Should This Be My Last Post???
Those who know me know that I repair computers for a living full-time. I am up to my neck with spyware infected computers on a daily basis. So what’s my point? My point is that I have first-hand insight into the problem PC user’s face everyday on the internet, and I am quickly losing faith in their chances to stay spyware free. It has gotten to the point that I don’t know if I want to waste my time anymore spinning my wheels about spyware prevention.
As for me, I am able to keep my computers clean with very little effort, so I know there is “some” hope, but as for my customers, 999 out of 1000 are NOT willing to change their bad internet habits, learn a few skills and do the work required to keep their computers clean. I’ll be candid with you about my fact-based opinions, but please don’t take offense, just view it as a wake-up call.
When I see a customer walk through the door with their computer, I already know what is wrong…they are infected! Sure I have to smile and ask them about what is wrong and comfort them as much as I can with a solution. But I also have to spend my valuable time listening to the same story over and over again. Some people know they are high-risk internet surfers and know it is their own fault and they just chalk it up as the price of their wayward internet ways. But others just want to grill me about how could they have gotten infected. They swear they didn’t download anything, they got Norton, and their computer is only a year old. They really have no clue and anything I might say to educate them rarely makes any sense to them and in the end, they will be back again because they won’t do what it takes to break the cycle.
First, their misunderstanding isn’t a matter of not knowing our tech lingo. I am actually known for coming up with good analogies that my customers can understand. But it is simply a matter of about $75-$100 bucks for some good security software, learning and using this software regularly, and learning and obeying some safe internet habits. Sadly, most people’s problems stem from not wanting to spend any more money on their computers than they have to at the moment. I get that, especially in this economy, but I will still try to educate them about what they need before they leave my shop, but they usually opt-out and decide to take their chances. Using “hope” protection isn’t a very good plan. Although some might opt-in to have some free trial software installed, most will never upgrade them to the full-paid versions. They’ll be back within a year, even months in some cases. Of the ones who come back, 99.99% of them never updated their security software, much less ran any scans.
So with all this first-hand insight, I believe that the cross-section of people I meet represent the rest of everybody out there. And if this is so, that the masses are not willing to do their part, why should I bother spinning my wheels for nothing. After all, having people getting viruses everyday provides me with a steady flow of customers. Actually, for every one that I get on board with my program, I probably get 5 referrals. But to me, cleaning spyware has its dark side and has become like emptying bedpans to me. The process starts with a smile, a little computer humor, and some positive thoughts about how I am helping my customer. But later on, I end up discovering the dark side of many of my customers after seeing their internet tracks. Please don’t confuse this with snooping into their data, but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t clean these areas of the computer.
Anyway, many people’s computer problems stem from visiting immoral websites. Imagine how I feel when they come to pick-up their computer and they ask me how to prevent this from happening again. Sometimes I have girlfriends with their boyfriends, or husbands with wives standing in front of me when picking up their computer, but now, I know something about one of them. Their personal life is none of my business, so I’ll be professional and discreet about it, but why should I be put in the middle of all this? My customers often wonder about the motives of the virus perpetrators, and I always say “money”! Some even jokingly say they think the computer shops and antivirus companies are the ones promoting the viruses and spyware. What I do know, is that part of the problem is supply and demand. As long as their is a demand for free, immoral and popular stuff, they will supply it to you, and supply it to you, and supply it to you (with a surprise). It’s easy with computers and the internet, and they make it very easy by wrapping up your order with some sort of malware. Anything bad comes with a consequence, so downloader beware! As for the money part, you might wonder how they got paid when you didn’t pay them anything. I won’t get into the details, but much of it is done either directly or indirectly through back-end advertising deals that take advantage of hijacked internet browsers, especially through Internet Explorer, which is why I primarily use Firefox.
Now I know that some of you innocently got infected, but to be candid about it again (here comes the tough love part), it was probably out of laziness or ignorance. Either way, it doesn’t matter, either you know what to do but won’t do it, or you don’t even know what to do. In the end, you aren’t using safe internet surfing habits, and also are either using no, expired or cheap security products. Just out of curiosity, I wonder how your cars run.
Anyway, here is a partial list of some tips, again…
- Use multiple layers of top-tier security products (antivirus, antispyware, firewall) and only one of each type
- Ensure your security products are updated with the latest definitions and don’t let them expire
- Use links scanners such as McAfee’s Free SiteAdvisor to get a clue if the site you are about to click on is known to be malicious or not. Don’t click with impunity!
- Use a Standard User Account (Vista, Windows 7) or a Limited Account (XP) instead of an Administrator account when surfing the internet.
- Use complicated passwords for your online accounts with combinations of both letters and numbers (maybe even symbols if allowed)
- Use an internet browser other than Internet Explorer for most of your surfing such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome.
- Only download programs from Web sites you trust. If you’re not sure whether to trust a program you are considering downloading, Do some homework and Google the name of the program, title or file name to see if anyone else has reported if it contains malware or not.
- Read all security warnings, EULA license agreements, and privacy statements provided with any software you download.
- Scan every file you download for viruses and spyware before opening it.
- Beware of automatic downloads such as active-x controls and plug-ins, do your homework!
- Beware of opening email attachments, even if they are from someone you know, scan them first for viruses and spyware.
- Use 2 email addresses, keep one very private, and the other for junk mail.
- Be sure you are on a secure site (https) when providing financial information.
- For sites you know the url to, type in the url manually, rather than clicking on links someone you don’t know provides via email or a website.
- Periodically keep up with the security news provided by your Bank’s website, Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Media sites you may use.
- Beware of Gambling, Adult, Freeware, Pirated Software, Free Music Downloading, Video and mp3 Converters, Codecs, Driver Programs, Registry Cleaners, or anything that is promoted through Pop-Ups. If you do download anything, be sure you understand all of the piggy-backed software that may be packaged with the primary program you are downloading.
- Beware of anything currently popular in the news, or about celebrities, music bands, etc. Anything popular is a very juicy medium to promote viruses.
- In my opinion, I would not believe about 99% of the Radio and TV Ads promoting the free online diagnostic scans that also promise to speed-up your computer. Do your homework first. They are almost all borderline scams. And of the few reputable one I see, they are not my top recommendations either because they are not user friendly and tend to slow your computer down. The same goes for most mainstream antivirus programs that may have come pre-installed on your computer as a trial as well as being sold in all the computer stores.
- Never click “Agree”, “OK” or “Cancel” to close a Window you suspect is part of a malicious program. Instead, click the red “x” in the corner of the Window (make sure the cursor is an “arrow” and not the “hand”) or press (Alt + F4) on your keyboard to close a Window. If a drive-by download starts, use Task Manager (Ctrl + Alt + Del) to end Internet Explorer or whichever browser you are using.
- Don’t stop learning, and share what you know with all computer users in your home or office.
An infected computer doesn’t mean it needs to be replaced, because it usually only takes labor to repair it if brought in soon enough. Using an infected computer and putting off repairs can indirectly result in hardware problems, mostly with the hard drive where your data is stored. Too many times though, I hear some customers say how their son, friend or daughter does what I do in the computer field but they are away at the moment. There are many specialties in the computer realm, so trust me when I say, unless they do spyware removal everyday, they don’t do what I do, and of the people who have decided to get into this field, most would not happen to have my previous background. I know talented high-level network engineers who couldn’t remove a virus to save their life. Anyway, the worst computers I see are the ones that the customer themselves, or one of these “friends” tried to fix. I know that the weak economy situation might make us opt for the free repair, but I check-in many computers every week that ended up costing more to fix because the original problem got compounded through the misguided efforts of an inexperienced technician, or by someone with no tech skills at all! For those that waited too long to fix their computer and just kept using it until they drove it into the ground, your bill will probably be doubled by having to also pay for parts on top of the labor.
But aside from the software problems people have, many hardware failures are the direct result of power problems, heat and dust. So I would tell you if I owned “your” computer (assuming it was a typical mass-produced, brand name computer), I would change the stock power-supply with a better, higher-wattage power supply, preferably with dual-fans. I would also use an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS), and I would clean the computer as needed, inside and out. I would also make sure it is positioned where it would get the best airflow so it could run as cool as possible.
So that’s it in a nutshell, it isn’t that hard. So even if you say you are computer illiterate right now, I shouldn’t have to hear you say you were still computer illiterate next year. Get onboard! You don’t have to become a tech, you can hire one when you need one, but you can learn the basics. The basics might just make the difference between pre-mature computer failure and being able to use your computer beyond its years when it might be considered obsolete (unless of course you buy a lemon). There are plenty of YouTube videos and other reputable websites out there to guide you for free, just beware any software you choose to use. But if you want to blaze past the agonizing decision of what brands to choose, you won’t have to look very far to figure out what I use (I recommend them all over this blog). I actually use what I recommend on a daily basis, so it isn’t about just about making a buck, they work!
So should this be my last blog post? Am I really helping anybody break the cycle, or do you just want a quick fix for the moment? In my realm, I know how to stop the sky from falling, so I shouldn’t have to sound like chicken little repeating myself all the time…Enough said…