When a PC repair shop learns a customer is experiencing a bit of lag or is unable to access any files, one of the first suspects is a computer virus. More than half of the problems most computer repair shops deal with relate to viruses, which can be as simple to prevent as they are to contract.
Common Computer Viruses
When your virus software scans your computer, it looks for these primary culprits, among other intruders:
Trojans. Today’s Trojan viruses are so stealthy you don’t even have to click on anything to infect your computer; just reading a web page is enough. A Trojan downloader is a virus that acts like it is innocent but then downloads malicious programs onto your computer. The goal of the virus is to make your computer seem as if it’s running normally while it does its dirty work. In the past, people on file-sharing sites and adult websites were the most common victims. However, computer repair techs say no one is safe from Trojan viruses anymore. Government agencies, airline companies and museums have all fallen victim.
Scareware. Scareware victimizes individuals who are not so PC-savvy. Instead of acting stealthy, scareware pops up on the screen in the form of a warning that looks like a Windows message. The warning says the computer may be infected with a virus (or has another issue) and prompts the user to click on a button to perform a scan and purchase anti-virus software. Clicking on the warning, PC repair experts share, only infects the computer instead of helping it. Those who try to bypass the warning by pressing Control+Alt+Delete can also get duped. Instead of bringing up the real task manager, the scareware program brings up a dummy task manager that infects the computer.
Botnets. When your computer has a botnet intrusion, it becomes part of a collection of infected computers that intruders control from a remote location. The purpose of a botnet varies by the wrong-doer – some conduct espionage, steal personal information or look for websites to infect.
Ransomware. Ransomware is like a mob that has just moved into the neighborhood. With this type of virus, hackers deny a computer owner access to his or her files, saying they’ll return the files for a hefty fee. Consequently, the victim has to choose between losing money or going to a computer repair shop to eradicate the virus – and losing all the data and files on the computer. Ransomware criminals may also use a scareware tactic by making a pop-up on the computer look like a message from a local or federal law enforcement agency accusing the victim of visiting an illegal website. Some messages state that the victim has a limited amount of time to pay for the “crime” with a prepaid debit card before getting arrested by the authorities.
Computer Repair Tips for Avoiding Viruses
Use a firewall. A firewall is your first line of defense against intruders and unwanted internet traffic. Use either the Windows firewall that comes with your computer, or one that your PC repair shop recommends – but not both at the same time.
Install reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Anti-virus and anti-spyware programs are your cavalry when it comes to the fight against viruses and malware. The reason you should have both types of programs is that anti-spyware programs catch the spyware and malware that anti-virus programs don’t target. To keep them effective, update the programs regularly and run a full system scan every week.
Keep windows updated. Windows updates are vital to keeping your computer safe from the latest threats. To make updating simple, configure the “Automatic Updates” so the computer automatically downloads the recommended programs.
Configure your web browser’s security options. In the security section of your internet browser’s tools or options, set a high privacy level. Then select the options to block pop-ups, reported forgeries and malicious websites.
Don’t trust pop-ups. As you surf the web, if you receive a pop-up that looks like an error message designed by your computer, don’t trust it. Don’t click on it, and don’t panic. Instead, close the pop-up and immediately update your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Then perform a full scan of your computer.
Only open emails from trusted senders… sometimes. If you receive a message from an email address or person you don’t recognize, report it as “spam.” On the other hand, if you get a message from someone you know with an attachment you weren’t expecting, contact the sender and verify that the attachment is legitimate. In some cases, when a virus infects a computer, it may send bogus emails to that person’s contacts in an attempt to infect other PCs.
Computer viruses are costly and can turn your world upside down. It’s always worth taking a handful of precautions to keep your PC safe – and you sane.
Zac Cramer, founder of Happy Hamster Computers, Portland Oregon’s largest independently owned computer store, contributed this post. Happy Hamster fixes more than 3,000 computers a year and provides awesome support to businesses throughout the community.