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Watch Out for “Zombie” Viruses on Your Computer

Watch Out for “Zombie” Viruses on Your Computer

Your computer may not physically start to deteriorate or try to eat your brain but once it has contracted a “zombie” virus (often referred to as a “bot” or botnet), your zombie computer will surely give you a headache. Your computer is considered a “zombie” when it has become compromised by malware, making it susceptible to following the orders of a computer hacker without you even knowing it.

You may be asking “How does my computer become compromised?” There are several ways that your PC can become infected with a botnet or zombie virus. Below are a few of the methods most commonly used:

  • Ad-Clicking – With ad-click fraud, the user is instructed to click on advertisements that are displayed on specific websites. One of the most notorious botnets that uses this method is called ZeroAccess, which happens to be the fastest-growing botnet at this time.
  • Consumer Banking Information Theft – These botnets are designed to steal money from the user while reassuring them that their money is still safe and sound in their bank accounts. This typically occurs via a Trojan that snatches your login credentials and initiates banking transactions within your account. It also occurs by way of email and “drive-by” infections.
  • Spamming Campaigns – Computers are infected with malicious HTML attachments in their inbox. They will also proxy traffic between themselves and your destination mail server.
  • Password Collection – Thousands upon thousands of Mac computers were infected by the Flashback botnet that collects passwords to sites like Google and PayPal in order to take over your account.

Are you certain that you computer network is secure? Contact Us for assistance with your network security.

CryptoLocker – The Worst PC Virus in 10 Years

CryptoLocker – The Worst PC Virus in 10 Years

If you haven’t heard of CryptoLocker yet, you surely will and I encourage to keep reading to lessen your chances of becoming the next victim of what has become known as the worst computer virus in a decade.

So what is CryptoLocker?
CryptoLocker is a ransomware virus, a form of malware, affecting computers operating on Windows systems. CrytoLocker essentially hi-jacks your data or computer and holds it hostage unless you pay the ransom that is requested by those who have done the hacking. CryptoLocker has gained notoriety as it has been able to set itself apart from other common, similar forms of malware as it is capable of keeping its promise to make your data and files completely inaccessible to you unless they have received your ransom. Using asymmetric key cryptography, CryptoLocker encrypts all the files on your computer that ended in popularly used extensions including, but not limited to, documents, PDF files and images. Once your files have been encrypted, a pop-up will open letting you know that you have a specific amount of time (typically ranging between 72 and 100 hours) to transfer money to the hackers. If you do not comply, they will destroy the private key that is needed to decrypt your files. Many reports regarding this virus state that paying the ransom will, in fact, decrypt your files. Some who have been infected with this ransomware have been able to successfully recover all of their data, but this is not guaranteed and keeping yourself from being exposed to this virus is the best option. If infected by CryptoLocker and you are either unable or unwilling to pay the ransom, consider your computer as good as gone.

How do you get infected?
There are a few different ways that this virus is currently being spread:
1. Email – CryptoLocker will disguise what appears to be a legitimate email from companies you trust, like UPS and FedEx. Be sure not to click on any links or attachments within any emails that you receive that you weren’t expecting or don’t recognize.
2. Botnet Software – You can be attacked via botnet software that already exists on an infected machine. Thousands of computers are infected with this type of software, allowing computer hackers to remotely control them. You may not know that your computer has been infected because it may not show any signs of being infected or compromised, but this does not mean your computer is safe from having additional malware software, like CryptoLocker, downloaded.
3. Drive-By – A drive-by download is an unauthorized download that takes advantage of vulnerabilities in outdated web browsers. In doing so, the drive-by download installs code from an infected web page directly to your computer and does not allow you the option of saying “no” to the download or even letting you know that a download is occurring.
4. Phone – The latest technique used by hackers to infect computers with the CryptoLocker virus starts with a phone call. You answer the phone and someone on the other line tells you that they are with the Microsoft Support Team and that your license has expired. They will then offer to update your license for you on the spot, as you provide them access to your computer, and they will ask you to pay first online at a website they provide. Along with your credit card information, the site will ask for other personally identifiable information as well. And once you’ve submitted that information to them, they will use it to try to steal and sell your identity.

My Computer is Infected…Now What?

  • You should consider paying the ransom if you do not have a backup and if the data is worth it to you. Just ensure that you do not give out any credit card information or personal information.
  • Remove the virus from your computer. Typically, most antivirus software will have no problem finding and removing the virus. Ensure you do this before backing up your computer’s data, otherwise any of the data or files that you recover will be at risk for encryption.
  • It’s hard to determine whether your computer was compromised in any other way once it was infected with CryptoLocker. Therefore, ensure your format your hard drive. Since the infected files are now useless, wipe everything off your hard drive and start over.
  • If you have a backup, restore it if possible. Some who have been infected with this virus were able to recover using a system restore from files that Windows creates.
  • Don’t rely on network drives or any other connected media. It has been reported that the CryptoLocker virus has the ability to jump to networked drives from your network.

How Do I Ensure My Computer is Protected?

  • Use anti-virus or anti-malware software. Do not remove or disable the software and ensure you keep it up-to-date. The anti-virus solution you use needs to have a mode for proactive malware prevention.
  • Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date. Also ensure you perform updates to Windows, all web browsers that you use and any other software that communicates across a network.
  • Trust your instincts. Don’t open any suspicious emails or attachments and avoid visiting any websites that seem suspicious as well.
  • Perform file backups. It is important that you have at least one, if not two, data backup solutions. One solution should be cloud-based that will back up your files and data on a daily basis and allows you to access the information from anywhere. The second recommended solution is an external hard drive that is not permanently connected to your network. You would use this to backup your data and files at least once a month.

Worried Your Computer or Network May Be Vulnerable?
Contact us and we will be happy to perform an assessment of your computer or network security.



5 Things Businesses Should Know About Google+ Social Media

5 Things Businesses Should Know About Google+ Social Media

It came as no surprise that Google would launch its very own social media network. Just two months after the initial launch of Google+ came Google+ for businesses, providing companies and business owners with a means to attract and reach their existing and potential audiences. With this social media network having acquired over 100 million users, Google+ is a platform that cannot afford to be overlooked.

That being said, here are the five things you should know about Google+:

1. Search Engine Meets Marketing Strategy
Google+ is owned by Google, the most powerful search engine that exists. The introduction of Google+ has shown that Google is much more than a search engine, offering a vast array of inter-connected services. Rather than focusing all of your attention to your Facebook and Twitter audiences, giving some focus to your Google+ account and installing that +1 button has the potential to increase your search presence on the Web and result in some serious traffic increases.

2. Reach Your Target Audience with Circles
Your Google+ Circles allow you to determine what content is distributed to which group of people. You can easily administer following and send targeted messages to specific sub-groups of people. If you setup your Circles with clear and specific criteria, it will make communication with them much easier as you gain more followers. With Circles, you can also gain insight as to what the hot topics are and find ways to contribute to the conversation. When you post something interesting on your Google+ page, it is very simple for your fellow Google+ users to share your posts with others who are likely to enjoy your posts.

3. Everything You Need in One Location
Google+ allows you to save your frequent searches, along with your newsfeed and circles. This allows you to target a specific audience or demographic. When looking to poll that target demographic or receive feedback, your saved searches will be saved on the left side of your Google+ page – saving you time.

4. Your Brand + Personality = Building Relationships
Create posts on your Google+ page that followers would find useful and make sure they are relevant to your brand as well. Let’s face it, seeing a company continuously post about their products and themselves is…well, boring. It also leaves room for little interaction. Your followers want to know that you are human, so post content that is engaging and allows them to interact with you. Additionally, show interest in them by commenting on their posts. The more you engage and interact, the better able you will be to increase your number of followers and build relationships with them.

5. Hangout with Your Clients
This doesn’t mean invite them over for the next football party. Hangouts are a feature of Google+ that was implemented to bring businesses and clients together. Google+ Hangouts allow you to invite up to 10 users to join you in a videoconference, at no cost. Use a Hangout as opposed to a standard conference call to make the experience more personal with face-to-face interaction. You can also use Hangouts for demos of your products and services, meetings with your staff and employees, or even to hold Q&A sessions.

Before You Throw Out Your Old Computer…

Before You Throw Out Your Old Computer…

Before you throw away your old computer, there are several things you need to do in order to protect your business and private information, as well as adhere to environmental safety regulations.

First, make sure you have backed up everything that you have stored on the hard drive. To make things easy, create a full disk image (an exact copy of your hard drive that serves as somewhat of a virtual drive that can be recreated or mounted) instead of backing up individual files. This way all of your settings, files and configurations are kept intact in case you ever need to access them again. File recovery will be simple since the disk image can recreate your computer’s state when the full disk image was created.

Next, take inventory of any software that you had installed on your old computer just in case you forget to move it over to your new computer. Take note of any configuration settings and export these profiles to your new computer if possible. Don’t forget to copy any software or product keys that you may need to activate the software on your new computer.

Lastly, have an IT Technician (like one of us at Computer Assist – Sarasota Support) remove the hard drive from your old computer. They will be able to clear all of the data from your hard drive so that your personal or company data does not fall into someone else’s hands. This is not an easy task, and sometimes impossible, so we recommend that you have a professional complete this step for you. When your hard drive has been removed, either physically destroy it or put it in a safe place for storage to ensure your data cannot be stolen. A simple hard drive format, wipe or operating system reinstall will not be enough to keep your information and data secure.

After you’ve completed these three steps, simply dispose of your computer, take it to a recycling facility, or give it away to a charity.

10 Reasons You Need Online Backup

10 Reasons You Need Online Backup

1. You don’t have a consistent strategy for backing up your company’s servers and computers.
2. You want a reliable offsite backup solution that works.
3. You don’t have months or years to roll out a backup solution.
4. You don’t want to compromise security for convenience.
5. You want a set-and-forget backup solution that you won’t have to constantly monitor.
6. Your star is already overextended.
7. You don’t want to pay for software that you aren’t using.
8. You want a complete backup solution without the hassle.
9. You’re tired of the headaches that come along with backing up remote and branch offices.
10. You have a limited budget to spend on backup and prefer a simple payment plan.

The Online Backup Advantage

Easily manage multi-user and server environments from a web-based console

Your data is safe with military-grade encryption, world-class data centers, and the strictest security policies

Sarasota Support will help you determine the best solution for your business and reduce excessive costs