How to Avoid Malware – and What to Do if You Get Attacked
You’ve had those days too, I’m sure, when all the gadgets you depend on seem to be out to get you. It starts in the wee hours of the night, perhaps, when your carbon monoxide detector wakes you up chirping for a new battery. Once your day starts, you discover that you overslept because you accidentally set your smartphone alarm for PM. An hour in and your iPhone harangues you yet again to install the latest update everyone’s been complaining about. You press the “remind me later” button and curse the technology gods for making mischief at your expense.
I was having one of these days yesterday. By dinnertime, I was grumpy and frustrated and my attention span had dwindled substantially. That’s my excuse, anyway. I loaded up a show on YouTube to watch while I cooked dinner when a window popped up, informing me that I needed to update my Flash Player. I gave it a cursory look, decided that it appeared legit since the text was in full sentences and included proper grammar, and clicked “install.”
Uh boy. I really should have known better – I am married to a tech support guy, after all. The next thing I saw was a window decorated with sinister cartoon characters who trapped me in a maze of buttons that appeared to have no exit.
Sheepishly, I went and found Adam, my husband and the founder of Trusted Technologies, and copped to my mistake – which of course he was sweet and cheerful about. He spent a few minutes poking around and figured out how to uninstall what he called this “sticky ware” that was ironically trying to sell me support services – or more likely looking for an opening to install malware.
It wasn’t until a couple hours later when I got back on the computer and went to Google something that I discovered what else those buggers had done to me. The Google search engine was gone completely from my computer and Yahoo had taken its place. I called Adam back and watched him work his magic, knowing that if not for his skills I probably would have lost Google from my desktop forever. (No offense Yahoo, but you are no Google.)
It turns out that the Flash Player update window is one of the most common tricks of viruses and spyware; so don’t fall for it like I did. In fact, Adam says this should be easy to avoid because Flash Player will rarely, if ever, ask you to update – so just ignore these windows if they ever pop up. His rule: if you didn’t go looking for an update, don’t trust anyone telling you that you need one. Verify updates from the source; i.e. go to adobe.com or java.com to get authentic software – and yes these programs should be kept up-to-date otherwisethey can provide an opening for malware too.
If you accidentally click the wrong button like I did, here’s what to do:
Run a full scan with your virus scanner software. A few top names include Microsoft Security Essentials, Malwarebytes, AVG and Webroot. This should uninstall the culprit depending on how severe the problem is. If the malware window keeps popping up or is particularly pernicious, you may need the help of a professional.
In the worst-case scenario, you may discover that your computer has been attacked by Ransomware and all your documents are now locked and inaccessible to you. If you don’t have a backup of your documents, crazy as it seems, you may unfortunately have to pay the ransom – encryption used by these viruses is unbreakable. At this point, you can only hope that the program is designed well enough to return your documents to you once you have handed over the money. This cautionary tale is a good reminder of why it’s so important to back up all your documents and files.
Of course, if you need help with ridding your system of malware or setting up a backup for your files, Trusted Technologies is always here to help.
Happy (and safe) Computing!