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Boulder Computer Maven Newsletter - December 2008

Dear Friends,

I wish you a joyous holiday season and a very happy new year!

This is my customer newsletter, containing information that I hope you'll find interesting and helpful. This month's topics are Protect Your Computer from Malware and Beware of Rogue Security Programs.

Previous newsletters are available on the newsletters page of the Boulder Computer Maven web site. If you change your E-mail address, please send me your new one. If you don't want to receive this newsletter, let me know, and I'll remove your name from my mailing list.

If you have questions or comments or want to schedule an appointment, please call me at 303-444-8247.

Best Wishes,
Steve Winograd

Helping People Use Computers in Boulder for Over 25 Years

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Protect Your Computer from Malware

Every computer needs protection against malware such as viruses and spyware. These malicious programs can slow your computer down, launch pop-up windows for fraudulent products, delete your files, steal your personal data, or allow criminal gangs to take over your computer and operate it remotely. Most E-mail spam comes from collections of remotely controlled computers called botnets.

In my next newsletter, I'll give my recommendations for security programs to protect your computer against malware. But no such program is perfect, and the best defense is to take these simple steps to prevent malware infections from getting into your computer:

Malware authors use social engineering to get people to install malicious programs. One of their tricks is to send E-mail messages that appear to be legitimate, or even helpful. For example, you might get an infected message that looks like a security update from Microsoft, a package delivery notice from UPS, or a news update from CNN.

Beware of Rogue Security Programs

Rogue Security Program

Rogue security programs are malicious programs that masquerade as an antivirus or antispyware program, often using a name that looks legitimate, such as WinAntivirus 2008, XP Antivirus 2009, Vista Antivirus 2009, Personal Defender 2009, or AntiSpywareGuard. Their appearance can be so realistic that it's hard to tell them from legitimate security programs. I've put a screenshot of one such program to the right, showing how it imitates the appearance of the Windows Security Center.

Here are some signs of a rogue security program:

If you think that your computer has a rogue security program, you may contact me for expert malware detection and removal service. If you'd like to do it yourself:

  1. Run System Restore to restore the computer to the way it was before the infection occurred.
  2. If that doesn't remove the infection, download and run these removal tools:
  3. After removal, update your antivirus program and run a full scan to check for other types of infections.

If you've paid for a rouge security program, contact your credit card company immediately to cancel the charges, cancel the card, and have a new card issued. There might be multiple charges, for different amounts, from vendors in Russia or eastern Europe.

For more information, including screen shots of other rogue security programs, see this Microsoft web page. For a detailed description of one such program, see the webcast Anatomy of a Hack 2008.

For a list of other rogue security programs, see The Spyware Warrior List of Rogue/Suspect Anti-Spyware Products & Web Sites.