Trying to explain why and how fake security infiltrates my client’s computer is difficult. Instead of trying to explain it each and every time, which can be daunting, I am going to suggest this article as a reading assignment. If you use Microsoft Windows, and you want to minimize the possibility of becoming infected by this almost unstoppable force, you MUST read, digest and then put into practice the information found in this article.
In fact, no matter the operating system, learning about this information will keep you safer.
The first thing to be aware of is the bad guys know how we think. Then they use our way of thinking against us by exploiting our proclivities, weaknesses, and tendencies. This is called social engineering. If you know you are being manipulated into doing something intentionally, hopefully that awareness alone will keep you a little safer. Here’s the Wikipedia article describing social engineering…a must read for any computer user.
One of the largest methods of social engineering bad guys will use is email. How many times have you heard (or said), “I never open email from people I don’t recognize.” Which in social engineering terms says, “I will always open email from people I know and open their attachments and click their links.” Read more about this in my article specifically on this topic.
Bad guys also work the hardest where you are…and right now that means Facebook, Twitter, and popular searches. Facebook ads and links and even hacked friend’s accounts can get you into trouble. And popular event searches or topic searches like computer screensavers, wallpaper, royal wedding, Japan earthquake and more can often yield tainted results so be careful. This article from TechCrunch.com also illustrates this plague and is another must read.
Why do they do it?
Often, my clients will ask why these purveyors of mayhem do what they do. My usual answer compares these types of people to folks who vandalize property, rob banks, or mug people. I think the common denominator is money. These folks can make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year and more. Probably the best single article I’ve read in years on any subject covers this particular question extremely well. It comes from the brilliant writers at Wired Magazine. An interesting and important read for any computer user.
Addendum December 2011: Wired Magazine published another article in October 2011 about Internet scammers and the immense amount of money they garner from willing participants with amazing ease.
How can I protect myself?
Reading, studying, and putting into practice the tips I provide for you on this very site. Seriously! Here are a few of the security related articles that will save you a lot of money, time, and frustration:
- Smarter Browsing – Video Tip
- How to download files – Video Tip
- Scrutinize Search Results
- 7 Internet Security Tips to Save you Time AND Money
- 5 Simple Rules to avoid SCD (Slow Computer Disease)
- Beware of this type of Spam
- The Castellini Approach to Internet Security
- Beware of Fake Internet Security Software
- Backup your data!
What do I do if I do get bit?
If you are unfortunate enough to come across one of these unscrupulous situations, the first thing to do is shut the computer off immediately. And by that, I mean do NOT click on anything on your screen. Reach down and hold the power button on your computer for 10-15 seconds to force it off (or unplug it from the wall). Take a few deep breaths to contain yourself, then follow these steps:
- Boot into Safe Mode
- Try System Restore
- If System Restore doesn’t work, try using some of the tools and steps I outline in this article describing what I do to rid a computer of these messes.
- If you are still having problems, shut the computer off and call a professional.
Keep in mind that no matter what security product you use or how much you pay for it (and I recommend the free security products, Avast for XP, Microsoft Security Essentials for Vista and 7 and MalwareBytes for all Windows users), the ultimate security is being vigilant and aware of what you are clicking on before you click it.
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