Saturday, May 9, 2015

Family Tech for May 8, 2015 - Malware: don’t get it and you won’t need a new computer

Starting this week, those Family Tech columns that are not published at, the online home of Northern Virginia Media Services newspaper including Prince William Today, will be published here at

Too many people buy a new computer because their old one was infected with malware, viruses and other software they did not knowingly install.

And all too soon, that new computer is infected too.

What is malware? How do we get it?  How do we get rid of it?

Malware is any piece of software designed to steal information from your PC, direct you to websites you otherwise would not visit, insert ads into your view or actively damage your computer.

They will commonly change your desired search engine and home page to ones their advertisers want.

Malware can plant a key-logger on your PC, so that when you visit your bank website, the key-logger sees your username and password and sends it over the Internet to someone else.
Malware can add an advertisement to a webpage, cluttering your view and hiding information. It can report back on the websites you go to so as to build a profile of you useful to advertisers.

Malware can infect your system with a Trojan app that lets others control your PC to make it send out spam emails for them or download more malware apps.

Malware can redirect you to a page that looks like your bank’s, for example, and when you login, it has your password. This is called Phishing.

Most malware ends up on a PC because the user was fooled into downloading it.

Never, ever, open an attachment on an email unless you are absolutely certain it is safe.

A photo of your grandchild from your son is probably safe. An attachment on an email from someone you don’t know with the subject line, “I thought of you when I saw this,” is definitely not safe.

Emails that come with harmful attachments may appear to be from your bank. Before you open that attachment, study the email carefully. Does it call you by name? Most banks do not send out files by email. They may ask you to go to their website and download a document instead. If you have any questions, call your bank before opening that attachment.

I regularly receive emails in my Spam folder purportedly from banks where I do not have an account. So I know any attachments on them or even links in them are potentially harmful.

Does the email sound to be good to be true like, “Proven tip to win any sports bet?” Or scare you, “Someone is running a background investigation of you?”
Each of these examples came from actual emails I found in my Spam folder. Look at the emails in your Spam folder to see the kind of tricks people use. Be watchful for ones that do get into your Inbox that use the same techniques to get your attention.

One common one is to start the subject line with “re:” to make it appear you’ve already been in email conversation with them.

Another common way to trick you into downloading is with a pop-up page that appears when you visit a website. The pop-up is often designed to look like a dialog box and it may say that a virus has been spotted on your PC and if you click the link it will download an app to remove it.

There is no virus and the app that is downloaded probably is a virus or other malware.

Also, avoid downloading apps from sites like Those apps frequently come with a variety of evil apps bundled in. They’ll ask permission to install them using crafty phrasing and double negatives to trick you into giving permission. Use to download useful apps safely.

Some criminals give real effort. They will call and say they are with Microsoft support and have remotely detected a virus on your PC. They will guide you through downloading an app to your PC to fix the problem.

Microsoft does not scan for viruses remotely and will not call you. These are scammers.  The app they have you download will search for banking and credit card information.

So how do you fix a malware infestation? The best way is to not get malware in the first place. Educate your family on the points I’ve made already about never opening an email attachment and never responding to a pop-up that says you have malware and offer to fix the problem. 

If there is one person knowledgeable about computers in your family, ask them to check all the family’s PCs for infestations and take responsibility for responding to any messages that come up saying you have malware.

Get a good anti-virus and have it regularly update itself and run scans of your PC.

Download MalwareBytes and Spybot 2 and run their scans periodically. Links are on

Keep regular backups both onsite and offsite. That will be the topic of a column soon.

Computers make it easier for us to do many things, but it also makes it easier for bad people to do bad things to us.

For links mentioned in the column, go to  For more of Mark’s online activities and contact information, visit on the web.

Link for this column is here.

To subscribe to the print edition of Prince William Today, visit their website.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.