Beware emails bearing gifts

By March 30th in Blog

A very long time ago, before iphones or frozen yogurt or even audio casettes, a massive army laid siege to an ancient city.  After ten years of running into the sharp ends of spears and swords and getting nowhere, someone in the attacking army got the idea to build a giant wooden horse filled with men and leave it at the city gates.  The residents of the besieged city, thinking this wooden horse was something good, brought it inside their walls.  That was the end of Troy.  And so the Trojan horse had its auspicious start.  Nowadays, Trojan horses are the name given to a computer virus that leads the user to believe it is benign, or even helpful, but that runs malicious attacks on your computer once it is allowed in.  And they will make your life miserable.

A Trojan horse virus, once on your computer, can harm your computer in ways that can make grown men cry or at least raise blood pressure.  Now, as the saying goes, the best offense is worth a pound of prevention or an ounce of something…I can’t remember.  The point is, the best way to not worry about a virus is to not get one.  So, how do you keep from getting a virus?  (Insert snide comments from mac users).   First off, make sure you have a valid antivirus program installed.  This is absolutely essential.  If you don’t want to pay money for one, Avast is a really good free program which can be found here.  However no antivirus software is foolproof.  Much like the city walls of Troy, it only works if you don’t let things in.

The majority of the time the virus is allowed on when someone opens an attachment in an email or clicks on a pop up.  In the first instance, the attachment could look harmless like a video or a document; it might even be from someone you know.  In the second instance, the ‘harmless’ pop up could ask if you want to save money/check for viruses/clean your computer/clear your internet cache/run a cool program that will blah blah blah.

So, the first thing you can do is give yourself a moment to think the next time you are faced with a suspicious email or pop up.  For emails, just look at the email carefully.  Does the text of the email say something generic like, “hey you have to see this.” or “thought you might like this” or “here is your account information”?  If they do then, by all means, be suspicious.  If the email seems out of place considering who it’s from, be suspicious.  Regardless of who it’s from if the name of the attachment ends in ‘.zip’ or ‘.exe’, ABSOLUTELY DO NOT OPEN IT.  If you’re suspicious or something about the email seems amiss, take a minute and call your friend or relative and see if they sent it.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because the email is from your friend/relative, that it must have been sent by them.  Some viruses send out copies of themselves in using your friends’ e-mail accounts.

If it’s an email from a ‘business’ keep a couple things in mind.  First, no legitimate company, not a single one, will EVER initiate an email to you asking you for information of any kind or asking you to reply.  Many of those types of emails will threaten immediate account de-activation if you do not reply.  Again, no legitimate business would deal with their customers that way.  If the email says that some important information (account information, billing information, etc.) is enclosed in an attachment, DO NOT OPEN IT.    If it looks like it comes from a company that you have an account with or sounds legitimate and you are worried, it isn’t, but feel free to call the company you think it came from and check with them.  It takes A LOT less time to check with Uncle Al or a business than it does to clean off a virus.

If you get a pop up on your screen, read it carefully.  If it’s telling you that something is wrong with a SPECIFIC program or file by name, it’s probably legitimate and you can click ‘OK’.  If the pop up offers deals or tells you need to download, install or run something, do not click on it.  Try an alternative method of closing it.  Try and use Task manager to close the pop up.  Any of the three methods should work to bring up Task Manager.

Press CTRL+ALT+DELETE, and then click Task Manager.


Right-click an empty area of the taskbar at the bottom of the screen, and then click Task Manager.

Click on the name of the pop up in the list within Task Manager and click ‘End Task’.  It’s that simple.

You may be thinking, ‘Computer guy, that may be easy for you to do in your low lit room, geeking out over the latest dual-flux-capacitor chip, but that is way too much work.  I can’t do all that.’  True, it may be daunting at first, but compare the few moments it takes to bring up task manager or call up someone on the phone as  the time it takes to deal with a virus and be without your computer.

It’s no surprise that adware and spyware infections are our most common call, with the nefarious techniques they use.  But if more of our clients followed these simple steps, it would drastically reduce the numbers of infections we clean off every day.  If you find yourself infected and without the ability to fix it yourself, turn off your computer immediately to prevent it from getting worse and contact us.  We can have somebody out right away!

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