Are you ready for some New Year’s Resolutions ?
Happy holidays and what comes with it besides Black Friday, Small Shop Saturday, and Cyber Monday, is this flood of phishing and spam mail coming to my inbox. The more I use Outlook from Microsoft, the more I appreciate the help it gives me in deciphering those miserable emails that come in. This season will be a flood of bogus air ticket confirmations, shipping notices, Amazon purchases, and the like trying very hard to part me with my credit card numbers. Ahhh, I miss the days of Nigerian bank accounts and simple Viagra adds. I still get an occasional Canadian Pharmacy ad but mostly this season has been the shipping notices.
Fortunately, Outlook makes it pretty easy to figure them out and to tell that they are not legitimate transactions. Outlook 2007 and 2010 allows you to use the preview pane to see what is in the email message without it alerting the sender that there is a live body at this end of the message. If I just hover the mouse/pointer over the link in the email message, it will tell me the actual URL that the message link is pointing to and they run the gamut from what should be legitimate sites in this country to websites all over the world. If the “FedEx” message that I get has a link to a site in Russia, you can pretty well bet that it isn’t the real thing. Same with that “FedEx” message linking to a non Federal Express site in the US should also raise the same red flag. Or, how about just looking at the message with the FedEx logo at the top but it has a link to get a “Postal Receipt”.
My next favorite is what looks like a US Airways email telling me to confirm a ticket I never purchased. Again, just hover the pointer/mouse over the link in the message and you will see in the status bar at the bottom of the screen, the actual URL that you would be linking to and as you probably guessed by now, it definitely doesn’t point to US Airways. Gotten them from Delta and American as well.
You get the idea. You should be following this process for any email you get that you did not expect to receive to see if it is legitimate or not.
To make matters worse, I have had two friends call me because they received a call from “Microsoft Support” telling them they are there to help them with an error report that they recently sent to Microsoft. Guess what, they find errors and tell them that they will have to pay to get them fixed. One of my friends called me while she had them on the other line and I told her to immediately unplug the power to her desktop and bring me the computer. They had installed Tight VNC and ShowmyPC on her system to let them in later and probably to install keyloggers and the like. She was lucky, the other was not. They had also hit her credit card for $195 which she needed to call and stop. I would also recommend replacing that credit card as well.
So, what do you do if you think you have been a victim of such? There are four programs that I use on a regular basis to try and clean these things out. Kaspersky is a good place to start with their TDSSKiller Root Kit utility: http://support.kaspersky.com/faq/?qid=208283363
The second is the RKill utility from Bleepingcomputer: http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/download/rkill/
Third on the list would be MalwareBytes. This is a terrific free program that does a great job of ridding your system of malware after the fact. http://www.malwarebytes.org/
Fourth would be a good registry scanner program like CCleaner. It does a good job of cleaning out junk and temporary files from your computer as well as checking the registry for left over entries that can be deleted. From Piriform software. http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner
Once you do that, start up your anti-virus or internet security package and have it do a full scan. If you still don’t trust it, go and run some of the online scans from places like Norton (Symantec), Trend Micro, or Kaspersky. My favorite right now for an internet security and anti-virus package is Kaspersky’s Pure. If you have more than one computer, get the three user license.
Once things are back to normal, this is also a good time to create a New Year’s Resolution to keep your computer running well. As part of this, it is a good time to make sure that your Windows is up to date. Click Start and in All Programs, look for Windows Update. Also, make sure you are running the latest version of Java, Adobe Reader, and Adobe Flash. If you are still running Windows XP, I would be inclined to make Google Chrome my browser. If you are Running Vista, Windows 7 or 8, make sure Internet Explorer is at version 9. All this will go a long way to keep your computer running as it should.