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June 2011

Page history last edited by Donald Achim 8 years, 6 months ago

 

Elder Teckies Help Newsletter

 

Senior Computer Users of Greater Kansas City

Compiled and Edited by Don Achim  

 

A Not for Profit Organization - Helping Senior Citizens Develop Computer Skills in the 21st Century

        

JUNE 2011                                                            

 

 

 

Borrowed from WPX News:

 
Think You're Too Smart for Malware? Think Again.

As usual, I'm writing this on the weekend before it's distributed to our subscribers via email and posted on the web site. This particular weekend, however, happens to be a holiday weekend here in the U.S. (Memorial Day), so I want to start by expressing how much I appreciate the sacrifice of those who have given their lives to protect my freedom, and all those currently serving in the military (here and elsewhere) and putting their lives on the line every day.

I won't pretend, though, that I always manage to maintain the attitude of gratitude that I should. Earlier, I was sitting here, thinking about how most of my friends are enjoying three or even four days off work. Meanwhile, for those of us who are self-employed, the deadlines arrive as usual. So I was feeling just a tiny bit sorry for myself, and wondering if I could get away with making this week's editorial short and sweet. Then I got a reminder that I'm having a great weekend in comparison to some people.

My husband forwarded me an email from one of his friends, seeking advice about a computer problem. One of the hazards of being in the tech business is that all the people you know immediately turn to you whenever they have any kind of problems with their computers. We're both used to that. Unfortunately, sometimes they don't turn to us soon enough.

The email told a sad and all too common tale of yet another victim of a popular malware scam. Before I go on, it's important to understand that this is a smart guy I'm talking about. He has an advanced degree from one of the best business schools in the nation and an annual income in seven figures. He's well read, not naïve, and has been using computers for a long time. But he still fell prey to an insidious case of social engineering.

Social engineering, of course, involves using people skills rather than technological ones, to persuade, intimidate or otherwise manipulate someone into taking action that will put their systems at risk. In this case, the social engineer uses scare tactics and fraud. Here's what happened: Our friend (I'll call him Jeff, but that's not his real name) fired up his Windows XP computer and got an error message, telling him that his hard drive was "critical." He ignored it, but the computer crashed and he had to hard boot it. When it came back up, he saw what appeared to be the XP recovery tool, and ran it. He said it fixed some of the errors but he got a message telling him that to repair the rest, he would have to buy the "advanced version" - for $85.

Uh oh. Of course that should have been a red flag, but as he said, he wasn't able to access anything on the machine so he didn't feel as if he had much choice in the matter. He paid the piper (with his credit card, of course) and lo and behold, he was told that the rest of the errors had been fixed. That was a relief, but the relief was short lived. When he rebooted, his data and programs seemed to be intact but his desktop was wiped clean, and the programs directory in the start menu was empty. The only way to open the programs was to navigate to the executable files in Windows Explorer.

At this point, he started to catch on that maybe he had been scammed. He noted, in retrospect, that there were a few things that just didn't seem right. The messages were in what he called "pidgin English" - lots of grammatical errors. The URL to the site where he bought the "advanced version" of the XP recovery tool wasn't in the Microsoft.com domain. The receipt he received for the purchase also had a "weird" URL with an .org suffix. Now he was worried, and that's when he got in touch with Tom. When Tom showed it to me, I pointed out that I had written about a similar scam in a blog post just a few days ago. And here is more about the specific piece of scamware that hit our friend:
http://www.wxpnews.com/8JQYAG/110531-Windows-XP-Recovery

 

I don't think he was very happy with what we had to tell him. There are many variants on this particular little con game. Some of them just take your 85 bucks and stop at that. Others steal your credit card info and sell it on the black market. Some, while "fixing the errors," install software on your machine that will scan your hard drive for personal information and send it back to its masters, who will then use it for identity theft. Some versions install "back door" programs so the malware maker can take control of your computer remotely or make it part of a zombie botnet that can be used to attack other networks or spew out spam. In other words, he had to assume that his computer had been pwned. The safest solution was to wipe the hard drive completely and start all over.

But maybe he can take comfort in the fact that he wasn't the only one who's been fooled. At least he isn't in the security business. That blog post of mine was about an article by J.F. Rice I'd run across in ComputerWorld - a first-person account from a security manager who got hit by a similar type of program, FakeAV:
http://www.wxpnews.com/8JQYAG/110531-FakeAV-Infection

 

 

It's always easy to see when someone else is making a mistake, and most of you are probably shaking your heads and thinking something like this would never happen to you. You're careful. You never visit "questionable" web sites. You always run anti-virus and anti-malware software. Surely you're immune to threats of this nature. But as the article referenced above points out, this is not your father's malicious software. Malware authors have gotten more sophisticated, and today's malware programs stay a step ahead of your security software by morphing themselves so that the AV programs, even with the most updated signatures, won't recognize them.

Does that mean you should throw your hands up in despair and not even bother to run an anti-malware solution? Not at all. It just means you need to recognize that no security software can guarantee you 100% protection, not get overly confident that you're too smart to get infected, and never, ever click "yes" when you're asked to buy something from within an unsolicited "security scan." If you feel you need an "advanced" malware cleaning/repair program, go directly to the website of a reputable AV/AM vendor (such as GFI's VIPRE page) to buy it:
http://www.wxpnews.com/8JQYAG/110531-VIPREAntivirus

 



If this does happen to you, bite the bullet and even though it hurts, format the drive and reinstall the operating system and your applications (or have someone you trust do it for you). Notify your credit card company (they will probably cancel the card and issue you a new one). Monitor your credit reports for the next few months to be on the lookout for misuse of your personal information (applications for new cards that you didn't apply for, large purchases in your name, and so forth). Should you report it to the police? Not unless there are further indications of ID theft. Even though you were conned out of your money, the perpetrators are usually outside the country, and it's hard to prove that a crime was committed if you got what you paid for (software that scanned your computer and fixed the problem you were experiencing at the time). Finally, pass this warning along to your friends and relatives, even those you think are much too smart to ever fall for a social engineering scam.

Have you encountered one of these "give me your money and I'll fix your messed up computer" error messages? Do you know someone else who has been victimized in this way? How did it play out? Did you get lucky and only lose a few dollars, or did it turn into a full fledged identity theft nightmare? Share your experiences in our forum at
http://www.wxpnews.com/8JQYAG/110531-Forum

 

 

 

Microsoft Prepping Windows 8 Glimpse: Report

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By: Nicholas Kolakowski
2011-05-28

Microsoft will offer a glimpse of Windows 8 on tablets, according to a report. And yet Microsoft is still pushing back against CEO Ballmer's own Windows 8 revelations.

Microsoft is about to offer an early glimpse of the next version of Windows on a tablet, according to a new report.

Speaking to three unnamed people “with knowledge of the company’s plans,” Bloomberg reported May 26 that Microsoft will demonstrate how the next version of Windows will run on an Nvidia Tegra chip, itself based on the ARM architecture that underpins most of today’s smartphone and tablet processors.

In a recent speech to the Microsoft Developer Forum in Tokyo, CEO Steve Ballmer seemed to confirm that Windows 8 will make its debut in 2012, and appear on a variety of form factors, including tablets and PCs.

“As we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there’s a whole lot more coming,” he told the audience, according to a transcript published on Microsoft’s Website. “As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors.”

Just as quickly, though, Microsoft seemed anxious to tamp down on Ballmer’s comments. “It appears there was a misstatement,” a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in a statement circulated to media. “To date, we have yet to formally announce any timing or naming for the next version of Windows.”

Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live division, will appear at the ninth D:All Things Digital conference scheduled to kick off May 31 in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. It’s not inconceivable that he could demonstrate some features of the next version of Windows at the event; but coming so soon after Microsoft’s strident official denials, it would also give more astute company observers a serious case of mental whiplash.

Whatever the immediate situation, Microsoft has a good reason to keep the next version of Windows under wraps for the time being. Windows 7 sales continue to fuel a healthy portion of the company’s revenue. If businesses and consumers believe yet another version of Windows is in the pipeline for release sometime next year, they might shy away from upgrading to Windows 7—something that Microsoft would dearly like to avoid.

Sinofsky announced during this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that the next-generation platform will support SoC (system-on-a-chip) architecture, in particular ARM-based systems from partners such as Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments. That would give Microsoft the ability to port the next Windows onto tablets and other mobile form factors powered by ARM offerings.

Any other details have remained firmly under wraps. In April, bloggers Rafael Rivera and Paul Thurrott dissected various features of what they called an early operating-system build on Rivera’s Within Windows blog. According to those postings, the next version of Windows could incorporate an Office-style ribbon interface into Windows Explorer, complete with tools for viewing libraries and manipulating images. The bloggers also included a screenshot of an early device-unlock window, done in the “Metro” design style already present in Windows Phone—and perhaps an early hint of how “Windows 8” will appear on mobile form factors.

 

 

 

Home > Articles > Hardware > Upgrading & Repairing

Spring-Cleaning Your Computers

 

 

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Upgrading and Repairing PCs, 19th Edition

While you’re doing some spring cleaning around the home or office, don’t forget about your computers! Cleaning them can help increase performance and fix issues. Eric Geier walks you through the software and physical cleaning of your machines.

There are numerous ways you can freshen up your Windows PC or laptop. First we’ll do software-based cleaning and then we’ll work on the physical cleaning of the machine. This can help increase their performance, fix any current issues, and can help prevent future problems.

Before Cleaning, Create a System Restore Point

Before you do any cleaning, it’s best to create a System Restore point in Windows. Thus if you somehow delete or modify system files, or otherwise cause a problem, you can try to undo the changes. To create or manage restore points in Windows XP, click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore. In Windows Vista or 7, click the Start button, right-click Computer, select Properties, and click the System Protection link on the left pane.

Keep in mind, System Restore only backs up system files and doesn’t apply to your personal documents or files. For example, say you create a restore point and then uninstall programs and delete personal documents. Moving back to that restore point will bring back the programs you uninstalled but not any of the personal documents you deleted.

Software-Based Cleaning

Several programs exist to help you clean your computer. The following sections detail some more popular and effective tools you can use.

Glary Utilities

Windows provides tools to do basic cleanup. However, using a third-party tool like Glary Utilities makes the process much easier and faster. It also has additional cleaning and optimization tools beyond what Windows provides.

Here are some of the cleanup tasks you can perform with Glary Utilities:

  • Remove Temporary Files: This can help free up disk space for more programs or files, or improve performance if the disk is almost full. Click Modules > Clean Up & Repair > Disk Cleaner. Select the drive(s) you want to clean up and click Next. Then you can choose which items to delete: Temporary Internet Files from web browsing, Temporary File from software installations and downloads, and Recycle Bin to remove previously deleted files. Then click Next to proceed.
  • Uninstall Unused Programs: This also helps free disk space, reduces clutter, and may increase performance. Click Modules > Clean Up & Repair > Uninstall Manager. Click Batch Uninstall, browse through the list, and check items you want to remove. Be careful of what you select. If you’re unsure of a certain program, search for its name using Google or another search engine. When you’re done reviewing the programs, click Uninstall Checked Programs.
  • Fix Registry Issues: This can help fix error messages or performance issues. Click Modules > Clean Up & Repair > Registry Cleaner. Click Scan registry for problems. Once the scan is complete, click Repair. If you notice any issues after the repairs, open the Registry Cleaner again and click Restore Previous Repairs.
  • Remove Unnecessary Startup Items: This can help reduce the time to load Windows and help increase overall performance. Click Modules > Optimize & Improve > Startup Manager. Uncheck any items you don’t want to run when Windows loads. Be careful which items you uncheck. You can reference the company name and click the More Information link on the bottom pane for details.
  • Disable Unused Toolbars and Add-ons: This can help reduce the time to load your web browser, reduce clutter, and help increase overall browsing performance. Click Modules > System Tools > Internet Explorer Assistant. Review all the components and block or remove those you don’t want or need.

Tip

Instead of performing each task manually, you can select the 1-Click Maintenance tab and click Scan for Issues. This takes care of all tasks listed above, except Uninstall Unused Programs and Disable Unused Toolbars and Add-ons.

Checking for Viruses and Malware

Viruses, spyware, and other malware can significantly slow down a computer, cause instability, and potentially put your data at risk. You should ensure you have an anti-virus utility installed and run at least one virus scan during your cleaning.

If you have an active anti-virus utility installed, make sure it’s updated with the latest virus signatures or definitions. If you have a commercial product but haven’t renewed the license, or don’t have any utility now, consider free ones. avast! Antivirus is free for personal use, and Comodo Internet Security is free for both personal and business use.

If you didn’t have any anti-virus utility installed, or had one that wasn’t updated for a while, you should run a full computer scan.

Whether you’ve had an anti-virus utility installed or not, you should also run another scan with a different utility. No one utility can catch every single infection. For this second scan you can use a free product, such as Malwarebytes

Deleting Old Files and Documents

You should also take the time to review and clean your personal documents and files. Start with the user folders: Documents, Pictures, Videos, Downloads, etc. Then check each drive to see if you’ve stored files elsewhere, such as folders on the root directory (C:\). Consider deleting or archiving old files onto DVDs or a flash drive to free up space.

Keep in mind that you usually don’t want to delete anything in the Program Files or Windows directories.

Defragmenting Your Hard Drive

Hard drives essentially store data in a line, but parts of files can be spilt up in fragments across the line. When fragments exist, it takes longer to retrieve the file and write to the file. Defragmenting is the process of organizing the data. It attempts to group fragments with each other and align the free space in contiguous lines. This can help speed up accessing and writing files, and can boost the overall computer performance.

To clean up fragments, you can use the Disk Defragmenter utility included with Windows. Click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. Windows might have set it on a schedule to automatically run. Thus you should first analyze each drive to see if it’s currently fragmented enough to warrant running the utility, which can take a couple minutes. If you continue with defragmentation, the time it takes to run depends upon the size and percentage of fragmentation. It can take an hour or more, so just start it and come back to check on it.

Check for Disk Errors

Improper shutdowns, viruses, and other things can cause errors on your hard drive(s). These can create specific error messages or problems, or contribute to a general lack in performance. During your spring cleaning, you should run the Check Disk utility included with Windows. It can automatically scan for and repair file system errors and bad sectors. This process can take a few hours.

To initiate a check disk:

  1. Open Computer (or My Computer in Windows XP).
  2. Right-click the desired drive, and select Properties.
  3. Select the Tools tab and in the Error-checking section, click Check Now.
  4. On the dialog box, check both options, and click Start. If scanning your system drive (where Windows is installed), it will prompt you that it cannot currently scan.
  5. Select to schedule a scan at next reboot. It will also say this if you’re scanning a secondary drive and files from it are currently open or in use.
  6. Either close the files or schedule a scan at next reboot.

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TopHat 1 week ago

  • Great tips, thank you!

    I've never been a fan of the in-built defragger as it is too slow and not very easy to use. I've always liked to use a third-party defragger called diskeeper. It runs automatically and is the only defragger to prevent most fragmentation from happening in the first place.
  •  

 

Bill R TechSpec 1 week ago

  • Very good advice, except I would do the disk check first and the defrag at the end, since all the other actions may result in fragmented files and you don't want to do any actions really until any disk errors are handled.

    On the defrag part, I definitely agree that it is essential, however I agree with TopHat. I too would recomend a good third party defrag program that does this automatically in the background as otherwise one would not be able to use the PC while it is defragmenting.Here is a Top 10 Reviews of a side-by-side comparison of the best defrag utilities available:http://disk-defragmenter-softw...
    The gold medal winner defragments in the background without draining your system resources and it also prevents fragmentation (see the review).You can get a free trial at http://www.diskeeper.com

    ..
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Henri Roggeman 5 days ago

  • I have been working in a company that refurbishes pcs in great quantities. We use ordinary vacuum cleaners to remove dust. I have been doing this for the last thirteen years. No issues so far   :-)
  • 1 person liked this.
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Maddogg 2 days ago

  • Thats ok to remove dust with a vacuum cleaner ,as long as you dont use it on a computer. You have been lucky so far. You create static electricity which kills computers.
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studbrian 2 days ago

  • Dust INSIDE the pc should ONLYbe cleaned by using compressed air.
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SAARay 23 hours ago in reply to Henri Roggeman

  • Just because, over 30 years, my anal personality has accumulated a few nozzles and tips that turn the ordinary vacuum into a surgeons scalpel. In my world, this is considered regular maintenance and is performed more regularly in a dirty environment. I do pay attention to static electricity and prefer to clean on a concrete floor. Such occasional diligence and a UPS can greatly extend the life of a trusty PC.

    Remember, there are always 10 good reasons for not rolling up your sleeves, for not getting a little dirty, and, for not doing a little work. Some call it being lazy.

 

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