The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
Even computers with up-to-date virus protection can get viruses, as a friend of mine discovered last week. His anti-virus protection on the computer in his office was up to date (he and I later checked it) but he still got a bad root kit virus. He remembers the exact moment he got it: he mis-typed a web address (also known as a URL) and was taken to a web site that immediately produced a pop-up warning message. The message stated that his PC had viruses (which I now doubt) and asked him if he wanted to download the "Microsoft Anti-Virus Removal Tool" to fix the problems. Thinking this was a good idea, my friend clicked on DOWNLOAD.Sadly, what he downloaded was not what it claimed to be. It wasn't an anti-virus tool and it wasn't produced by Microsoft. In fact, it was a root kit virus, one of the more difficult viruses to remove. Within a few seconds his PC slowed to a crawl and all sorts of warning messages started to appear. The pop-up messages warned of dire results, such as loss of data, data corruption, and worse. However, these warning messages assured him that he could correct the problem by entering his credit card number into the pop-up messages and being charged $39.95. Instead, my friend called me.
When I arrived at his office, I noticed two things: the pop-up warnings did not have a corporate name that I recognized. It did not say MacAfee or Symantec or Norton or any other known anti-virus producer. It simply said "Security Alert." I know that the companies that produce legitimate anti-virus software usually plaster their corporate names and logos all over the place.
Next, the pop-up windows contained spelling errors. No self-respecting software producer would ever let programs like that go out the door. This program obviously was produced and released by someone who did not speak English as his or her native language.
I shudder to think what would have happened if my friend had entered a valid credit card number! Some rip-off artist could then use that credit card number to charge as much as he wanted.
The virus was difficult to remove but I did eventually get rid of it. My friend and I then looked in his web browser's history to see what web sites he had recently visited and he immediately recognized the problem. A web site he visits often appeared to be on the list except that one letter was missing in the web address (URL). He had accidentally mis-typed the URL and gone to a different site from what he wanted.
I went home and fired up the Macintosh. After all, Macs are impervious to Windows viruses. I went to the URL in question, the one with the missing letter. Immediately, a pop-up window appeared stating that my "PC" had viruses and asked if I wanted to download a "Microsoft Anti-Virus Removal Tool" to fix the problems. Keep in mind that I was using a Mac, not a PC, and Microsoft doesn't make anti-virus software for Macs. I elected to not download the so-called "Microsoft Anti-Virus Removal Tool."
I then switched to a Linux system, opened a web browser, and went to the same URL. It was a repeat of the previous experience. The same warning message will appear on ALL systems that visit this scam site: Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and others alike. In fact, it makes no difference if the local computer has a virus or not. The web site simply displays the same pop-up warning message to everyone who is unfortunate enough to visit the site.Sadly, there is no perfect solution to avoid these sites. My friend had the latest version of one of the most popular anti-virus programs available today and his virus definitions had been updated within the previous twenty-four hours. A good anti-virus program is a big help but is never guaranteed to be 100% perfect in blocking viruses, trojans, phishing, and other malware.
NOTE: Malware is an abbreviation for "malevolent software." In other words, malware programs are designed to cause harm to your computer's files or to empty your checking account or to steal your credit card information. Malware includes viruses, trojan horse programs, "phishing" programs, and more.One simple solution can help avoid many of these problems and it will speed up your computer's operation a bit as well. It will also avoid many, but not all, of the obnoxious advertisements that seem to appear out of nowhere and it even offers parental controls that will control the sites your children can access.
What I like best is that this service offers suggestions if you mis-type a web address. For instance, I often type ".cmo" when I meant to type ".com". If I enter a web address of www.google.cmo, a web page appears that says "Address not found. Did you mean www.google.com?" I can click on that last address and be taken to the site that I really wanted. Want craigslist.org? Type craigslist.og and still get there.
The same solution will work on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, or even on the Xbox 360. Best of all is the price tag: free.
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