South Lake Norman
PC Troubleshooting
Computer Troubleshooting
in the south Lake Norman area
since 1998

Over 1000 PCs serviced in Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson

October is National Cyber Security Month

In July 2011 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today joined President Obama, and others from the Administration to highlight the need for a continued commitment to working closely with businesses, community-based organizations, governments at all levels and the American public to enhance America’s cybersecurity.

Back here in the south Lake Norman community, we are in the trenches every day removing malicious software (malware) from user’s computers. Malware removal is a daunting process that frequently takes several hours using proven methods and specialized software.

How is extensive is the malware problem?

The propagation of malware is epidemic. The Internet can be an unsafe place. Your data is at risk. Your right to privacy is being violated. Your identity may be stolen. Or worse!

Cyber thieves are interested in capturing information about you: your credit cards, social security number, banking information. The intent is obvious, of course. The worst part is that many security attacks can come from known friends whose own systems have already been compromised.

The Internet has become a bleak place for people that do not practice safe computing methods. Cybercrime is big business these days–it’s no longer the domain of a surly miscreant in a basement writing viruses. Now the bad guys are organized, smart, and running their operations like a big worldwide business for profit.

Most people are aware of the dangers, but not how to protect themselves.

I have antivirus software but somehow my PC has become infected. Why didn’t the antivirus software protect my PC?

Most antivirus software programs cannot keep up with the some 30,000 virus variants released every day. The bad guys manage to change the “signature” of the malware to avoid detection. Unfortunately, all anti-virus programs can give you a false sense of security. This is not to say that you should not have antivirus software, but you should not expect it to be your best line of defense.

After you disinfect my PC, what can I do to protect it better?

Better user understanding of the threats is a challenge. We constantly promote safeguarding with current Windows Security Updates, reliable antivirus/anti-malware programs and layered defense (least privilege a/k/a limited user accounts). We strongly encourage the updating of third-party software (such as Java, Adobe Reader and Flash) to more secure versions. We promote defensive computing and Internet surfing (stay away from questionable web sites) using site advisors, such as Web of Trust.

In October, the Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign intends to raise the level of understanding of the need for protection of the PC to prevent threats from taking control, especially when many households use their PC for bill paying, work purposes and to retain personal information. Accordingly, household users cannot allow their PCs to become compromised.

I keep getting emails from a friend who lives in Cornelius. The email has a link to a strange website. What is going on?

I get similar emails from family and friends. Eighty-five percent of unwanted emails are known to include malicious URL link. If you click on the link, your PC will become infected by a backdoor Trojan program. It is unclear whether your friend’s PC is infected or whether his name is being spoofed by another compromised PC.

How NOT to Get Your PC Infected

Obviously, there are many ways to pick up a virus or other malicious software. We have put together a list of the more common methods of infection so that you know what to look out for and avoid.

Malicious Links: Never click on a link unless you know the target destination is safe. Examples: Facebook links, Email, Instant Message, suspicious websites and advertisements.

Drive-by Downloads: These are downloads of spyware, a computer virus, or any kind of malware that happen without knowledge of the user. Drive-by downloads may happen when you visit a website, view an e-mail message or click on a deceptive popup window. Many users click on the window in the mistaken belief that, for instance, it is an error report from their own PC or that it is an innocuous advertisement popup. In such cases, the malicious "supplier" may claim that the user "consented" to the download though he or she was completely unaware of having initiated a malicious software download.

Exploit Vulnerabilities: These are pieces of malware that take advantage of a weakness in a web browser, e-mail client, Java, Adobe Reader or Adobe Flash or the Windows operating system. They install themselves without any user intervention whatsoever. Many take advantage of older vulnerabilities in applications or operating systems that don't have the latest updates installed. This is why it is important to install updates promptly.

Email Attachments: Infected attachments that arrive in spam emails can infect machines then send emails to everyone in the users address book. These spoofed email messages will contain some kind of enticing story to get you to follow a link to a malicious site or open an attachment which is actually the installer for the malware.

The rise in broadband technology (always on, always exposed) has enabled the increased the level of threats. Our message covers the malicious threats derived from interactive information sharing, and user-centered design, including social networking and video-sharing sites.

Many local residents have begun to telecommute (work from home). Accordingly, they need to address additional security practices for business applications “in the cloud” and Software as a Service.

In addition we aspire to keep our children safe, safe from predators, safe from bullies, safe from the unknown threats. Many software programs, which allow restrictions, are available for parental control.

This is where you come in: Cybersecurity is Everyone’s Responsibility.

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