DON’T BE AFRAID. BE AWARE! AND VERY CAUTIOUS!

RECENTLY, WHILE WORKING with clients, I have noticed a disturbing trend. The people responsible for infecting computers with malware are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach.

Here’s the problem I encountered this week:

A client felt that two of her browsers were “being consumed by goblins.” They would open sites she had not intended to visit along with other odd behavior. This started after she received a message that her computer was infected and she needed to call the 1-800 number provided. She did not call the number and closed the window. But strange activity continued.

When I opened the browser, I noticed two somewhat scary things. I was directed to a site which looked almost exactly like the Apple Support website. However, it prominently displayed a bogus 1-800 number at the top of the page. I knew it wasn’t the real Apple site simply because I have spent time on their site before.

At that point, I knew some type of malware was involved. My go-to anti-malware app is Malwarebytes. So, frankly without thinking, I typed Malwarebytes into Google in order to go to their site to download the app to my client’s computer. I was then directed to a site which identified itself as Malwarebytes but which was not authentic. However, it was a surprisingly close copy. I knew because I had been to that site before, too.

So, to make absolutely certain I had the correct Malwarebytes site, I went to my own website. At the bottom of every page I have safe links to important sites. And I have included a safe link to the Malwarebytes website.

We downloaded Malwarebytes and when we ran a scan of my client’s computer we uncovered multiple types of malware which had been deposited without her knowledge. We then deleted these and now everything is running smoothly.

So, the lessons learned:

1. Don’t rely on links to sites which are provided by third parties. This is especially true with email but is also true when you use a search engine like Google.

For example, a recent client was having difficulty setting up her Canon printer. She went to Google looking for help and one of the results directed her to a site with a number to call. She called and was told she had a virus and needed help getting rid of it. Luckily, she hung up and was able to connect to the real Canon support center.

2. Be skeptical ofeverything you run into online and in your email messages. It could save you a whole lot of grief.