Posts Tagged ‘malware’
Frustrated with your computer or cell phone? Embarrassed to ask your kids/grandkids for tech help? You’re not alone. According to AARP, 33 percent of Boomers report frustration with technology. Here’s some tips to help you take control of your technology.
One of the most popular computer questions people have about their computer is “Why is it running slowly?” Through the years, we have narrowed down the list of possible reasons to ten:
1) Too many programs are running at the same time.
It is common for users to download utilities, applications, and other programs that run in the background. The more programs that are running – whether you see them or not – the less “attention span” your computer has to do other things you are asking it to do.
Avoid downloading web browser-helpers, more than one anti-malware program, or applications that claim to “speed up” your internet or your computer, as each one added will slow down your performance. (It’s also a good idea to uninstall programs that you do not use to increase your machine’s processing speed.)
2) There’s not enough free RAM.
Random-access memory (RAM) is what your computer uses for temporary working and thinking space. The more programs running at time, the more RAM is used. If your computer is running slowly, it could be because too many programs are running, and not enough RAM. To make your computer run faster, run fewer programs at a time or upgrade your RAM.
3) You have a virus/malware infection.
Internet slowdowns and slow computer operation can be a symptom of an infection. To find out if you have a malware problem, use an anti-virus and anti-spyware application to find it – like the free scanning tool we have available in the Self-Help area of our website.
4) You have low hard drive space.
Lack of hard drive space often affects older computers, or computers that do a lot of video editing or design work. Hard drives, which store all of your computer’s information, have a finite amount of space. Once they’re filled up, the computer no longer has the ability to manipulate files. The computer will slow down, eventually becoming unusable.
Generally, Windows will alert you to “low disk space” if this is the case. Moving some of your less-used files – such as pictures, music, and movies – to an external hard drive would free up some of your computer’s hard drive space and make it run faster. Deleting temporary files and performing a disk cleanup are also good ways to reclaim wasted space. Another solution? Install a bigger hard drive.
5) Restart your computer.
Every once in a while, it is a good idea to restart your computer. A computer cannot complete some of its updates until you restart. Restarting your computer can also free up memory resources tied up by buggy programs.
6) Sharing a wireless network.
If your internet is running slowly, but your computer is running quickly, you could have a lot of activity on your wireless network. Check to see if anyone else on your network is doing something that uses a lot of bandwidth (like streaming video or playing online games), as this can make your computer run slowly. You should also make sure your wireless network is secure so someone else isn’t using your Internet bandwidth. If your wireless network is not secure, Geek Squad recommends you create a password to secure your data and ensure strangers don’t join your network.
7) Too many “bells and whistles.”
Animated pointers and hi-resolution images of your favorite vacation spot may look nice, but they can also slow your computer down. Since animations and images load into memory every time you start your PC , there is less processing power available for more important tasks.
8) You have a scanning program running.
When a scanning program such as an anti-virus, anti-spyware, or automatic backup is running, your computer may respond slowly. We don’t recommend disabling these, as they are an important part of your computers safety. These programs should be run at least once a week, but don’t plan on using your machine while they are running.
9) Your computer barely meets your software’s minimum requirements.
Software usually has a list of requirements for things like processor speed, operating system, memory (RAM) and hard drive space. These specifications are the absolute minimum levels needed to make the software run. If your computer just meets the requirements, the software will run, but it might not run well. Try to meet or surpass the system “recommendations” of your software, rather than just meeting the bare “requirements.”
10) You have a fragmented hard drive.
It’s important to defragment your hard drive to help the computer organize itself better and make sure it runs smoothly. Think of your hard drive as someone who really likes to be organized but is always in a big hurry. Because you hard drive is low on time, it might save bits of a file here and pieces of it there, rather than all together. This works fine for a while, but eventually everything is scattered, and it takes your hard drive longer to find everything and get moving. Defragmenting is like a really big clean up. Your hard drive will put everything back in the right place and, as a result, will be able to move more quickly.
That’s it! If you’ve follow these ten steps, it should help you resolve a decent amount of your slow computer problems. There’s always more to learn, and lots to do in order to keep your computer running smoothly. Of course, there’s always help from Geek Squad, if you need it, but don’t be afraid to try some things on your own as well. We’ll always be available for you at www.geeksquad.com, at 1-800-GEEKSQUAD (1-800-433-5778), or at a Geek Squad precinct in a Best Buy store near you.
Agent Wiebusch carries badge number #3881, and has thwarted rogue technology issues since 2004, helping clients in store, in their home or business, and now online. When away from computers, he enjoys playing sports, playing videogames, and tinkering with motorcycles, classic cars, and anything else fast.
Think this is a new way for the FBI to deal with computer crime? Think again – you’ve just been a victim of a particularly nasty new virus – Reveton.
Like a biological virus, computer viruses are constantly evolving to take advantage of unsuspecting hosts. In this case, you are dealing with a form of virus called “ransomware”, because it holds the victim’s computer hostage until a ransom is paid to a mysterious third party.
Reveton disables the computer and displays a bogus-but-somewhat-intimidating message on its screen claiming that the computer’s owner has violated federal law. The malware locks the system until the owner pays the “fine” using a specific pre-paid money card service. For added spookiness, some variants of this virus will use your webcam to take a photo of you to include in its faked warning window. (Yikes!)
Most law enforcement agencies in the United States do not issue fines and disable computers without due process – meaning you have a legal means to defend yourself. Plus, we are pretty confident the FBI would never take payments from only one specific brand of money card (even if it is widely available at your local convenience store).
Geek Squad has the following recommendations for anyone who believes they may have a computer infected with this Reveton virus:
To help prevent your computer from becoming a victim of a virus infection like this, always remember to keep your antivirus protection current and up to date. Feel free to use our free virus and spyware scanning tools in the Self Help area of our website.
To help protect your important data (such as photos, documents, or music), create and follow a consistent backup plan, using an external hard drive or online backup service. We have tips on backing up your data (link to http://www.geeksquad.com/do-it-yourself/tech-tip/tips-for-backing-up-your-data.aspx), creating good passwords (http://www.geeksquad.com/do-it-yourself/tech-tip/keys-to-a-secure-password.aspx) and protecting your computer against spyware (http://www.geeksquad.com/do-it-yourself/tech-tip/how-to-protect-against-spyware.aspx) in the Tech Tools area of our site.
As always, Geek Squad Agents are ready to help you with any questions you have about your technology. Visit our web site (www.geeksquad.com) or give us a call at 1-800-433-5778.
Agent Derek has been removing techno-stress from the lives of his Geek Squad clients since 2005. When not providing remote help as an Online Support Agent, he likes to take to the road on a vintage motorcycle for adventures through Ohio country highways.
On Monday, July 9th, thousands of internet users could find themselves without internet when the FBI finally shuts down the DNS-Changer malware.
For months, a group of cyber criminals have been infecting hundreds of thousands of computers with “DNS-Changer,” which redirects your internet traffic to “fake” versions of websites. Thankfully, this ring of criminals was taken down in an FBI sting operation called “Operation Ghost Click,” and since then, the FBI has been redirecting infected computers through special government servers to keep them online.
But on Monday, all that changes when the FBI pulls the plug. If you’re infected with DNS-Changer, you could lose your internet access. The good news is that the Geek Squad is here to help you out. To find out if your PC may have been infected by the DNS changer malware, try one of the following:
Agent William G. has been an Agent with Geek Squad since 2004. If he’s not working on computers remotely, or contributing to the Geek Squad Intelligence Blog, he can be seen skateboarding the sidewalks in the city of Atlanta.
So what happens when a non-Windows OS gains traction? Well, the inevitable happens – and people using such systems without malware protection face a nasty wake-up call (yes, even systems with fruit-based logos adorning the front). Today’s example? Mac Defender.
Mac Defender first appeared in May 2011 as a browser pop-up screen, stating that the computer is infected – and that Mac Defender can remove the infections. The truth? It’s actually a false antivirus application with a built-in malware payload. It demands payment to work, so once users enter their credit card number… BAM! (They’ve got you.)
Malware like this is nothing new. Malware is constantly evolving, as hackers find new ways to wreak havoc on your computer, or to obtain your confidential information. And once you’ve been infected, removal can be complicated – often requiring Geek Squad Agents (or other experts) to get it cleaned up.
To protect yourself from malware, all computer users should follow these tips to help them stay safe:
- Update your operating system often. People avoid updates because they seem like a hassle. System updates include fixes to vulnerabilities often exploited by malware. Updates are your first line of defense against infections.
- Don’t download suspicious-looking programs. If it looks suspicious, it probably is so avoid it! Only download programs and updates that you are familiar with, and then only from official (safe) resources.
- Email attachments and links: be cautious. Most people know better than to open attachments or links in email from unidentified sources. It’s common for many malware applications to harvest email address books on infected computers and send out copies of the infection on your behalf to your family and friends. Got an attachment from a friend or family member? Give them a call to verify whether they actually sent anything. When in doubt, toss it out – no matter how tempting it is to open.
- Beware of pop-ups. Like Mac Defender, these pop-ups may look like legitimate warning messages from your operating system. They try to trick you into purchasing, downloading or installing some sort of application that can infect your computer. Clicking on them often loads malware onto your computer, and can lead to all sorts of headaches. Get to know what to look for to close pop-ups (tiny “X” or red dot for closing the window in the upper corner), and NEVER click anywhere else within it.
- Avoid giving out personal or financial information. If you are prompted to provide credit card information and you are uncomfortable with where you are submitting it, walk away. (Only provide credit card information to authorized sources that you trust.)
- Install protection software. To reduce threats to your computer, purchase and install protection software. Anti-virus software is a good start, and there are programs with internet security available that can help prevent hackers from getting into your computer and stealing your personal information.
- Scan your computer for viruses or malware – especially if your computer is sluggish. Quite often, Internet slowdowns and general slow operation of the entire computer can be one of the symptoms of an infection. When in doubt, scan the computer for a malware infection to determine if this is the cause.
Malware – regardless of who’s behind it or what operating system it runs on – is a fact of life for computer users. Yesterday, it was only Windows-based PCs. Today, it’s fruit-labeled ones. Tomorrow? (Hey Linux, I’m looking at you.) By following these simple tips and making sure your operating system is up to date, you can avoid most of the headaches that come with a malware infection.
Tell Me More: Ransomware is a type of malware that gives hackers access to your personal data. Once your computer is compromised, the hackers claim they will return your data once you send them money. Consumers unknowingly receive the virus from somewhere on the internet and it then encrypts your files and holds them hostage. With this particular form of ransomware, once the files are compromised consumers receive a ransom letter which appears on their desktop demanding $120 in order to receive their files back.
Should I Be Worried? We haven’t completed our investigation of this newest malware ransom issue; however, based on our initial research we have discovered the virus encrypts the computer’s original files, making any recovery efforts virtually impossible. Because of this, consumers should be extra careful about links they click on while surfing the internet.
What Do I Need to Do? Here’s what you should know about ransomware:
• If you have received the virus and the ransom note pops up on your desktop, consumers should immediately shutdown the computer. The malware is still infecting your computer and by shutting the system down, there is a chance you might be able to save some of the data that has not been corrupted yet.
• As a side note, please remember your data should always be backed up on a regular basis. If your files are saved, you can simply remove the virus from the compromised system and restore the data from your backup.
Geek Squad Final Word: As always, if you experience any undesired computer symptoms, seek help from a computer professional as soon as possible.
For more information, check out the Geek Squad home page at www.geeksquad.com or contact your nearest Geek Squad Agent. Whether it’s online, via 1-800-GEEKSQUAD, or in any Best Buy store, we’re here to help 24/7/365!
Nothing is substitute for getting an expert to sit down and look at it for you, but perhaps this will bring into focus a few possible causes for your computer acting lethargically.
1) Too many programs running at the same time. Over the lifespan of a computer it is common for users to download programs, applications, and other data that is running in the background. The more things that run in the background, the less “attention span” your computer has to do other things you are asking it to do.
Try to avoid downloading too many web browser-helpers like internet-search bars, programs that claim to “speed up” your internet or your computer, or multiple anti-malware programs. One or two may be fine, but too many will result in slow performance. Uninstall programs that you do not use that you see icons for in the lower right-hand corner of your screen, down by the clock. Once this is trimmed up you may notice a speed improvement.
2) Not enough free RAM. “RAM” is what your computer uses for temporary working and thinking space. The more you have the merrier your computer can be! If you look back to reason 1 in this article and have determined you need all those programs running, perhaps your computer doesn’t have enough RAM to do so. The hard drive inside your computer may make a lot of noise, accompanied by slow operation, if you are out of RAM.
RAM is a piece of hardware that can be added to your machine. Four gigabytes or more is recommended in newer computers, but the rule of thumb is to add as much as is affordable for you.
3) Virus/Malware infection. Quite often virus or malware programs running in the background can divert your computer’s attention away from what you want it to do. Internet slowdowns and general slow operation of the entire computer can be one of the symptoms of an infection. You should have the computer scanned for a malware infection to determine if this is the cause.
4) Low hard drive space. This generally applies to older computers. Hard drives, which store all of your computer’s information, only have a finite amount of space. Once filled up the computer no longer has the ability to manipulate your files. The computer will slow down, eventually becoming unusable.
Generally windows will alert you to “low disk space” if this is the case. Moving some of your less-used files such as pictures, music, and movies to an external hard drive would be a viable solution to regaining hard drive space. You can usually install a bigger hard drive as well. Deleting temporary files and performing a disk cleanup are also good ways to reclaim wasted space.
5) Due for a restart. Computer has not been restarted in…um, I don’t know how long? Yes, every once in a while it is a good idea to restart your computer. Some updates cannot be completed until you restart. In addition, restarting your computer can free up some resources that could be getting hogged up by buggy programs.
6) Sharing a wireless network. “My internet is slow but the computer is running fast!” There are many possible reasons this can be happening. Should you have a wireless network check to see if anyone else on your wireless is streaming video, downloading music, or playing online games. You should also make sure your wireless network is secure so someone else isn’t stealing your internet bandwidth. Wireless network security should be at the top of your important things to check.
7) Too many bells and whistles. Sure, that animated pointer and super hi resolution image of your favorite supercar look nice, but unfortunately these can also slow your computer down. These animations and images must be loaded into memory every time you start your PC which leaves less memory for other more important tasks.
8 ) Scanning programs running. Check to make sure your antivirus program, anti-spyware program, or automatic backup program is not the reason for the slowdown. If it is, I suggest you wait it out. Usually this type of activity is a necessity. Manufacturers of these types of software try to make everyday operations unobtrusive to you. There are times, however, when an update must be done or scanning must take place. Your computer will be a little slow to respond to you when this is happening.
I also find it is not necessary to scan your entire computer every single day for viruses and spyware. Once per week should be fine. The same applies for data backups. A complete system backup doesn’t need to run every single day for the average home user.
9) Not meeting software requirements. Software usually has a list of requirements on the box. Things such as processor speed, operating system, memory (RAM), hard drive space, and minimum video card requirements are usually printed somewhere on the box. Please note that this says minimum “requirements.” These specifications are the absolute minimum to make the software run. Run it will, run well it may not. Try and meet or surpass the system “recommendations” of your software, not the bare “requirements.”
10) A “fragmented” hard drive. This is becoming less of an issue with newer computers, but if you have an older PC it is worth a mention. Perhaps your hard drive needs a “defrag.”
Imagine a jigsaw puzzle. Computers like to store pieces of a file together, like a completed puzzle. Over time, with normal use these pieces can get scattered all over the hard drive; Similar to when your puzzle first came out of the box. The computer has to look to find all the pieces before it can access the file. This is not a problem if only a few files are fragmented. Once multiplied over several thousand files, however, we have a cumulative slowdown of your computer. Defragmenting your hard drive organizes all these pieces and puts them back together again.
“What is a rogue ad?” you ask? These types of internet advertisements try and trick you into purchasing, downloading, or installing some sort of application onto your computer that can do some pretty nasty damage to your PC. Think of it like the Trojan Horse. The ad tells you to ‘click here and make your computer faster’ or ‘you have Windows problems, click here to fix them.’ This sounds good until you realize that the payload of this promised application is really something that displays ads on your computer or redirects your web browser to objectionable sites.
As we mentioned previously, the Conficker worm made news headlines upon the discovery that the C variant of the worm would start seeking updates to its malicious instructions on April 1st. While the world feared the worst, the day came and went with little visible activity.
However, news is coming in that the worm has been spotted using its ability to pass new instructions from machine to machine in what’s called a “peer-to-peer network”. This allows new orders from the worm’s masters to be sent to a number of infected systems, and have those systems pass those orders on in a big, electronic version of the “telephone” game we played as kids. This helps the worm avoid both detection and avoid getting blocked from getting new orders directly by the good guys.
Geeks and sports don’t normally mix together. However, according to a recent USA Today’s Technology Live blog, sports fans and geeks alike are being targeted in a new SEO/malware scheme. Sports fans searching Google for “March Madness” related sites could have troubles ahead.
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