Tech – for Everyone

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

Night of the Living Computer*

It’s like we woke up inside a horror movie– we are being attacked by zombies.

Night of the Living Dead

Yes. It’s true. Real life is imitating art (if you’re willing to call Night of the Living Dead “art”). We really are under attack by zombies– only our zombies aren’t trying to eat our flesh, they are trying to sell us bootleg Ph@rmacuticals and cheap V1@gra, fake Rolex watches, and steal our identities. [note in the photo how the zombie is reaching for the wallet?]

In real life, our zombies can’t claw at us directly and they don’t have teeth. Our zombies are computers. Our computers. And they attack via e-mail and the Internet. Like the zombies in Night, they spread the zombie disease by infection. Differently, our zombies aren’t mindless; they’re controlled by villains (aka “cyber-criminals”).

Yes. Your computer may be a zombie, and odds are you wouldn’t know.

If it isn’t a zombie (yet), it is constantly under the attack of infection via the Internet. An unprotected computer, connected to the Internet, will be infected within 8 minutes (12 seconds in a recent test).
90 to 95% of all Internet traffic traveling the wires is zombie-generated junk e-mail that’s either a fraud attempt or (and?) loaded with malware– the “attack”.

How did this happen? Well, part of it is the Tech Industry’s fault (see, How the Tech Industry is Failing You), either unintentionally, or through lack of foresight, or through willful negligence and the rush to market. Security either wasn’t considered, or it was too expensive.
Nobody predicted the nerdy hackers evolving into the organized, well-financed, Mafia-style criminal gangs of today.
And they put too-powerful, fully-capable machines into the hands of the unwashed masses– us.
The rest of it is our fault.

* We let our antivirus expire and, every day, close the warning.
* We think we’ve just won the British Lottery.
* We still run Windows 98 because we’re “comfortable with it”.
* We cannot resist ‘free’ pornography.
* We cannot be bothered with those REALLY ANNOYING little windows that pop open at the worst times and tell us that a “newer version is available.”
* When someone tries to tell us about our machines, they start using big words in a funny language and we ‘tune out’.
* We believe that everything computer-related should be free, so we download cracked (aka “pirated”) software, bootleg music and video, and we don’t care who or where it comes from.

I could go on and on and on (and on, believe me!).

Yes.. we are our own worst enemies. But, you don’t have to be a part of the problem. And you don’t have to learn a big word-filled foreign language (aka “Geek speak”) to avoid the zombie attack.

Today’s free link: I have put together a list of proactive steps every computer user should know.. a checklist. In it you will find links to free, safe, and effective methods for protecting your computer, and keeping it safe. Please look over, Top 10 Things You Should Do To Your Computer. And then do us all a favor, pass the list on to your friends who have computers.

* Orig post: 08/18/08

Today’s free download: RUBotted by Trend Micro (see below)

Today’s free link: RUBotted is a free program that can help detect if your machine has been zombie-ified, and Bill Mullins has written a good description/review of it, here (he also posts the download link, so you can visit there and don’t need to return here..) Catch the Bad Bots with Free RUBotted from Trend Micro

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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March 31, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, cyber crime, how to, security | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New Rogue Uses Fake PC Magazine Review

Yesterday, the good folks at BleepingComputer posted removal instructions for a rogue antivirus (please see, Internet Plague – Rogue Antivirus) that is demonstrating a new behavior…

Quote: “Anti-virus-1 is a new rogue anti-spyware program from the same family as Antivirus 2010 and Antivirus 360. This program is promoted primarily through two methods. The first is through the use of advertisements that pretend to be online anti-malware scanners. These advertisements go through what appears to be a scan of your machine and then when finished, state that your computer is infected and that you should download Anti-virus-1 to protect yourself.

Remember, though, that this is just an advertisement and it has no way of knowing what is running on your computer. The second method that is used to promote this rogue is through the use of Trojans. When certain Trojans are installed on your computer they will display security alerts stating that your computer is infected or that you have some other security risk. When you click on these alerts, it will download and install Anti-virus-1 onto your computer…”

But that is not the new part, the new behavior adds entries to your HOSTS file so that if you go to any of a number of technology sites, including pcmag.com, you are instead brought to their site and are shown the malware author’s content. This content includes a doctored PCMag review of their fake anti-malware product.

For more on the story, click here.
And for removal instructions, click here.

A big tip of my geek hat to BleepingComputer.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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February 19, 2009 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, computers, cyber crime, Internet scam, News, phraud, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Potential ‘big bad### botnet’ spreading fast*

The ‘Downadup’ worm is spreading quickly and now infects more than 3.5 million PCs, according to the security company F-Secure.

In a blog post on Wednesday, F-Secure put the total number of infected machines at an estimated 3,521,230 — a rise of more than a million machines over the previous day’s tally…

Wow. A million new infections in one day..

Folks, to read the rest of this article (clipped from ZDNet) by David Meyer and Tom Espiner, click here.

[update 1/19/09: over 8 million now. Here’s the latest (and how that number is arrived at), Calculating the Size of the Downadup Outbreak]

January 16, 2009 Posted by | computers, cyber crime, News | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our Modern Nightmare – Zombie Attack

It’s like we woke up inside a horror movie– we are under attack by zombies.

Night of the Living Dead

Yes. It’s true. Real life is imitating art (if you’re willing to call Night of the Living Dead “art”). We really are under attack by zombies– only our zombies aren’t trying to eat our flesh, they are trying to sell us bootleg Ph@rmacuticals and cheap V1@gra, fake Rolex watches, and steal our identities. [note in the photo how the zombie is reaching for the wallet?]

In real life, our zombies can’t claw at us directly and they don’t have teeth. Our zombies are computers. Our computers. And they attack via e-mail and the Internet. Like the zombies in Night, they spread the zombie disease by infection. Differently, our zombies aren’t mindless; they’re controlled by villains (aka “cyber-criminals”).

Yes. Your computer may be a zombie, and odds are you wouldn’t know.

If it isn’t a zombie (yet), it is constantly under the attack of infection via the Internet. An unprotected computer, connected to the Internet, will be infected within 8 minutes (12 seconds in a recent test).
90 to 95% of all Internet traffic traveling the wires is zombie-generated junk e-mail that’s either a fraud attempt or (and?) loaded with malware– the “attack”.

How did this happen? Well, part of it is the Tech Industry’s fault (see, How the Tech Industry is Failing You), either unintentionally, or through lack of foresight, or through willful negligence and the rush to market. Security either wasn’t considered, or it was too expensive.
Nobody predicted the nerdy hackers evolving into the organized, well-financed, Mafia-style criminal gangs of today.
And they put too-powerful, fully-capable machines into the hands of the unwashed masses– us.
The rest of it is our fault.

* We let our antivirus expire and, every day, close the warning.
* We think we’ve just won the British Lottery.
* We still run Windows 98 because we’re “comfortable with it”.
* We cannot resist ‘free’ pornography.
* We cannot be bothered with those REALLY ANNOYING little windows that pop open at the worst times and tell us that a “newer version is available.”
* When someone tries to tell us about our machines, they start using big words in a funny language and we ‘tune out’.
* We believe that everything computer-related should be free, so we download cracked (aka “pirated”) software, bootleg music and video, and we don’t care who or where it comes from.

I could go on and on and on (and on, believe me!).

Yes.. we are our own worst enemies. But, you don’t have to be a part of the problem. And you don’t have to learn a big word-filled foreign language (aka “Geek speak”) to avoid the zombie attack.

Today’s free link: I have put together a list of proactive steps every computer user should know.. a checklist. In it you will find links to free, safe, and effective methods for protecting your computer, and keeping it safe. Please look over, Top 10 Things You Should Do To Your Computer. And then do us all a favor, pass the list on to your friends who have computers.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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November 11, 2008 Posted by | advice, antivirus, computers, cyber crime, e-mail, hackers, Internet, Internet scam, Phishing, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Malware Removal Techniques

What do you do when your PC is displaying all the signs of having been infected and/or hacked but your antivirus and anti-spyware scan reports come back clean?

This was the case for a fella who called me for advice recently. He had done things ‘right’ — and by that I mean he has a firewall, he keeps his antivirus definitions up to date, sick and he runs a couple of anti-spyware applications — but suspected his machine had been hacked anyway.

He couldn’t do things he was used to doing (like deleting a file) and his machine was “really slow.”
But according to his scanners, his machine is in perfect shape.

Tip of the day: If you should find yourself in a similar situation there are several steps you can take to help resolve your questions and (hopefully) fix your machine without taking the drastic step of wiping your hard drive, formatting, and reinstalling Windows.

The first step is to use a scanner that isn’t installed on your machine. Here’s two ways to do that: one, if your antivirus allows it (and most of them do these days), follow its instructions and make an antivirus recovery disk. This is a bootable disk that scans your system before Windows loads.

To use one, put it in your CD tray and restart your machine. A plain-text sentence will appear telling you to “press any key to boot from CD…” When you see it, hit your spacebar or, well, any other key, and then follow the instructions. When it’s finished, remove the CD and restart your machine again.
[note: you may also use a properly prepared USB thumb drive. Click here to read my article on how to do that.]

A second method is to use an online scanner. I have a list, with links, of several good online scans on my website, here. Quite a few of the online scanning tools will try to sell you their full application, but you’re under no obligation to buy. The big advantage to these two methods lies in the fact that they have not been compromised, or altered, and the files and scanners on your machine may be– the modification being done by the virus or hacker.

Another thing to do is scroll down to my “Today’s free link” and download HiJack This! Run it and dump the result into a .txt file (there’s instructions for this) and then register on one of the HiJack This! forums (there’s instructions for this too) and post your results there. Before too long, an expert anti-malwareologist [don’t bother looking: I just now made that word up] will have looked over the intricacies, and will post his analysis and instructions. These guys (and gals) are really, really good at what they do, and you can trust their answers.

Also run CheckDisk with the “r” “f” switches (this probably will require a reboot) to make sure the problem is not your hard drive.
Click on Start >Programs >Accessories >Command prompt. In the white-on-black window type “chkdsk /r /f” (no quotes, and be sure to include the spaces). You may be told that certain files are in use, and asked if you want to “schedule this at the next reboot Y/N?” Type in a “y” and restart your machine.

Hopefully these efforts will be rewarded with a rejuvination of your machine, and you will be back in business again.  If not, you have my sympathy. You may have a rootkit and then your best solution is to re-format your hard drive and reinstall everything, or enlist the aid of a professional

Today’s free link:  is a free utility which quickly scans your Windows computer to find settings that may have been changed by spyware, malware or other unwanted programs. HijackThis does not clean infections, but creates a report, or log file, with the results of the scan. A large community of users participates in online forums, where experts help interpret the scan results to clean up infected computers.

Copyright © 2007-8 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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September 2, 2008 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, computers, how to, PC, performance, rootkits, security, software, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What is a Szirbi?! (And my Top Movies list)

E-mails which spoof the Classmates.com site by sending messages saying “there is an update on friend information”, or send a video link with a message stating, “Here’s a link of you doing something stupid” contain links which will infect your computer with Scirzi and turn it into a spambot.
So many people have been infected this way that spam has tripled in the last week. This article, Szirbi Botnet Causes Spam To Triple In A Week explains further.
And please folks, don’t click the links in e-mails. If you really must go to the site, type (or Copy>Paste) the link into your browser bar.

Folks, it is summertime here where I live, and old Tech Paul is fixin’ to put on his flip flops, bermuda shorts, straw hat and just “chill out” for well-deserved several days of vacationing.
I will post some prior articles, and maybe a small article, but I won’t do any heavy lifting.

In the spirit of goofing off, and taking it easy, I spent a little time thinking about what movies I needed to gather up for my popcorn-and-favorite-movies-marathon, scheduled for sometime this week.
I wound up assembling a Top 30 Movies Of All Time list (I was aiming at 20.. then 25..) which I posit to you here for your consideration.

True Grit
Saving Private Ryan
Unforgiven
Forrest Gump
North by Northwest
The Maltese Falcon
Double Indemnity
Key Largo
Treasure of the Sierra Madre
The Big Sleep
Dr. Strangelove (How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb)
Rear Window
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World
Casablanca
The Caine Mutiny
The Shootist
Anatomy of a Murder
Best Years of Our Lives
Fargo
It Happened One Night
Arsenic and Old Lace
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
The Searchers
The African Queen
Full Metal Jacket
The Sting
Witness for the Prosecution
The Wild Bunch
It’s a Wonderful Life
Die Hard
Night of the Living Dead
Rocky
* Lonely are the Brave
* The Usual Suspects
* King Rat
* Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
* Stalag 17

I did spend a little time arranging them in order, but.. I am not convinced this is my final version of this list and that I’ll want to “tweak” it some. I am also fairly certain that shortly after posting this, I’ll have a slap-my-forehead moment and remember a title that should have been included… that’s how it usually works with me.

Your comments, input, and critiques are welcome.
[Note: I am not of the female persuasion, and so a chick flick (aka “romantic comedy”) will never appear on my Top Movies list. Please don’t bother to suggest any.]

* Oh! Yeah!

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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June 26, 2008 Posted by | computers, cyber crime, e-mail, Internet scam, spam and junk mail, tech | , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Your computer is spamming me*

“Spam” did not always mean “unsolicited (junk) e-mail”. Spam is, in reality, a processed and canned meat.. for, like.. when you go camping in the woods.. or something.
cannaspam.jpgI cannot recall ever having eaten SPAM — though I’m fairly certain I have — and so I cannot say whether this item is a tasty treat, or whether it deserved its (in my recall, anyway) reputation as being.. not so good. I think it’s supposed to be similar to ham.

I do recall watching a lot of the British comedy group Monty Python’s Flying Circus on television. One of their more well-known and popular skits was about SPAM.. and vikings.
The song seemed to catch on.

One of the character’s lines is “I don’t like spam!”
And, we don’t like unsolicited (junk) e-mail!
Hence the birth of an expression/joke that’s turned into an actual dictionary definition of common, accepted, everyday usage.

(from Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary)
Main Entry: 1spam Listen to the pronunciation of 1spam
Pronunciation: \ˈspam\
Function: noun
Etymology: from a skit on the British television series Monty Python’s Flying Circus in which chanting of the word Spam overrides the other dialogue
Date: 1994
: unsolicited usually commercial e-mail sent to a large number of addresses

Yes. I don’t like spam!
Not terrribly surprisingly, the spammers are at it again, using their botnets (our infected computers) to send e-mails offering discount drugs.. out of Russia. At the end of January, I wrote about the “Spam blocked” counter on the side column of this site (which shows you how many such solicitations are being posted as Comments) and, the psychology of these spammers… There’s been an extraordinary barrage of spam comments here at Tech–for Everyone these last several days (automated spambots in action).
Will spam ever go away? Not until not one human being EVER clicks the link. (Please stop clicking links in e-mails!)
Humph.

Until spamming doesn’t work and the spammers move on to some other technique to try to rip you off, you can learn how to manage the amount of junk e-mail you receive by reading (or reviewing) these two articles.
https://techpaul.wordpress.com/2007/08/25/managing-your-email-eliminating-the-junk/
https://techpaul.wordpress.com/2007/08/27/managing-junk-mail-in-outlookthunderbird/

To read my article on botnets — and how your computer might be a bot (and what to do about it), click here.

The sun is out, and I got things to do.. so, until next time, “spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam..”

*Original post date: March 15th

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix 

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April 19, 2008 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, computers, e-mail, how to, PC, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments