Top 10 Tips to Avoid Malware

In light of the latest bit of ransomware – Petya – here are tips to prevent getting hacked

The latest bit of ransomware – dubbed Petya – is currently running through banks, financial institutions and healthcare facilities in both Asia and Europe. The bug, like most ransomware, encrypts corporate data by encrypting hard drives, preventing access to needed data and computer systems. It also seems to have crossed the pond and entered the US.

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck reported that it had become infected with the malware as did multinational law firm DLA Piper, which counts over 20 different offices in the United States. Heritage Valley Health Systems, a health care network that runs two hospitals in Western Pennsylvania, also confirmed in a statement to Recode on Tuesday to be the victim of the same ransomware attack that has spread around the globe.

Petya in and of itself is a bit problematic in that this particular bug has the ability to adapt and mutate quickly, often working around patches that have been released by operating system and anti-malware vendors alike. With Petya, it’s difficult to insure your computing systems stay malware free. Anti-malware and OS vendors are having a great deal of trouble staying ahead of the game.

So, what’s the best way to stay Petya (as well as other phishing and ransomware infections) free? The best advice I can give ANYONE is to follow these top 10 computer security tips.

1. What’s in a Name?
Just because you see an email in your inbox from a name you recognize doesn’t mean they sent it to you. Be wary of all email in your inbox. Inspect the email address. If it looks suspicious or if you don’t recognize the domain (the wording after the “at sign” – for example @microsoft.com), don’t open it. Delete it immediately.
2. Look but don’t Click
Hover your mouse over any embedded links in any of the emails you receive. Don’t click before you do. A tool tip should appear showing the actual email address, or in the case of browser based clients, the address should display in the status bar at the bottom of your browser window. If the address isn’t one you recognize or if it looks strange, again, don’t click it.
3. Check for Spelling or Grammar Mistakes
Legitimate messages don’t have major spelling errors or clumsily structured sentences. If the message reads strangely and strikes you as unprofessional, its likely a fake. Delete it.
4. Analyze the Salutation
Messages from financial institutions will always address you by your name. They’re never going to call you, “Valued Customer.” If you get something like this from one of your financial institutions, I’d delete it and ignore it.
5. Don’t Give out Your Personal Information
Legitimate companies will never ask you to provide identity information or credentials via email. EVER.
6. Beware of Urgent or Threatening Language in the Subject Line of any eMail
Invoking fear via threatening or urgent language is a common phishing tactic. Be wary of any email indicating that your “account has been suspended,” or your account has had an “unauthorized login attempt.” There’s an excellent chance the emails are bogus.
7. Review the Signature Line
Lack of details about the signer or the absence of their contact information at the end of the message strongly suggests a phishing attempt
8. Don’t Click on Attachments
Malware payloads are often embedded in email attachments. Don’t open any you weren’t expecting, even from someone you know. Contact them offline, if possible, and confirm they sent you the attachment.
9. Don’t Trust the Information in an eMail Header
Hackers are smart enough now a days to spoof not only the display name, but the mail header as well. Even if you know how to check this information, you may not be able to validate it as genuine, so don’t bother. Assume this information is fraudulent in any suspect email.
10. Don’t Believe Anything you see
This is NOT your father’s internet any more. The world is hell bent on stealing everything you own and could own in the future (your identity, your credit, etc.), so the best defense is a strong offense – don’t trust anyone or anything you suspect is illegitimate. It may look valid, but it’s better to err on the side of caution that to spend the next 8 to 14 months straightening out your credit because you were the victim of a phishing attack. If you have even the slightest doubt or it even remotely looks suspicious, don’t open the message.

The point of all of this is that THIS particular piece of malware REQUIRES diligence.

Petya is rapidly changing. Its mutating and adapting to patches and detection engines in popular and well known, professional grade malware prevention products. You HAVE to be careful here, or you may end up losing everything on your PC.

Aside from the above, you should also do the following proactive steps on a regular basis. (start NOW if you haven’t done these yet, and insure that you do it malware free):

1. Install and Run an Anti-Malware Package
I have used a number of different packages over the years. Right now, one of my favorites is IOBIT Advanced SystemCare 10 Pro. Regardless of what you use, get one, install it, and use it… often.
2. Get your data on a cloud service
Whether we’re talking productivity files (Word, Excel, etc.) or pictures and home movies, it doesn’t matter. Get your data synchronizing with a cloud service so that you have an easy way to get your data back if it gets taken hostage.
3. Start a Local Backup Regimen
Macs have Time Machine. Windows users have Windows Backup; or you can use AOMEI Backuper and AOMEI Image Deploy. However, any way you cut it, you need to start and execute a local backup plan.
4. Start an Off-Site Backup Regimen
In order to do this, you need an off-site back up service like Carbonite or Backblaze. These low cost, subscription based services allow you to back up your computer over the internet and allow you to do a simple restore as well via the internet or via a hard drive that you can order and have delivered to you.

So, in summary:

1. Trust your Gut. Don’t open goofy looking email. Just delete them
2. Backup your data
3. Install and run an antimalware app

Have you gotten hit by ransomware? Have you paid the ransom, or have you just blown or replaced the drive and started over? I’d love to hear from you if you have gotten bitten. If you have, hit me up in the Discussion area, below, and tell me all about it.

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Protect and maintain your PC using Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus 2012

Keeping your PC free of viruses, Trojans and worms isn’t always an easy thing to do. There’s a great deal of malware out there, and not nearly as many antivirus and antimalware apps. Finding the right one for you can be a bit of a chore. This is one of the reasons why you might like Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus. It’s a system utility suite for Windows.

Based on both BitDefender antivirus technology and the IObit anti-malware engine, Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus incorporates top anti-virus capabilities with an already proven comprehensive PC tune-up utility. With its real-time antimalware protection and powerful tune-up and cleaning functionality, Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus provides always-on, automated, all-in-one protection against all kinds of security threats, system slowdowns, freezes and crashes. It ensures PC security, and maintains maximum computer performance automatically without a performance hit.

Besides its newly built-in antivirus functionality, Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus includes all of the PRO features of Advanced SystemCare. It features one click to clean functionality to root out hidden and stubborn Viruses, Trojans, worms, spyware, and adware. It also provides rapid virus database updating.

Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus’ proactive virus control technology monitors process behavior in real-time. It scans files shared with email and blocks possible threats. It’s already proven, powerful, PC tune-up utility unleashes the full power of your PC; and its ActiveBoost feature, your system resources are intelligently managed.

Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus is a decent utility suite. It’s all in one design insures that your PC not only runs at peak performance, but that it stays malware free. The only issue we found with it is its non-standard interface, which requires extra resources to run. However, given the amount of benefit you’ll receive from the app, you may not notice or mind the minimal performance hit you may take.

Download Advanced SystemCare with Antivirus 2012 (beta)

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Last week’s highlights #5

We left a busy week behind us with lots of good articles and reviews. Let’s take a look:

Traktor Pro 2 – the maximum freedom in DJing

If you spin tracks for a living or on the side, then you need to listen up. I’ve looked at some mixing software over the past few months, but none have really “sent” me. Traktor however, is a completely different story. It’s a DJ-ing and track mixing application and its available for both Windows and Mac, and quite frankly, it floored me.

If ain’t dirty, don’t clean it

Amid all the Holiday Hullaballoo, malware attacks can be nasty. However, beware where the warnings are coming from. You must have a malware scanner on your computer – Mac, Windows or Linux – don’t compute without one. Period. You also need to heed the warning dialogs they display. If you’ve got a bug, or if it catches one before it infects you, do what it tells you in order to get rid of it. However, do yourself a favor, mind where the dialog boxes are coming from.

Make use of a synchro calendar with GoCal

In case the default calendar app for iOS isn’t enough for you and you want something more advanced and with some additional synchronization features, GoCal can be the solution to your needs. At its core, GoCal is nothing else but a calendar client that can integrate the default iOS calendar, and the Google Calendar. Actually the Google Calendar integration is the main reason you should try this software out.

2011 Gift Guide Part 2 – Suggested Gifts

Following the 2011 Gift Guide Part1 – Ok, Great! Now what should I buy? article here are my recommendations for just about every budget level, given our recent thorough discussion about Mobile Device Ecosystems. It’s true.  The hottest ticket items this 2011 Holiday Season are all mobile – tablets, smartphones, music players, ultra-portable notebooks (the netbook is dead) – and the like will undoubtedly find their way to a gift box near you. Ecosystem aside, there are some really cool gadgets out there right now, and figuring out which basket to put all your eggs in can be confusing.

Pho.to Lab lets you create fun photo montages on your iPhone & Android

Android has some great picture and image editing apps to adjust and enhance your photos, such as Photoshop Mobile and PicSay. But what if you just want to add some cool photo frames and effects to your pictures? We all love having fun, right? Then you definitely have to try Pho.to Lab. This simple app is a winner for two reasons: first, it is very easy to use and second, it has more than 450 awesome effects for your photos!

Zemana AntiMalware

You’ll hear me say it over and over again – you simply can’t run a computer now-a-days without some kind of antivirus or security software running in the background.  You’re just asking for problems if you think you don’t need one…and if you get a virus, bug or worm, THEN what do you do??  This is why I’m thankful for applications like Zemana Anti-Malware. It’s a specialized malware scanner for Windows and it’s the kind that most people need.

NoteLege – your iPad note-taking app that takes the hassle out of organizing your notes and thoughts

We’re in the information age now. Everything gets around faster and the number of sources and amount of information we need to remember can get overwhelming. Now, for those who own an iPad, let me suggest you a great note-taking application that combines handwriting, typing, audio and video recording. The application is called NoteLedge and it’s developed by Kdan Mobile.

iOS 6 Wish List

iOS5 is out and available to all supported iOS devices. With the iPhone 5 and iPad 3 rumored to be coming in 2012, let’s take a quick moment to speak to a couple desired features. The release of the iPhone 4S also gave us iOS5. Battery life issues and improvements not-withstanding, any additional additions or life altering improvements will need to wait until iOS 6 is released. In light of that, I’d like to speak to a quick wish list for iOS6. The list is below, in no particular order.

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Zemana AntiMalware

You’ll hear me say it over and over again – you simply can’t run a computer now-a-days without some kind of antivirus or security software running in the background.  You’re just asking for problems if you think you don’t need one…and if you get a virus, bug or worm, THEN what do you do??  This is why I’m thankful for applications like Zemana Anti-Malware. It’s a specialized malware scanner for Windows and it’s the kind that most people need.

Virus scanners are great a preventing infections, but on the off chance you do get one while you’ve got security software installed, then you have serious issues.  The bug is likely smarter than the software you have. It’s likely buried itself deeply within your operating system, and isn’t leaving without a fight. In many cases, the best thing you can do is to copy your data off (to an external drive, to the Cloud, etc.) and then blow your computer and rebuild it. It’s the safest and easiest way to insure you get rid of the infection.  It’s also hugely disruptive and a pain to do.

Zemana Anti-Malware is a second-tier malware scanner designed to rescue your computer from viruses, Trojans, rootkits, etc. that have infected your system despite all the security measures you have in place.  The best thing is that Zemana Anti-Malware can peacefully coexist with other security software on your computer. In the past, having multiple security programs installed on your PC often resulted in slow-downs, crashes, and, surprisingly, less security than running just the single security app.

read full review | download Zemana AntiMalware

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Keep your PC free of malware and other kinds of hidden threats

Keeping your PC free of malware and other kinds of hidden threats is perhaps one of the biggest tasks it has outside of completing the actual computing work you have set aside for it. Finding the right tool to complete that job isn’t always easy. There are great many choices. ChicaPC Shield may help you in this regard.ChicaPC-Shield finds and removes harmful, hidden threats from your PC. It protects your computer from hostile, threatening and damaging malware. The quick scan option identifies PC infections within a matter of minutes. ChicaPC-Shield’s auto update feature insures that its threat definitions are updated regularly to ensure that even the latest threats are detected and blocked; and performs unlimited scans to find and remove identified threats.

Read the full review | Download ChicaPC Shield

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Stay safe and secure while you’re surfing the web with Kaspersky Internet Security 2011

Keeping your PC free from internet diseases like viruses and Trojans can be a huge undertaking.  With new malware coming out weekly, sometimes even daily, it’s hard to keep your computer, and your data, safe.  Protection from key-loggers and other Trojans, viruses and bots… Protection for Adware, spyware, and other junk requires a lot of diligence if not monitored and cleaned every day.

This is why I like tools like Kaspersky Internet Security 2011. This all in one internet security solution provides you with protection from spam, adware, viruses, Trojans, bots, spyware, and an advanced, two-way firewall, make it one of the best choices you can make for protecting your computer.

Read the full review | Download Kaspersky Internet Security 2011

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Protect your computer from internet threats with Comodo Antivirus

Everyone knows that they’re out there. Viruses. Trojans. Computer threats designed to steal your identity, your information, and your money. Most of us even have a horror story or two about the damage they’ve done. Dozens of antivirus programs exist, with varying prices and different levels of effectiveness.

Comodo Antivirus, a full featured application, offers total PC protection for free. With it you can scan any drive or file, get in-depth reports on viral activity, or detect suspicious files that behave like computer viruses do. You can scan compressed, zip files, where viruses often hide. Comodo Antivirus offers all of this in one attractive user-friendly interface.

Read the full review | Download Comodo Antivirus

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Thoroughly detect and remove even the most advanced malware with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Malware is, unfortunately, a fact of life today. If you own a computer, if you surf the internet, share files with someone, transport data between the office and your home PC’s, you’re likely going to bump into a bug or two along the way. Some of them can be nothing more than a minor irritation. Most of them, however, can ruin your entire day, or worse, cause you to lose your job because you brought a virus to work.

The best way to protect yourself is with a virus or malware scanner. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is a program that provides quality protection. It also comes in a free version that might be right for you.

Read the full review | Download Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

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