As 2013 comes to a close, everyone produces lists for the year in review. I love these, and look forward to reading them every year. As we jump into 2014, we wanted to review the computer viruses, scams, and issues that made their appearance in 2013 and will probably continue into 2014, so you can make sure you and your technology continue to be informed and protected. When you log on remember to STOP. THINK. CONNECT.
CryptoLocker – Emerging into the computer world in the fall, hackers were hitting computer systems and holding personal information and files for ransom. The concept of holding something for ransom has been around for ages, but this is the first time it has taken a 21st century twist holding your computer hostage and demanding money to get it back.
This virus was developed by organized criminals overseas, and is spread through phony attachments in emails. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid opening email attachments from unfamiliar senders or that you are not expecting to receive.
You should also invest in good anti-virus protection software, and if you are hit they suggest unplugging your computer immediately before the program as had a change to run completely. The hope is that the virus stalled when you unplugged your equipment and an expert technician will be able to salvage your data.
Microsoft Phone Scam – This was making its rounds during the summer months, and even happened to one of our franchise owners. Its goal is to catch people off guard, lull them into a false sense of trust by saying they are from Microsoft and there is an issue with your computer, and you give them remote access to your computer.
Once the representative, claiming to be from Microsoft, has access to your computer they install a virus. Then charging you money to remove and repair your computer.
FBI Virus – This global Internet scam gets into your computer and preys on your fear of being contacted by the FBI and threatened with jail time. A fake message with the FBI logo will appear on your screen claiming, virtually locking your computer, that you illegally downloaded some type of material. Then like a ransom notice, the attacker forces a payment for access to the computer.
Computers become infected, most of the time undetected by the user, when a unfamiliar email attachment or an untrustworthy website is accessed.
Facebook Virus – The Facebook Virus is transmitted through Facebook by clicking a link, then find its way to your bank account and drain all of the available money. This virus, commonly called Zeus, will remain inactive on your computer until someone log into a banking website. It then swiftly moves into action, stealing username and passwords so the funds can be accessed by thieves.
The best line of defense is to only click on links from people you know that do not look suspicious or contain strange patterns or characters. Also, because this virus targets bank accounts, making sure your banking establishment’s website is secure and has a 2-step verification process will help protect your money.
Search Conduit – Our final virus is not a traditional virus, it is actually a browser hijack. It is a menace that exhibits malicious traits. It is most commonly bundled and installed through something you downloaded, it will add the Conduit Toolbar and change your browser homepage and default search engine to search.conduit.com.
The Conduit search engine will display advertising and sponsored links in your search results and will act very much like Google and Bing. It will also collect search terms from your queries in an effort to boost their advertising revenue, which is a black hat SEO tactic. It is pretty difficult to remove since it takes hold of some many pieces of your computer including your browser and operating system.