Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Are you paranoid that your computer might be infected with malware?

If you’re paranoid that your computer might be infected with malware you probably have good cause. The problem is there are so many businesses out there, both legitimate and not legitimate, who try to change your computer without you quite realising what they’re doing or why.

It could be as simple as installing Acrobat Reader where you end up with the Google Toolbar installed. Acrobat most likely makes money by bundling Google’s Toolbar, Google gets to monitor the sites you visit which helps them make money from advertising and you’re computer just gets another piece of software installed it doesn’t need. That’s a legitimate business tactic although one I wish they didn’t use.

Next you have the site which changes your default search engine as I’ve seen with Firefox users. The search engine looks like Google but it isn’t. The site creates a front end to Google’s search engine so it makes money if you click on ads. You’ve been tricked and you’re browser has been hijacked. Because Firefox makes most of its income from Google, unlike Internet Explorer, where it is easy to change the default search engine, the average user will have difficulty removing this search engine and my logs show quite a few people reaching my site have been infected or tricked. You might just be starting to think the world is conspiring against you.

Then you have the malware writers. It can be as simple as visiting an infected site and your computer is infected. One person I know had their mortgage offset account cleared out of thirteen thousand dollars.

If you have shared computers and your children frequently search the internet (who doesn’t) then you run the risk of your computer being infected and often you won’t know it has occurred. The problem is if you then do things which require a username, password or pin number, that information could be recorded and sent to others without you knowing. To be quite frank, I advise all my family not to use any computer other than mine to do internet banking because I can’t be sure their computers haven’t been infected. I know they have in the past.

As a result of talking with a concerned client, I decided to investigate and see if there was a way to boot a computer from a CD and provide the user with a secure environment. As it turned out I was able to locate software used by American soldiers whilst overseas and can now make that software available to clients at a relatively low cost. The only tricky aspect is getting your computer to boot from the CD when a CD is present. This is a standard feature of most computers but isn’t generally known by the average users. Unfortunately changing the setting can vary from machine to machine, but once set up it works like a dream.

I can see a number of possible uses.

1. You want to do your internet banking and want to make sure you start your computer and know that even if it is infected, you’re session is secure. That’s exactly what the software can do. It doesn’t require anything from your hard disk and doesn’t update your computer. Every time you start the computer using the CD everything is clean.

2. Your children have infected your computer as a result of surfing the internet and that cost you a bucket of money to fix and you’d prefer not to go through that again. When your children want to surf the internet get them to boot their computer using the CD and they can surf the internet to their heart’s desire and even if they do comes across malware, only the current session is affected and once the computer is restarted the malware will be gone.

3. You own a business and don’t mind letting your staff surf the net or do their online banking during breaks but are concerned they could infect your computers, or worse, an infected computer clears out their bank account leaving you potentially liable. I’ve read this cost one business around $10,000 in legal fees. Give staff and CD and let them boot the computer. Your computer is safe and so are they.

4. You want to use a friend or relation’s computer whilst travelling to do internet banking. Yes. I’ve been there. The ANZ screwed up my automatic payments when I went overseas so I was forced to use a computer I didn’t know to make payments and it was really stressful. The secure boot CD would have given me peace of mind.

5. How many times have I had to fix a business computer after a staff member has worked on the weekend and brought in their child and the computer was used to occupy them. Yes. Very costly. Boot the computer with a secure boot disk and the computer can again be used to occupy children without concern or pressure they could do something wrong.

There are many uses for a secure boot disk. Clients are welcome to contact me if you’d like a secure boot disk. There is a small charge for the disk ($9.95 plus postage if required) but if you need support to set up your computer so it can boot from the CD, there would also be a small charge for the time involved.

For me this is a great opportunity for clients to minimise the risk associated with the internet. Nearly all malware infections now come from the internet. If you use a secure boot disk when accessing the internet the chances of infecting your computer are greatly reduced.

Kelvin Eldridge


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