Top Tips To Avoid A Virus Or Malware Infection

by Michael Menor, Network Technician
Malware is short for “malicious software.” It includes viruses and spyware that get installed on your computer, phone, or mobile device without your consent.

These programs can cause your device to crash and can be used to monitor and control your online activity. Criminals use malware to steal personal information, send spam, and commit fraud.

Avoid Malware
Scam artists try to trick people into clicking on links that will download malware and spyware to their computers, especially computers that don’t use adequate security software. To reduce your risk of downloading unwanted malware and spyware:

Keep your security software updated. At a minimum, your computer should have anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall. Set your security software, internet browser, and operating system (like Windows or Mac OS) to update automatically.

Don’t click on any links or open any attachments in emails unless you know who sent it and what it is. Clicking on links and attachments – even in emails that seem to be from friends or family – can install malware on your computer.

Download and install software only from websites you know and trust. Downloading free games, file-sharing programs, and customized toolbars may sound appealing, but free software can come with malware.

Minimize “drive-by” downloads. Make sure your browser security setting is high enough to detect unauthorized downloads. For Internet Explorer, for example, use the “medium” setting at a minimum.

Use a pop-up blocker and don’t click on any links within pop-ups. If you do, you may install malware on your PC. Close pop-up windows by clicking on the “X” in the upper right-hand corner of the title bar.

Resist buying software in response to unexpected pop-up messages or emails, especially ads that claim to have scanned your computer and detected malware. That’s a tactic scammers use to spread malware.

Talk about safe computing. Tell your kids that some online actions can put the computer at risk: clicking on pop-ups, downloading “free” games or programs, opening chain emails, or posting personal information.

Back up your data regularly. Whether its text files or photos that are important to you, back up any data that you’d want to keep in case your computer crashes.

Detect Malware

Monitor your computer for unusual behavior. Your computer may be infected with malware if it:

  • slows down, crashes, or displays repeated error messages
  • won’t shut down or restart
  • serves up a barrage of pop-ups
  • displays web pages you didn’t intend to visit, or sends emails you didn’t write

Other warning signs of malware include:

  • new and unexpected toolbars
  • new and unexpected icons in your shortcuts or on your desktop
  • a sudden or repeated change in your computer’s internet home page
  • a laptop battery that drains more quickly than it should

Get Rid of Malware
If you suspect there is malware on your computer, take these steps:

  • Stop shopping, banking, and doing other online activities that involve user names, passwords, or other sensitive information.
  • Update your security software, and then run it to scan your computer for viruses and spyware. Delete anything it identifies as a problem. You may have to restart your computer for the changes to take effect.

If your computer is covered by a warranty that offers free tech support, contact the manufacturer.
Before you call, write down the model and serial number of your computer, the name of any software you’ve installed, and a short description of the problem.

  • Tech Experts offers technical help on the phone, in our office, or in your home or business, based upon what is most convenient for you.

Telephone and online help generally are the least expensive and most time efficient, but you may have to do some of the work yourself. Bringing the computer to our office is usually less expensive than having a technician visit your business or home.

  • Once your computer is back up and running, think about how malware could have been downloaded to your machine, and what you could do differently to avoid it in the future.


Alert: Top Four Threats Attacking Your Network

There are many threats that could be attacking your network. Here are just a few that most clients have happen to them.

User overconfidence in security products is the top threat to your network.

Failure to “practice safe software” results in nuisance attacks like porn storms (unstoppable rapid fire pornographic pop-ups) and more subtle key loggers that steal passwords.

Surveys promising free stuff result in theft of information like your mother’s maiden name, high school, etc. which can be used to answer common security questions.

To avoid theft of otherwise secure data, think before you click.

Social Networking Sites
Social networking sites like Facebook are exploding in popularity. Threats range from malware (eg. viruses, worms, spyware) to scammers trying to steal your identity, information and money. Many businesses and government agencies are using these sites to communicate with clients and constituents, so simply blocking access is no longer reasonable; defending your company while allowing employee access requires social network education for your employees and the enforcement of strong acceptable use policies.

We can help you develop a policy, then monitor compliance using a Unified Threat Management device that controls and reports on network access.

Attacks On Mobile Devices
Everyone is going mobile these days, not just the “road warriors.”

Once limited to laptop computers, mobile network devices now include PDAs, handheld computers and smart phones, with new appliances appearing in the stores every month. Mobile devices often contain sensitive data yet they are easily lost or stolen.

Be sure to password protect and encrypt data on all mobile devices whenever possible. Include mobile devices in your acceptable use policy.

Cloud Computing
“The Cloud,” in its simplest form, involves using the Internet to access and store your data.

It’s actually thousands of servers all working together to provide computing power. When you access e-mail using a web browser, you are working in “the cloud.” Using the cloud for automated off-site backup is rapidly gaining popularity, but that’s just the beginning.

Companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Google envision the day when we will use inexpensive terminals instead of computers to run programs and access data located somewhere on the Internet.

You need to be sure that any data you store and access across the Internet is secure not just where it is stored, but during the trip to and from the Internet.

Pay close attention to this top threats and it will help with network security.

Top 5 Ways to “Break” Your Computer

Here are the top five most common ways to “break” your computer. The reason break is in quotations is because no matter what happens to your computer we can almost always fix it…it just doesn’t make sense sometimes from a financial stand point to do so.

My computer won’t turn on
This very common situation and can be caused by many different things.

One common cause, however, that IS preventable is the computer overheating.

The first step to preventing this issue is to put the computer on an elevated surface instead of the floor if you have the space to do so.

The reason you want to do this is normal everyday foot traffic around or near the computer kicks up a lot of dust and debris that can coat the insides of a computer and cause the processor to not be cooled properly.

The other step you want to take to prevent this issue is to take a can of air and blow out the computer on occasion.

We do NOT recommend open­ing the case and doing the interior yourself as it is possible to cause damage to components.

My computer is running really slow
Yet again another common scenario we hear almost every day.

Unfortunately, there is no way to completely avoid this, but there are some ways to slow it down.

As your operating system instal­lation ages, and depending on how much it is used, the operating system, and software files in it can become damaged or corrupt, which slows your computer down.

The best way to combat this issue is to make sure that your uninstall­ing unused programs through the control panel, and simply keeping unused junk files clean off of your com­puter.

The more you keep your computer and OS the way it was when you pur­chased it the better it will run.

This can also happen if you shut your computer down improperly. Always go through the Start Menu/ Shutdown process when powering off your computer.

Constant popups are interrupting me and making my PC slow
Almost always, this very com­mon issue is caused by a virus or spyware on your computer.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any fool-proof methods of preventing a virus or malware attack.

The best thing you can do to help prevent an infection is to have anti­virus software installed on your PC, but keep in mind, even this does not guarantee you will not get a virus/ malware infection.

The other step to help prevent this is to only go to websites that are considered to be “safe,” meaning they are legitimate websites that its owners would not be trying to gain access to your PC or have any reason to infect your computer.

The most common place for users to get viruses and malware is from browsing the web for free items such as software, movies, music, etc. or even from emails.

Unfortunately, if you do end up be­ing infected by a virus, they’re very difficult to completely remove.

The process used to properly remove a virus is complex and if not done properly can damage your computers operating system and/or cause data loss.

That being said even if you bring the computer in it is possible for a virus to attach itself to a file and damage it permanently so even we may not be able to recover all of your files in the event of a very bad infection.

In most cases we are able to remove all viruses/malware from a system and the user not even notice that they ever had one. There are times, though, where the virus does irreversible damage.

My computer can’t get online
This is another common issue, and is most often caused by the above issue – viruses or spyware on the computer.

Viruses, spyware and malware have all kinds of different effects on the computer. When that is not the cause there are several other issues that may come into play.

As long as other computers at your home/business are able to get online the issue is more than likely due to a setting on your computer itself.

The most common instance I can think of with laptops is the user ac­cidentally switches the WiFi switch to the off position (and doesn’t realize the laptop even had a WiFi switch).

In a desktop, however, as long as the connection issue has not been caused by failing hardware, it is usually caused by a setting changed within the computer.

Connection issues encompass a number of possible settings on the computer, so it’s hard to give you all the information to properly troubleshoot this issue in a small newsletter article.

When it comes to connection issues your best bet is to give us a call and let us diagnose the issue for you.

We troubleshoot many connectivity issues here in the shop as well as onsite. So, no matter where your problem lies, we can get you back online.

Windows told me I had some updates so I installed them. Now my computer won’t boot
Windows updates are almost always important, but they can also be complex in how they interact with your operating system and installed software.

Unfortunately, since most of the updates address serious security risks they must be installed.

The best practice regarding updates is to review them immediately, and perhaps even download them to the machine, but wait a few days in case there are issues with the updates.

If Microsoft finds that there are is­sues with a patch, even though they do test them to begin with, they will pull the update off of Windows updates until the issue is resolved.

This will help prevent you from getting an update that can cause a problem.

Hardware driver updates are by far the most common type of update that “breaks” the computer.

We generally don’t recommend downloading them unless you are having a problem with your current driver, or there’s a serious security issue with the current driver.

With hardware sometimes it’s better to go with the “Don’t fix it if it isn’t broke” sentiment. If you do mistakenly update and then are unable to get into Windows, bring your computer in and we can get the issue corrected!

These are a few of the common is­sues that we see every week. Hope­fully this short list can help keep your system running smoothly, and help you solve basic issues.

Featured Article Written By: Tech Experts

Avoiding Common Email Security Threats

Most companies today rely heavily on the use of email. Emailing is a very fast and cost effective form of communication for many different types of businesses.

Most companies use it as their main source of communication between employees. In fact, most employers do not realize the risk of using email.

Some risks range from viruses, hackers, to someone else just trying to gain a little information.

Here’s an overview of the most common email security threats in today’s Internet world.

Viruses cause billions of dollars in damage to businesses every year.

Many corporate email systems are still quite vulnerable to viruses. In fact, in last year alone, an estimated 63 distinct email virus attacks hit the United States. These attacks come quickly and can spread quickly.

They mainly cause slowdowns across the internet. However some have been known to take down major corporation’s entire email systems.

Today’s viruses are very complex and often appear to be harmless such as personal notes, jokes, or promotions. While most viruses require recipients to download attachments in order to initiate infection and spread, some are designed to launch automatically with absolutely no user action required.

Studies have shown that 20 percent of corporate email is spam. A company that has a thousand employees could receive over two billion spam emails in a full year.

Most do not realize it until a lack of productivity ends up costing the companies billions of dollars each year.

While most spam is just annoying, some of it can be very dangerous. Most trick employees into opening malicious emails to spread faster. Also, many hackers have begun disguising viruses as spam.

Phishing is used to trick a person into thinking the email is legit and came from a real website, usually asking the person to verify their password or to change some sort of account information.

Then, taking them to a fake website and stealing what you have typed in. This is the number one way people get their identity and personal information stolen.

The main purpose of spyware is to install itself on the victim’s computer. It monitors all key strokes and mouse clicks so that they can later go back and collect usernames, passwords, credit card numbers and bank account numbers.

These infections can stay installed on computers for many months without an antivirus picking them up.  Most are detected and removed instantly if the user keeps their antivirus up to date.

Having a great antivirus that scans files as well as emails can help prevent virus attacks, phishing and spyware.

Users should also have an up to date spam filter that prevents the infection from getting to your inbox to begin with. And most importantly never open an email attachment you didn’t specifically request.

Also, pay attention to links inside emails that appear legitimate. Many times, phishers will send you an email that looks like it came from an official source. After clicking the links, you’re redirected to a site on the hacker’s network. This is often used to collect personal information and passwords.

How To Spot And Protect Yourself From An Infection

Are you finding it harder and harder to protect yourself from malicious attacks from the internet?

To help protect yourself you should first start with how to identify them. We will start with sorting them in basic categories.

Viruses – they attach themselves to any file so that when you start the program, you activate the virus. These viruses are usually sent through email or downloaded files from the internet.

Worms – worms are just like what they sound. They keep multiplying and using up all the resources from the computer till the computer comes to a complete stop. These usually are spread through P2P programs and email. They can also be spread over your local network.

Trojans (a.k.a Spyware) – Trojans are the worst. They are used to steal information from the user. They are installed and used without permission and usually have some type of key logger to record what you are typing and send it back to the source so that they can collect credit card numbers and username/password to accounts. These are generally the hardest to find because they usually consists of multiple files.

The best way to protect from and prevent infections is to run the best antivirus/spyware software around. The number one common reason people get infected is not that they accidently download it but, that they do not keep track if their antivirus is installed and updated properly.

Just because you see in the bottom corner that your antivirus is running, does not mean its doing its job. Every day you should check to make sure that your antivirus is updating so that you are protected against the most recent infections. By doing that even if you download a virus the antivirus will scan the file and catch it before it gets too late.

If you do not have an antivirus program installed, I recommend installing one as soon as possible.

One of the best currently out right now is Computer Associates E-Trust Integrated Threat Manager and Antivirus. The program isn’t free, but is a bargain compared to the cost of downtime and an infection.

How To Keep Hackers At Bay

No one wants to have their network “hacked,” but what exactly can a hacker do?

Plenty, and you are right to be afraid!

One common way for hackers to access your network is through spyware or viruses, which are malicious programs written to imbed themselves into your network to gather private information, steal financial data, access passwords, e-mail addresses, and spread themselves to other users. But one of the most common ways for hackers to access your system is through e-mail, or spam e-mail to be more specific.

Phishing is when a hacker sends you a legitimate looking e-mail from a trusted source — like PayPal, your bank, eBay, or any number of other legitimate business web sites. These e-mails will tell you that your account is expired or will be closed if you don’t go to a designated web site and update or verify your account information.

Although you may have seen these e-mails before, be very careful! Hackers are brilliant at making not only the e-mail seem legitimate, but also at making the web site you go to look like the real thing.

If you fall prey to their scam, the site will gather your private information and then use that to access your bank account or to charge your credit card. To protect yourself, install a spam filter and NEVER open or respond to any e-mail requesting account verification. Instead, call the company. If it is a legitimate request, you can verify that with them over the phone.

Is Your Computer Acting Scary? Try These Tips!

Has your computer been acting strange lately? Has it been popping up with funny messages, running slower than normal, missing buttons or cannot get on the Internet? All of these things can be caused by malware and can do so without the computer user even knowing that they are being targeted.

Most effects of malware are just annoying to the user but some can attack your PC and cause the computer to be unusable or even to lose data.

The use of the Internet has caused an increase in this type of infection. What exactly are viruses, spyware, Trojans, worms, and adware?

• Viruses are computer programs that can copy itself and infect files increasing memory usage and slowing down the system. Viruses can be opened by launching a file that has .exe on the end. Other people can be infected by contact to the file that was originally infected. The virus can do harm by attaching to an application, application file or by residing in the memory (RAM).

• Spyware collects information about the user’s Internet activity or changes the configuration of the computer. They can change the home page that opens up when you start Internet Explorer or add buttons to Explorer. Also called adware.

• Trojans are, many times, a form on a web site that misleads you in believing that a program is used for a helpful purpose but instead has a malicious intent. You can be downloading a paint program to make artwork but instead you are really being infected by a Trojan that may harm your computer .

• Worms are like a virus but spread through a network of computers without a user doing anything. These will corrupt files and cause the Internet to run slowly on your computer.

• Malware are any of the above types of infections.

Now that you know exactly what these pesky pieces of software are, it is time to modify your Internet habits. These are some tips to help avoid risky behavior on the Internet.

• Use a firewall. This will help block unwanted transmissions to your computer.

• Update your operating system when needed. Microsoft routinely releases updates for security fixes.

• Use an anti-virus software.

• Never open e-mail or attachments from anyone that you do not know.

If you have questions about computer viruses, or think you may have an infection, call the Tech Experts 24 Hour Computer Emergency Hotline at (734) 240-0200.

How to Declare Freedom from Slow Computers, Downtime, Viruses, Hackers, and Computer Problems Finally and Forever!

Are you sick and tired of worrying about the security of your network against the latest spyware, virus, or hacker threat?

Would you like to have peace of mind knowing that your backups are working properly and storing your data in a secure, easy to restore format?

Do you want your network to always be “up” and running fast?

Then we have a service you need to know about…

It’s called our Experts Total Support plan. This program gives you fast, 24-7 computer support, maintenance, and monitoring for one low, fixed monthly rate without any surprises, hidden costs, or the expense of a full time IT staff!

Why Do you Need This?
Having a secure, reliable computer system is no longer a luxury for businesses today. If you can’t access your e-mail, financial information, client database, or other critical data, you’re OUT of business.

Plus, you must keep your data secure from corruption, loss, and theft; if you don’t, it could not only cost you dearly in downtime, but it could also cause your reputation harm when customers find out your network (and their data) has been compromised, stolen, or lost forever.

How Does It Work?
The concept is simple. For a fixed monthly fee, we will monitor and maintain your computer network 24/7, 365 days a year. We will make sure your anti-virus, spyware, and security patches are up to date. We’ll monitor your network for looming problems that could turn into downtime or data loss such as hardware failures and disk space problems.

We’ll also watch your backups to make sure they truly are running and not giving you a false-positive reading, and we’ll constantly optimize the health and overall speed of your network. After all, nothing is more frustrating than a slow computer!

Last (but not least!) we’ll be able to provide remote support through a highly secure Internet connection to provide almost instant support whenever you need it. No more waiting around for a technician to show up!

FREE Network Check gets you Started…
If you want to find out how our Experts Total Support plan can help your business, call us for a FREE Network Health Check. At no charge or obligation, we’ll come onsite and…

  • Look for incorrect network configurations that show up as unexpected downtime, application errors, printers not working, e-mail problems, etc.
  • Assess your current security against data corruption, theft, hardware failures, power outages, computer viruses, worms, hacker attacks, spam, and even employee sabotage.
  • Scan for spyware that is secretly stealing your company’s bandwidth, jeopardizing the speed of your computer system, and embezzling confidential information about your company.
  • Check your data backup system to ensure it is working properly and accurately backing up all of the critical information you NEVER want to lose.
  • Diagnose slow, unstable PCs and perform a quick network “tune up” to make programs load faster.

When we’ve finished, we’ll give you a network ‘report card’ that will reveal any weaknesses in your security or trouble spots on your network that could lead to bigger (more expensive) problems.

Normally we charge $297 for this, but if you call during the month of July, we’ll give it to you for FREE as our gift for introducing our Experts Total Support plan. Again, you are not obligated to sign up for this program or pay us anything for this service—but you have to hurry!

To get signed up now, call 734-457-5000 or go online to

How To Keep Hackers Away From Your Data

No one wants to have their network “hacked,” but what exactly can a hacker do? Plenty, and you are right to be afraid!

One common way for hackers to access your network is through spyware or viruses, which are malicious programs written to imbed themselves into your network to gather private information, steal financial data, access passwords, e-mail addresses, and spread themselves to other users.

But one of the most common ways for hackers to access your system is through e-mail, or spam e-mail to be more specific. Even if you have the latest anti-virus software installed, hackers are very clever at getting you to circumvent your anti-virus software through phishing e-mails.

Phishing is when a hacker sends you a legitimate looking e-mail from a trusted source — like PayPal, your bank, eBay, or any number of other legitimate business websites. These e-mails will tell you that your account is expired or will be closed if you don’t go to a designated website and update or verify your account information.

Although you may have seen these e-mails before, be very careful! Hackers are brilliant at making not only the e-mail seem legitimate, but also at making the website you go to look like the real thing.

If you fall prey to their scam, the site will gather your private information (usernames, passwords, accounts, etc.) and then use that to access your bank account or to charge your credit card.

To protect yourself, install a spam filter and NEVER open or respond to any e-mail requesting account verification. Instead, call the company. If it is a legitimate request, you can verify that with them over the phone.

“Storm” Worm Makes Anti-Virus Programs Brain Dead

The ever-mutating, ever-stealthy Storm worm botnet is adding yet another trick to its vast repertoire: Instead of killing anti-virus products on systems, it’s now doing a modification to render them brain-dead.

The finding was made by Sophos and was mentioned by a security strategist for IBM Internet Security Systems. According to Sophos, the Storm botnet—Sophos calls it Dorf, and it’s also known as Ecard malware— makes programs that interact with Windows, tell the virus every time a new program is started.

The virus then checks the program that started to see if it was an anti-virus or anti-spyware program, and if it is, it will either stop the program from running, or modify the program so that it can’t detect the virus.

Then, when the anti-virus programs run, they simply tell the user everything is ok.

The strategy means that users won’t be alarmed by their anti-virus software not running.

The anti-virus is running but brain-dead, which is worse than shutting it off, since it then opens the door for all sorts of other virus and spyware programs to infect the system.

This new behavior the latest evidence of why Storm is the scariest and most substantial threat security researchers have ever seen. The Storm virus is patient, it’s resilient, it’s adaptive in that it can defeat anti-virus products in multiple ways. It changes its virus footprint automatically every 30 minutes.

It even has its own mythology: Composed of up to 50 million zombie PCs, it has as much power as a supercomputer, the stories go, with the brute strength to crack Department of Defense encryption schemes.

In reality, security researchers in the know peg the size of the peer-to-peer botnet at 6 million to 15 million PCs, and not on par with a supercomputer. And it can’t break encryption keys. Still, it is very dangerous.