Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Skype Malware Now Attacks Apple?

Chat Message Scares Reader Into Installing Malware

Surprise! Today I was reminded that criminals are once again using Skype to send phishing “chats” in an attempt to defraud you and trick you into installing a virus. So, I am – again – re-posting this article. It is the exact same ruse I first warned of in early 2008, but (again) the name has changed, as well as a few other details…. see if you can spot them.

Today a Skype chat window opened on my machine, and presented me with a dire warning from someone named “Software Update”, “Registry Scan Online®”, “OnlineUpdate.org”, “OnlineRegistry®” Today’s flavor (I think it was “Update Instructions”..).

It said that “WINDOWS SYSTEM REQUIRES IMMEDIATE ATTENTION” and, it provided me with a solution… a “repair utility”.

Please, folks, tell me you have spotted this for what it is. Please tell me that you knew –instantly– that this is a cybercrime attempt; that it is Phraud-ulent. (I mean.. there are clues aplenty!)

Please tell me that you know what will happen if the link provided in this message is clicked; and, please, please, please tell me you would never click the link.

This “hacker” criminal attack will reappear every so often (roughly every 90 30 days) with a slightly different name and URL… It is a classic scareware attack. They just send these chats to all the Skype users whose name starts with A.. then to the B’s, then C’s.. etc.

Just in case you aren’t sure:
*Software Update”, “Registry Scan Online ®”, Today’s flavor, doesn’t exist.
*http://www.onlinemonitor.info”, “http://www.registryscan.com”, Today’s flavor, is not registered in ARIN (the registry of Internet addresses).
* clicking the link will allow scripts to run, and/or take you to a poisoned Website which will install malware on your machine, or/and it may take you to a site that will sell you a rogue anti-spyware program (please read my article, Is that antispyware program really spyware?).

* Microsoft DOES NOT alert you via Instant Messaging. No legitimate company does. Period. Ever!
This is a classic example of a hacker’s attempt to get you to click their link.

All of this so they can rip you off. It’s these cyber-criminal’s full time job.

Please point your less-savvy friends and family to this article and educate them to the dangers of spam (unsolicited) messages and tell them– NEVER CLICK THE LINK. (Yes, I am shouting. 2010 is days away 2011 is here, and I still have to say this everyday.. Sigh.)

Note: while this article directly references the (VoIP client) Skype, you may see this type of thing in other Instant Messaging/Chat programs, and social networking communications.

[addenda: Peter Parkes (Skype Blogger) wrote and asked me to remind my readers to, quote, “Please report users who send these messages to abuse@skype.net – that will help us to block them where appropriate.”]

… Folks.. well, let me put it to you this way: if this concept is new to you, and comes as a surprise; if you never heard of such a thing .. that someone could make a window pop open, and tries to scare you into providing your credit card number, and will put viruses on your machine.. if you “googled it” because you were not sure if this “alert” was ‘legit’, I am going to do you a favor: I am going to suggest to you that you seriously reconsider the nature of the Internet. And suggest you subscribe to my email newsletter. (This stuff is so old now, and so well known, I almost don’t bother to post it. Where have you been?)

IRS phishing already???Please Update Your Details

These guys never quit, folks. ‘Cuz there’s a sucker born every minute. Please don’t be one: use some good, healthy “paranoid common sense” when online.

BTW — if something works on Windows, it ain’t gonna work on Apple (and visa versa). That’s a clue..!

Today’s recommended reading: A FREE Way to Monitor Your Kids Online Activity
If you are a parent who has children who use the computer to access the internet it is very important that you educate yourself and your child about the dangers of the internet. It is important to have strict guidelines in place on their computer usage and a method to supervise and monitor their online activities.

Today’s free downloads(s): I have assembled on my Website a collection of links to the best free anti-malware programs to help you prevent infection.. and clean up if you’ve been infected. To see them, click here.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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January 24, 2011 Posted by | computers | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Sunday Beauty XXVI

Today’s pretty picture comes to us from somewhere in the Pacific..

Sunset at Renaissance Resort Okinawa

Click on image to see more by this artist

Sunset at Renaissance Resort Okinawa

Photo by Masakazu “Matto” Matsumoto, courtesy of Flickr  Commons.

Championship picks:

I am not real sure why.. but I am picking the underdog Jets.. (the current point spread is 4)

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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January 23, 2011 Posted by | Digital Images | , | 8 Comments

A Weird Email From A Friend…

Another great question from a reader..

Q:Tech Paul,

I need your input on something.  I have received two emails from someone I knew very briefly last year and have not seen for several months, so it was an email out of the blue so to speak.  He addressed me by name, but the message was conveying a link I should check out about making money.  (get rich scheme), etc. I cut and pasted the weblink into my browser and checked it out.  It was some news story on some pyramid get rich scheme.  I didn’t think anything of it really and left the site and deleted the email.  I got another email last night from the same guy.  This time I replied telling him not to email me because I wasn’t interested.  Now I just got a message from him again saying:

‘Its not me. I’m sorry you’ve received these. Others have as well. Don’t know where they’re coming from ‘

What do you think Paul?  Has someone stolen his email address (is that possible to send email out to people using someone elses email address)?  Since I replied to the sender, has that put my email in jeopardy?

A: It is quite easy to “spoof” (basically, put in what ever you want) the Sender in e-mail. So, my experience tells me one of two things has happened: (with the latter being the most likely)
1) some spambot, somewhere out there in the void, is mass mailing, and using legit email addresses as the Sender.. this time your friend’s (harvested early and exchanged between scammers/spammers) address.
2) Your friend’s PC has been infected, and IS that spambot.
Do not open that email and click “Reply”.. start a new email to him, and tell him his machine is quite likely under someone else’s spell. Direct him to Trend Micro’s online virus scanner, “Housecall”, http://housecall.trendmicro.com/ and tell him to run a full scan. If it finds anything.. he probably should contract a pro for a more complete malware removal ‘cleaning’.

As for your email.. it is (most likely) not “at risk” (say, of hijacking) but, yes.. some scammer/spammer probably now has you on their list of “valid” (active+real person) emails. Which usually simply means you will be included in their mailing runs (aka — you’ll get more spam).

BTW… whenever you suspect the possibly of something .. um, “shady” occurring (or, perhaps, your antivirus says it detected and prevented something serious [and not just a tracking cookie]) it is, well, “smart policy” to change your login passwords.

These badguys are reaping such large harvests, they don’t always use your stolen info right away (should they gain it). So my further reco to you is to change your email’s login password, and advise your friend to (if he is infected, and I suspect he is: use another computer to, or .. after he gets his cleaned by a pro) change ALL of his online passwords. Starting with his bank…

Related: A quick word on passwords:
Strong passwords should be “complex”. That means that they should contain both upper and lower-case letters, special characters (!@#$%^&*(){}[]) and numbers, and be at least eight characters long, and – most definitely – not be a word found in the dictionary (or a name). Your passwords (notice the plural. It is not wise to use the same password for everything.) will be easier to remember if you make them into a ‘passphrase’. An equestrian might use a passphrase of 1Lu^h0rsez, for example.

123456 is not a good password.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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January 21, 2011 Posted by | computers, cyber crime, e-mail, Internet, security | , , , , | 4 Comments

About the Recovery (D:) Drive

A Reader Asks a Very Good Question About the “Recovery Partition”..

Q: Paul,
When I open up the My Computer icon on my desktop to check my hard drive, the recovery disk is usually close to 2/3’s full and it is in GB. Is this a drive I want to do anything with? I have plenty of drive space on my C drive but this takes 3-4GB of space.
What is the recovery drive for and should I try to recover the the disk space it uses?

A: When you click on “Computer” (or, “My Computer” in XP) an explorer window will open showing the storage devices (aka “drives”) attached to your computer (storage “memory”). These storage areas will be assigned a “drive letter”, and usually start with the area which contains the Windows operating system and is responsible for “booting” your computer — labeled drive “C:
drivesWhy doesn’t it start with “A:“? Well, back in the day, it did. Long ago, computers came with A and B drives – which were 5.25” ‘floppy’ drives (which contained the operating system. Windows didn’t exist yet). When the first “hard” drive came along, it had to go next in line.. thus C:\ (c: equated to “hard disk” [with a “k”]). Eventually, operating systems were designed to run from “hard” disks, and – eventually – “floppies” went the way of the T-rex. (But “hard disk” still equates with “c””)

I digress, but! I need to keep talking about computer history/evolution for just a bit longer. Long ago, computers used to come with CD’s. Either a Windows CD or a Windows CD relabeled by the manufacturer to something like “Dell Recovery Disc”. These were used in the sad case of really bad errors crashing the computer, and tech support told you you had to “reinstall Windows”.
(Sometimes called “disaster recovery”)

At some point in time, some brick-headed, idjit barnacle of a CEO made the absolutely dumbest decision ever made by Man — in the hopes that they could save 3¢ per computer sold. (Can you guess what I would say to this *person* if I met them?) They decided to do away with the Recovery CD and instead put those files on a special section (called a “partition“) of the hard disk — which came to be Drive D:\ (aka “the ‘recovery partition’)… the topic today. Ahem, sorry.

Back to the topic: When you first start up your computer (aka “boot up”) you will see a drab screen that says something to the effect of “Press F11 to recover your computer” (or some F key.. maybe F10, maybe F2..) This function is used in the sad case of really bad errors crashing the computer, and tech support tells you you have to “reinstall Windows”. (Sometimes called “disaster recovery”)

This “recovery process” will wipe (aka “erase”, aka “delete”) your C:\ drive, and copy the “image” stored on D:\ over to there — thus returning your PC to “factory condition”.. complete with crapware, such as Connect to AOL and Polar Penguins, and minus all your installed programs, updates, and … files.

You do have a backup copy of all those.. right?

This disaster of a disaster recovery method was not necessarily the case if you had/have a disc. Which is why the CEO mentioned above is a jackass. And why you want to read, Windows 7 Owners, You Want To Do This…

Answer the question, Paul: Okay okay okay
The drive D: aka “Recovery” is a special, protected area, which contains the files necessary to restore your computer to factory defaults. You cannot modify it. Short version: Pretend it isn’t there, and … hope you never need it.

(If you are eyeballing that ‘open space’ because you have filled up your C:\ drive.. well, no. What you need to do is install additional storage [ aka “upgrade” ] and/or go in and remove stuff from C:\)

* Okay.. maybe not the dumbest…

Today’s reco’d reading: Warning: Surprise spam trojan on Facebook

“Ever received messages from your Facebook friends containing a notice or invitation, such as an invitation to visit a particular site, added with an interesting message, like “Hey watch this, so cool!”? In most cases, the recipient of the message will be happy to follow it, especially if the message was sent by one of your best friends, which you trust. However, did you ever think that it could be sent by an intruder, spam, or even viruses?

Like yesterday, one of my friends received a “surprise” from Facebook, but then soon realized that his computer was now infected with the trojan, as well as making it a “spam machine.””

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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January 20, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, storage, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

NSTIC and IPv6

Folks, today I only have time for a quick post. There are changes coming to the Internet.

Today, I want to share with two articles (about these changes) which the geekier* of you may find interesting.

National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace
Identity Ecosystem: How the government is trying to stop online-payment fraud ~ Michael Kassner

If you shop online, chances are you will become a victim of payment-card fraud. It happened to me (again). Not long ago, a strange purchase caught my attention while reconciling my credit-card bill.

Covering IPv6 Basics While The Internet Society and Others Announce World IPv6 Day

“From 0.0.0.0 to 255.255.255.255, IP version 4 addresses are mathematically finite and as I’m sure you’ve heard or read about, they are running out…
It’s quite apparent because we’ve reached that sensationalist level in the mainstream media.”

Related: NSTIC

“Shopping and banking, social networking, accessing your employer’s intranet – these activities and more are all routinely done on the Web. The increase in the availability of these services results in greater opportunities for innovation and economic growth, but it also produces new risks. Common practices related to managing online identities contribute to that risk:”

* Here at T4E Headquarters, I use “geek” as a high compliment.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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January 19, 2011 Posted by | computers | , , , , | 2 Comments

A Daily Dose of Tech

It’s a fact: over time, things grow, and expand. The Internet itself is constantly growing, and every day thousands of new websites, blogs, and ‘online services’ appear.

I find it hard to keep up! (As, other things that are constantly growing are my business and my To Do List..) I simply do not have the time to explore them all.. and I bet you don’t either. (As a matter of fact, they say over 1,000 new ‘tech blogs’ are created each month. That’s the kind of market I am in!)

Fortunately, I know a guy.

WOMPC_logo

That “guy” is Rick Robinette, and for over two years now his What’s On My PC… website has been a daily read of mine — one of the half dozen (or less) remaining “daily reads”. I cannot say enough nice things about him; but the reason I am mentioning him to you, Dear Reader, is — he is reporting on the new ‘cloud computing’ developments as they happen, and bringing us the best of this new stuff. As you can see from his list of ‘pages’, below. (With a strong emphasis on free.. which I like!)

His writing is friendly, relaxed, fun, and yes, educational. He enjoys exploring fun and useful small utilities like desktop clocks and weather reports and sticky notes. For proof, here’s a few recent What’s On My PC… articles:

If you are at all interested in free software, useful tips, and/or want to get a feel for this “cloud computing”.. well, now you ‘know a guy’ too. Visit http://whatsonmypc.wordpress.com and find out why I cannot say enough good things about this great online resource.

I am pretty sure that if you do, Rick will become one of your “must reads” too!

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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January 18, 2011 Posted by | cloud computing, computers, Internet, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Friend of the Internet Surfer Award #5

Gizmo Wins First TP – FOTIS Award Of 2011

STOP. THINK. CONNECT.

Winner of the 2011

Friend Of The Internet Surfer Award
Tech Paul’s Friend Of The Internet Surfer Award

It is vital we take actions to secure our computers, and reduce our chances of becoming victims of cyber-crime. Doing so not only protects yourself – but because we are all connected to the Internet – helps keep the web a safer place for everyone.

Computer security is a complex and confusing subject – and there are many choices one faces. Fortunately for us, there is a free online tool – a “wizard” – to help steer us in the right direction. I have endorsed it here before. And, better yet, the solutions it offers are free as well.

But! I believe this helpful tool is so important in today’s world, and in recognition for it’s quality, and helpfulness, that I am awarding its creator – Gizmo of Gizmo’s Freeware.com – the fifth-ever Tech Paul’s Friend Of The Internet Surfer Award.

This Wizard has been designed to help you select the best free security software for your PC based on the version of Windows that you use, your technical computer skills and your general level of security risk.

Gizmo’s Security Advice Wizard asks you a series of questions, analyzes your answers, and then provides you with a customized, personal security recommendation — a complete recommendation — including download links to free solutions.
Bottom line?
I have run through the Wizard several times, as various types of users, and each time the recommendations the Wizard provided was spot on with how I would answer.

I enthusiastically endorse Gizmo’s Security Advice Wizard and encourage you to go there and give it a try. Odds are good you will learn something. The folks there at Gizmo’s freeeware get a tip of my geek hat, and my thanks for going through the effort of creating this wonderful advisor “wizard”.

Because, yes folks, in today’s world you need security protections when on the Internet.

BTW — I am not alone: PC Magazine rated this a Top Site for 2010 as well.

Please point your less-savvy friends and loved ones to this site.

Previous winners:
* First-ever Tech Paul’s Friend Of The Internet Surfer Award
* Tech Paul’s Friend of the Internet Surfer Award for October
* Tech Paul’s Friend of the Internet Surfer Award for December
* Tech Paul’s Friend of the Internet Surfer Award – 2010

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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January 17, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Internet, security | , , , , | 9 Comments