have the symptoms listed above, your antivirus program may have been compromised.  There is a way to run an antivirus scan without downloading or installing any programs.  This is a good way to test your system.  Just go the this website, http://housecall.trendmicro.com/.  Click on the LAUNCH button and follow the on-screen instructions.

Still Infected?

Viruses and Malware are written to be sneaky and hard to remove.  Sometimes, standard procedures for removing the infections just do not work.  You can search the internet for specific solutions to infection problems.  It is a good idea to have as much information about the problem as possible.  Be armed with this information to conduct a good search:

  • The Operating System Version (ie.  Windows XP, Windows Vista Business, etc.)
  • Specific Error Messages (these should be verbatim for better results)
  • A list of Processes (processes are all the programs that are currently running on your computer.  View these by typing CTRL-ALT-DEL on your keyboard)

Many solutions may require additional software downloads.  If you do not feel comfortable downloading unknown software, it may be time to seek a professional.


The Virus Issue Part One of Three – inQuo’s Tech Tip Tuesday Newsletter Volume 11

December 18, 2009

Anyone who has touched a keyboard has probably heard of computer viruses, spyware, malware, etc.  But do you really understand what those terms mean, and how they can affect you?

This is the first of a three part series on computer viruses.  We will define what different types of viruses are, what they can do, how to remove them,  and how you can prevent future infections.

Definitions

Adware – A small software program, typically installed when visiting certain internet websites, or installing “shareware” or “freeware” software.  Adware can monitor websites that you visit, and transmit that information to marketers for research and targeted advertising.  It can increase the delivery of advertisements in the form of pop-up ads, targeted banners, etc.

Malware – Malicious software that is installed without your knowledge, that is used for sinister purposes, such as gathering information like passwords, installing viruses and trojans, turning a computer into a “Zombie”, and other unwanted actions.

Spyware – Again, software installed on your computer without you knowing.  Spyware can be software installed by an owner of the computer to monitor the activities.  For example, a parent that installs software to log the keystrokes of their kids, or a business owner monitoring their employee’s computer use.  Spyware can monitor internet activity, and can also re-direct users to specific websites.

Trojan (Horse) – One of the more riskier malware programs, a trojan horse virus typically starts out as a small program that seemingly causes no harm, but can give others unauthorized access to your computer system.  They are usually not self replicating, like viruses and worms, and they do require interaction with an outside party, like a hacker.

Virus – A virus is a program or set of scripts that can cause harm to your computer by deleting or corrupting files, disabling security software and other problematic things.  A virus is typically a local program, and can be spread through manual processes, like sharing flash disks or USB drives, as well as email, IM programs, and social networking websites.  The term virus is generally used as a blanketed description for other types of infections, like trojans, spyware and malware.

Worm – A self-replicating program that spreads through networks, e-mail, instant messaging programs and file sharing.  Worms do not usually attach themselves to other programs.  Many worms do not typically cause damage to files or programs, however, they can cause problems with bandwidth because of how they spread and replicate.

Zombie (Computer) – A computer that is connected to the internet, and has been compromised by a trojan, virus or worm.  The computer is then used by someone controlling it, to send out spam e-mails, spread viruses, attack websites, etc.  The owner of the computer does not know their computer is being used in that way.  An estimated 80-90% of all spam e-mails sent worldwide comes from zombie infected computers.


Spyware, Malware and Viruses

June 26, 2009

Anyone who has surfed the internet knows how annoying it can be when a million pop-up ads appear, when all you really want to do is read the news or check your email.  Not only are those ads annoying, but they can also make your computer slow down to a snail’s pace.  Before you chuck your computer out the window in frustration, there are a few things you can do to easily speed up your computer and reduce those pop-ups.  These tips are fairly easy and can help you get back on the road to productivity.

Spyware and Malware are more than just annoying pop-up ads.  These two words are used to describe any kind of software that is installed on your computer, usually without your knowledge, that track and send data to outside sources about you.  Many times, if you install any “free” software, spyware and malware programs are bundled inside that free software and installed on your computer too.  The software can be used to track your surfing habits and display advertisements that are relevant to what you have been searching for on the internet.  They can also be used for more sinister purposes, like logging your keystrokes, stealing information like passwords and account numbers, and even turning your computer into an email spamming machine.  As more of these programs infest your computer, the slower it will run.  Many of these programs use your internet connection to send their data.  Having a lot of these programs on your computer can slow your internet speed as well.

Your first line of defense in keeping the spyware, malware and viruses off of your computer is to install and update a solid antivirus program.  Updating it means letting it connect to the internet, and downloading the latest definition files that scan your computer for infestations.  McAfee and Norton are the two largest names in the antivirus business.  Those software programs usually require paid subscriptions for the latest updates.  There are a few free antivirus software programs available, including AVG Free and Avast!.  Both programs work very well.

There are also some free programs designed to help remove spyware and malware specifically.  These programs usually do not run all the time, and will not stop the spyware and malware programs from getting installed, but they are effective in removing those nuisance programs once they are on your machine.  These programs include MalwareBytes, AdAware and Spybot Search and Destroy.  Using any one of these, or a combination of these programs on a regular basis is a good idea.  Most of the free programs described in this article can be found on this website, www.download.com.

Peer to Peer File Sharing is a popular way to download music, software and movies.  Typically, these downloads are not legal, and by using these types of programs, your computer is opened up to potential attacks by viruses and malware.  Some of the popular programs associated with peer to peer file sharing are Limewire, Gnutella, eDonkey, and BitTorrent.  File sharing is exactly that, sharing files on your computer with anonymous users all over the world.  It is in easy way for hackers and other nefarious computer users to easily obtain your personal information and wreak havoc on your computer system.

Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace have recently been used to spread viruses and spyware.  Members of these groups will receive an email or message from another member, usually a person that is in the members group of friends, requesting they click on a link for pictures.  A lot of times, this link will automatically install malware and spyware on your computer.  The person who sent the link usually has no idea their account has been compromised until all of their “friends” get infected.  A good rule of thumb is to never click on a link sent by anyone, even your friends, without first knowing what the link is.  Responding to the email and asking your friend about the link first, before you click on it, is a good way to avoid problems.

Updating your operating system is an important part of keeping your computer system secure.  Microsoft Windows and Apple computers both release security updates on a regular basis.  On a Microsoft Windows computer, the easiest way to find out if your computer is up to date is to run Windows Update.  Click on Start—ALL Programs and look for Windows Update or Microsoft Update.  Running either of those programs will access the Microsoft update website.  Follow the instructions on the screen to search for the latest updates.   Sometimes, a yellow shield will appear in the bottom right hand side of your screen.  By clicking on it, you will see updates that are ready to be installed on your computer.  It is a good idea to install those updates.   On a Mac, click the Apple Icon at the top left hand corner of the screen, then click Software Updates.

Computers are the tools for many businesses, and are found in most homes.  The internet has become a huge part of everyday life, and with life, there are risks out there.  By protecting your investment with these simple tips, you can mitigate the risks and keep your computer running smoothly.