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In a world of ever growing dependence on technology, we sometimes leave ourselves vulnerable to security risks simply through complacency.  When the internet became part of our everyday lives people were skeptical about the security of this “invisible web” that was, at the time, a little clunky and scary to anyone born when Apple was just another type of fruit, and Windows were well Windows.  It seems though, that with the modern improvements in web pages, and the ever growing availability of the internet across many different devices (they now have Wi-Fi enabled refrigerators that can text you when you're low on milk) that maybe we've lost that vigilance while surfing and even in our everyday lives.

We've come along way since those days of “Napster” and “Netscape Navigator”, but the sad reality is that while the internet may have become prettier, but not too much safer.  The reality is that NO security software anywhere, no matter how modern, can guarantee 100% that a nasty new infection won't hijack your PC and leave you stranded on the side of the “Information Super Highway” that we've all come to rely on, even if only to check your email or to follow your friends and family on Facebook.  That being said, 100% of security software is useless if you give permission for scammers to access your PC. I know what you're thinking, “Why would I give a 'scammer' access to my PC?” well chances are you already have.

One of the more simple types of phishing scams involves “piggy-backed” software.  I’m sure you've been there, you're installing a new piece of software and unbeknownst to you a tiny little checkbox sits checked at the bottom of the install wizard, but you just keep clicking NEXT because you REALLY want to use this new software.  That's when you notice “PC Optimizer PRO” is now running every time you startup your PC and now your computer is running poorly.  “Wait, 'PC Optimizer PRO' says it can fix this for $99.99 I just have to sign up with a credit card.”  BOOM, now they have your information and they are going shopping, but this isn't even the worst case scenario.  The true threat today comes in the form of a courtesy call.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Microsoft-logo.pngIt's about 5 o’clock at night and you’re sitting down for supper, the phone rings. “Hello”, you answer.

“Good evening” the other voice replies, “My name is 'Chip' and I am calling on behalf of ‘Microsoft’” he continues.

“Our systems have indicated that your Windows Updates may have become corrupted by an infection, are you in front of the PC and able to get me access right now?”

“Oh no”, you reply. “Yes, okay I’m on the computer now”

“Great, could you please do the following…?”

b2ap3_thumbnail_FrustratedwithComputer.jpgThey then walk you through getting them access to your PC, after all this is “Microsoft” they know what they’re doing.  The problem is…this ISN’T Microsoft.  Once inside the “tech” disables your input so you can't use your keyboard and mouse, then the screen goes black. The PC is still on but you can't see what they have access to or what they're doing. In a panic you turn off the computer, but it's too late, they're in and they got what they came for.

While this is an EXTREME example, it happens every day.

Another scenario involves the same process as above except there never was an infection and you just paid $100 for them to do absolutely nothing, or maybe they leave behind a piece of software that captures all of your keystrokes, including passwords, social security numbers, account numbers, etc.

This isn't meant to be a doom and gloom scare tactic to frighten you. This is reality, and these things CAN happen to you or your friends and family.  There is hope though!  IT professionals fight day in and day out to find and eliminate these threats, but we can’t be everywhere, nor can we catch everything.  The best offense is a good defense.  Here are a few tips to help keep you safe:

 

  1. (Microsoft, Dell, Amazon, etc.) None of these companies will contact you without YOU first contacting them.  If someone calls claiming to be from ANY of the major IT companies, ask for a name and job title and a number and extension to return a call to.  Most of the time the “tech” will try desperately to keep you on the line, this is a sure sign of a scam.  If the “tech gives you a personal cell phone number (not an 800 or 888), this is a MAJOR red flag!
  2. Pop-up web pages aren’t just annoying they’re infectious.  Pop-ups stating that your PC is “infected and you need to go to this site to clean your PC” are 99.9% scams.  Don’t follow these links, avoid clicking on the pop-up windows as this can activate an infection.  CTRL+ALT+DEL and restart your PC all together as a last resort to avoid malware.
  3. Be Aware!  Always have a general awareness of where you are on the web.  Be cautious of anything that looks “out of place” on a favorite web site. It is easy to be directed away from safe areas to not-so-safe sites so watch what you are clicking on.
  4. If you’re not sure STOP! If you get to an area or if a message pops up that you don’t understand stop where you are.  Don’t accept any prompts that you don’t recognize or haven’t seen before.
  5. The best course of action for any of these situations is to take your PC to a LOCAL trustworthy IT company like us at Intrada Technologies* to verify any issues and secure the device.

 *Malware removals from Intrada Technologies start at $69.95(+tax).

Just remember that technology is amazing and very useful so long as it’s treated with its proper respect.  More than ever the internet is a very complex, powerful tool that can be used to accomplish incredible things, good or bad!

b2ap3_thumbnail_Intrada-Technologies---200-px---72-dpi.jpg

 

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Mike has been a member of the Intrada Technologies team since March 2014.  He is currently serving as a Network Technician for Intrada with an emphasis on “In-Home” users.  He has a degree in Network Administration and Security, and has years of experience with Technical Support.  As an avid outdoorsman, Mike can be found wondering Pennsylvania’s great outdoors hunting and fishing when he’s not at home spending time with his family. mclayton@intradatech.com  570-321-7370 x 109  


 

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