Archives for July 2010

Fake Security Software Cons You With Real Tech Support

The battle for your computer has stepped up a notch, as fake security software now offers real tech support. Talk about twisted!

As I’ve written before, rogue security software pretends to be real antivirus and anti-malware software in order to commandeer your computer. It disables your bona fide protections and claims that you must purchase their super-duper software to save you from invented infections. Now, they’ve added a “support” option as further bait. After all, if the software offers you tech support by live chat and email, it must be legitimate, right? And so much money is being made on this fake software that they can actually afford to hire real people to provide said tech support! It’s a whole new take on social engineering, the unethical art of doing anything and everything to manipulate you.

Remember, rogue security software will not protect you; it will leave you vulnerable. Your best protection is to stick with security programs from known vendors. Norton, McAfee, AVG, Trend Micro, and avast! are all real companies with real products. Although I’m still not enamored of Norton and McAfee (see why), you’re certainly better off with them than a rogue. Become familiar with what your regular antivirus program looks like. If you sit down at your computer one day and see something different, be very suspicious. Also, be careful if you do a web search for antivirus software, because many of the “sponsored links” lead you to fake programs. Once fake security software is on your computer, it’s extremely difficult to remove. And don’t fall for the trick “uninstaller,” which leaves remnants of the rogue to regenerate itself.

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Beware Fake Facebook Messages Via Email

If you get an email from Facebook saying there is a message for you, do NOT click on the link. Visit Facebook’s site directly instead to respond to any and all messages.

Beware Fake Facebook Messages Via Email

Like the Facebook update scam I dissected for you a few months ago, this latest scam tries to trick you into clicking a potentially malicious link by mimicking a legitimate Facebook message. Take a look at this screenshot and compare it to the Facebook update scam. You’ll see similarities, including the use of Facebook formatting and logo as well as a legitimate-looking link. However, the link actually redirects you to a malicious site. The site on this particular message has already been blocked as being harmful; it probably belongs to some innocent victim whose web site was hacked to deliver viruses or harvest passwords a la the Twitter DM worm. But there are plenty of other phony sites out there that may not have been blocked.

In my case I was alerted to the scam because I’d never heard of the people from whom the messages were purportedly sent, but that’s not a foolproof way to tell if a message is fake or not. Facebook accounts can be hacked, and false messages sent. This grants the fake messages an undeserved level of trust because they come from someone you know–and that’s the point. Cybercriminals know people are unlikely to click on unsolicited links and far more likely to click on something sent by someone they know. The best way, as I said, is to distrust all email links no matter who they’re from. You are far safer visiting the Facebook site directly and checking your messages from there.

Developing A Disaster Recovery Plan

Are you prepared for a disaster? This checklist will help you assess your plans for home and business.

1) Critical resources
What are your most important resources, and which ones can you do without in a crisis?

2) Backups
What is your backup strategy? Where are your off-site backups located? Do you test your backups to make sure they are valid?

3) Inventory
Do you have a complete and current list of all hardware and software, including serial numbers and documentation?

4) Network and Internet
Do you understand the layout of your network? What is the impact if your connection goes down? Consider alternate options for use in the event of an emergency.

5) Remote Access
Can you work from somewhere other than your primary location? What resources would you need to do so? Evaluate various options to find one that works best for you.

6) Security
What would you do if you had a security incident, such as a virus infection, loss of data, or identity theft? Develop a plan, including resources that can help you.

7) Fire Drills
Test your strategies to verify that they will work in a real-world situation.

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Bargain Backup Options

Everyone needs backups, but you may not have a lot of money to spend. Here are some great bargain backup ideas.

1) Buy an external hard drive
Many external drives come with their own backup software and are simple to set up. You can get one terabyte (that’s 1,024 gigabytes, or about 256 DVDs’ worth) of storage for around $100-120. If you have a lot of pictures or music, this is your most cost-effective solution.

2) Use an old computer
What good is that ten-year-old computer? If it’s still functional and has a large enough hard drive, you could turn it into a dedicated backup station. You may not be able to back up your entire computer to it, but you will probably have enough room for basic documents. You’ll need to network it to your existing computer and share files between them.

3) Burn it to disc
Almost all computers these days have writable CD drives. Many newer computers also have DVD burners. The media is inexpensive and stores well over long periods. It’s easy to create duplicate backups for off-site storage.

4) Use a flash (USB) drive
Flash drives are inexpensive and portable. However, their long-term storage abilities have not been tested because the technology is relatively new.

5) Use an online storage service
These services are often inexpensive, but are not available if your Internet connection goes down. Security may also be a question.

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Multiple Computer Backups Preserve Your Peace Of Mind

In this month’s Northwest Herald technology column I explain why it’s important to have more than one backup of your computer data. It’s also critical to test restoring your data to make sure your backups are valid. To do this, follow your software’s procedures for recovering data, but redirect the data so it doesn’t overwrite the original.

Most software has an option called “destination” or “target,” where the recovered data is to be saved. If you select that option you can redirect the data to another location. You may want to create a special folder ahead of time for the restored data. Then you can compare it to the original. As I said in the article, don’t just check file names; try opening each kind of file you use (say, one Word file, one Excel file, and so on). If you don’t have a solid backup strategy, including off-site storage in case of a disaster, all your hard work could be lost.

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