I recently spent an entire day cleaning up a machine that had been compromised, which prompted me to write this article. It is my hope that some of these tips will save you time and frustration in the future.
Don’t fall for popups indicating slow computer / virus activity
Microsoft will never pop up a screen on your computer telling you it’s infected and asking you to call them. As a rule, you should never call a number that pops up on your screen or comes to you in a text message from an unknown source. NEVER! There was recently a big story about people who received a text message from their banks telling them they needed to call to correct a problem with their account. When called, the number prompted for social security number, etc. Some people actually input the info. Don’t fall for it.
- If you suspect a problem with your bank, call the number in your statement or on the back of your ATM / Visa card. If you have a computer problem, take it to your computer person.
- Never give personal information or credit card numbers to someone who calls you unsolicited. No matter what they say, you don’t know who they are or where they’re from.
- Don’t call the number they give you. Of course it will be answered correctly. It’s a con!
- Microsoft, the IRS, your bank, insert professional organization here — none of them will pop up a message on your screen. None of them will attempt to communicate with you via email, which brings up the next point.
- Do NOT click on links in emails from unknown sources. Clicking those links often leads to installing unwanted programs which then install actual malware, steal information, etc.
- When installing software, read each screen carefully to ensure you don’t install add-ons that you don’t want. Lots of people wonder how their homepage changes. The change is normally the result of installing some free program that, in turn, changed the home page. If possible, do the advanced install instead of the quick install so that you can (hopefully) uncheck boxes that would automatically install extra software that you don’t want.
- If you think you’ve been compromised, change every password you have immediately! Make sure you change the password you use to log into your computer, your email password, your banking password … all of them. Next, run the Eset Online Scanner (esetonlinescanner.com) and Malware Bytes (malwarebytes.org) to clean up anything that might have been installed.
I’ve tried to include as much information as I could in this short article. The bottom line is to be cautious and slightly paranoid. Slow down – read what comes up on the screen then think about it. If you’re running Norton, and some other antivirus message pops up, it’s fake! Remember: never, never call a phone number that just pops up on your screen or comes to you in a text message. Don’t click on links from people you don’t know, and sometimes from people you do know. Your friend’s computer might be infected. If it doesn’t look like something your friend would normally send you , give him/her a quick call or message asking if they really sent it. You might be the one who lets them know they have a problem, which will save both of you a lot of time and trouble.
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