Few things are scarier on a busy work day than having your personal or office computer suddenly be “at risk.” We’ve all heard of viruses, worms, Trojans and malware. Each one is different, but all are equally scary.
As the term implies, viruses are pieces of programming-code that get attached to data files introduced via disks or the internet. It’s important to note that a virus cannot be spread without a human action (such as running an infected program). Due to this fact, people often unknowingly spread viruses by sharing infected files or sending virus-infected attachments via email. More recently, the term “malware,” which is a combination of the two words “malicious” and “software,” has generally come to replace the word “virus” as the main archenemy of computers.
Worms are programs that replicate themselves from system to system without any human action or the use of a host file. A worm travels by taking advantage of file or information transport features on your system and can potentially wreck havoc – even to servers.
Trojans don’t replicate but appear to be one thing – like an innocent email – when they’re actually applications that, when triggered, can cause data loss or theft on your computer. Trojans fool us into thinking they’re normal and safe, so we click on them – inadvertently inviting them onto our computers.
Phishing: Another Hacker Ploy to Know About
We recently had a woman call us in a panic, exclaiming that, while researching on the Internet, her computer had suddenly been overtaken by an eerie, immoveable blue screen. The screen was virtually frozen in place and wouldn’t go away no matter what she did (beyond a total shut down). The displayed message – as well as a voice that blared from her speakers – urged her to phone Microsoft immediately (a phone number was displayed) because dangerous malware had entered my computer and was causing serious damage! A box for checking OK was also provided.
In this case, the woman was savvy enough NOT to phone the number shown or click the box. (She phoned us instead.) Had she complied and made the phone call, the person on the other end would have convincingly claimed to be with Microsoft and that software needed to be downloaded immediately onto the woman’s computer that would allow them to “remote in” and do security scans and fixes. Of course, this required a payment, which needed to be sent immediately via credit card.
You get the picture.
This is an example of phishing, a form of online identity theft, through which fraudsters trick Internet users into giving them important personal data – such as a credit card number. NEVER, EVER cave to this kind of online intimidation – no matter what it is. Instead, here’s what you need to do:
- Don’t panic. Take a deep breath and realize it’s just a trick and that your computer is probably safe.
- Never follow their instructions; instead, close the web browser you’re using or, if necessary, do a forced shut down.
- If, when you power back on and go on the internet, you get the same webpage and blaring message, then do another forced shut down and call Hungate Business Services (HBS) at 276-243-4026 or email our help desk at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can guide you in locating a different browser on your computer, so we can “remote in” and assess what’s going on. Never allow just anyone to remote into your computer – only someone you totally trust.
It might be a good time to do a security assessment of your home or business office systems. Call HBS, and we will review your firewall protection and operating systems’ antivirus security software to make sure it’s adequate and up-to-date. Also, always remember to back up your data frequently.