Sunday, February 8, 2015

It's not safe out there

Many people have asked me how to prevent being infected with a virus or spyware. My answer is that you should use a good anti virus program and perhaps a separate anti malware program (such as MalWareBytes). However, even the best anti virus program is no substitute for common sense and good surfing behavior. Unfortunately, to an inexperienced user, the bad guys come up with all manner of ways to try and trick you into visiting sites or downloading programs that are not in your best interest. It's important to look carefully at every thing you click on and, if you don't clearly understand what you're doing, STOP! Because most web site exist to make money, you've got to be extremely vigilant to not allow them to take an unfair advantage of you.

Most web sites in themselves are not dangerous. But, they often will sell ad space to other companies (this is how a lot of "free" sites make money). When these "banner" ads are sold and placed, the company that owns the web site may not spend a whole lot of time evaluating the content- Maybe they're too busy counting their money? As a result, questionable ads may appear even on what should be considered legitimate web sites. As an example, here is a banner ad that appeared on a well known web site on April 19, 2013. I know for a fact that this was not the result of another infection as this appeared on a computer that had just been re-built and this was the very first time it had been connected to the Internet
Notice the circled ad in the middle of the page. This looks like something you might need from the description and it looks vaguely familiar. In particular, notice the logo:
And see how similar it looks to the logo for Flash Player from Adobe:
It's important to remember that Adobe Flash Player is a legitimate program but Flash Video Downloader is NOT. The small (very small) text just below and to the right of this ad gives a clue with the phrase "GetSavin - About this ad". A Google search for GetSavin will bring up numerous pages as to how to get rid of this. An explanation as to what it ACTUALLY is:

If you are seeing in-text advertisements and pop-up ads from “Ads by GetSavin” within Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome, then your computer is infected with an adware program.
GetSavin is an adware program that is commonly bundled with other free programs that you download off of the Internet. Unfortunately, some free downloads do not adequately disclose that other software will also be installed and you may find that you have installed GetSavin without your knowledge.GetSavin is advertised as a program that will enhance your experience while viewing a video on YouTube. Though this may sound like a useful service, the GetSavin program can be intrusive and will display ads whether you want them to or not. 
The GetSavin adware infection is designed specifically to make money. It generates web traffic, collects sales leads for other dubious sites, and will display advertisements and sponsored links within your web browser.
GetSavin it’s technically not a virus, but it does exhibit plenty of malicious traits, such as rootkit capabilities to hook deep into the operating system, browser hijacking, and in general just interfering with the user experience. The industry generally refers to it as a “PUP,” or potentially unwanted program.
GetSavin is an ad-supported (users may see additional banner, search, pop-up, pop-under, interstitial and in-text link advertisements) cross web browser plugin for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome, and distributed through various monetization platforms during installation. GetSavin is typically added when you install another free software (video recording/streaming, download-managers or PDF creators) that had bundled into their installation this adware program. When you install these free programs, they will also install GetSavin as well. Some of the programs that are known to bundle GetSavin include “Youtube Downloader HD”, “Fast Free Converter”, “Video Media Player 1.1″ and “DVDX Player 3.2″.
When installed, GetSavin will display advertising banners on the webpages that you are visiting, stating that they are brought to you by “Ads by GetSavin”.
GetSavin may also display pop-up advertisements, in-text ads and and as you browse Internet, it will show coupons and other deals available on different websites.
The justification for the GetSavin Ads according to its author, is that it helps recover programming development cost and helps to hold down the cost for the user.
The problem is, this stuff gets installed without your knowledge. You may have given your permission to install it, but it's your permission without your informed consent.

Bottom line: if a web site like can have something like this, is there really any safe web site? There is no substitute for common sense. If you have the tiniest question about something being installed, don't do it. Instead, research the item and make 100% sure it's something you need.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Simple steps to troubleshoot your internet connection

Next time the internet is slow or non-working, try the following to isolate the problem:

1.            Click on the Start button and in the “Search Programs and Files” box, type CMD

2.            Right click on the CMD icon at the top of the menu and left click on “Run as administrator”.

3.            Answer Yes to the User Account Control dialog. This will then open a black DOS window.

4.            Type “ipconfig /all” and press the Enter key. Look through the information on the screen and find the following values and write them down (Your numbers may likely be different than what is shown in this example:
                IPv4 Address………………………………………………………….:
                Default Gateway………………………………………………………:
                DNS Servers…………………………………………………………..:

5.            Click in this window and at the blinking cursor, type (without the quotation marks)” ping” and press Enter. You should receive 4 replies. This is the numeric address of your computer.

6.            Next, type “ping” and press Enter. This is the internal address of your router. With each of these tests, you should receive 4 replies.

7.            Now, “ping” and press Enter. This is what is called a DNS server. This server MUST respond for you to be able to get to the internet. This is the computer that translates a name (like into numbers.

8.            Finally, “ping” and press Enter. This should return a series of replies as well.

If you don’t get a reply at any of these steps, that is where the problem most likely is. If you get replies from ALL of these, but still cannot get on the internet, then the problem is with your web browser and that will need to be addressed separately.
Here's an interesting article I came across a couple of years ago. Most of my customers are VERY reasonable, but I have had some occasions where I've received inappropriate calls.I once received a call at 6:00 am on a Sunday morning and the caller truly seemed puzzled as to why I wasn't more receptive to their request. Another person typically spends about $100 to $200 a year on support and feels this entitles him to call every couple of weeks "just to ask a quick question". I don't mind being helpful, but I'm a one-man shop and simply can't provide 24-7-365 support.

Ten reasons not to fix computers for free

Do you feel like a heel if you don't want to fix computer problems for friends and family? Here are some of the reasons you shouldn't feel guilty. 
Like most IT pros, I have had plenty of friends and family members ask me to fix their PCs. Although I have always tried to help people whenever I can, I have come to the realization that with a few exceptions it is a bad idea to fix people’s PCs for free.
Don’t get the wrong idea. There are some people that I truly don’t mind helping. I would never refuse to help my wife with a computer problem, nor would I cut off my mother. Unfortunately though, the majority of those that I have helped have abused the situation. As such, this article is a list of ten reasons why I don’t recommend fixing PCs for free.

1. Future problems are your fault

When a friend or family member asks you to fix their computer, they do so because they do not know enough to fix the problem themselves. Because the person typically does not understand the cause of or the solution to the problem, they probably also are not going to understand which problems are related and which are not. As a result, anything that happens to the computer after you touch it may be perceived to be your fault. All the computer’s owner knows is that the problem did not occur until after you worked on the computer.

2. People may not respect your time

Before I stopped fixing computers for friends and family, I had a big problem with people not respecting my time. Friends would call me at all hours of the day or night and expect me to drop whatever I was doing, drive to their house, and fix their computer right then.

3. Things sometimes go wrong

The third reason why I don’t recommend fixing people’s computers for free is because if you break it, you bought it. I have never personally run into a problem with this one, but I do know someone who brought a friend’s laptop home to fix, only to have his three year old daughter knock the laptop off the table and break it.

4. People don’t value things that are free

People seem to be conditioned to accept the idea that the best things in life are those that are the most expensive. This can be a problem when it comes to fixing people’s computers for free, because your advice might be perceived as carrying no more weight than anyone else’s.
To give you a more concrete example, there is someone in my family who constantly calls me with computer questions. I try to be nice and answer the questions, but often times this person does not like the answer. In those situations this person will tell me that my brother, my aunt, or somebody else in my family with absolutely no IT experience told them the opposite of what I am telling them. Inevitably, this person ends up ignoring my advice.

5. They expect free tech support for life

When you fix someone’s computer for free and you do a good job, you can become a victim of your own success. The next time that the person needs help, they will remember what a good job you did. In the future you may be asked to assist with everything from malware removal to operating system upgrades.

6. People adopt risky habits because they are getting free tech support

This one might be my biggest pet peeve related to helping friends with their computer problems. If a friend or family member assumes that you will always be there to bail them out when they have computer problems then they have no incentive try to prevent problems from happening. As such, they might adopt risky habits or even do some things that just do not make sense.
I will give you a couple of quick examples of this one. I have one friend whose teenage son infected his computer with all sorts of malware while trying to find free adult content on the Internet. The infection was so bad that it took me all weekend to fix. I suggested to my friend that he either keep his son off of his computer, or only allow him to access the Internet through a hardened sandboxed environment. A few days later my friend told me the infection was back. After asking him a few questions, I discovered that he had given his son the admin password so that he could “download something for school.”
The other example was that I once did a hard disk replacement for a family member. I won’t bore you with the details, but the hard disk replacement was anything but smooth. There were issues with everything from BIOS compatibility to the physical case design. After spending all evening working on it, I finally got everything working. By the time that I arrived home I had a message on my voice mail from the person whose computer I had just upgraded. She said that she had let her eight-year-old son disassemble the computer because she wanted him to learn about computers, but he couldn’t figure out how to put it back together.

7. It doesn’t end with computers

Another reason why I don’t recommend doing free computer repairs for friends or family is because the job might not end with computer repairs. Once the person figures out that you are good with electronics they may have you working on other things. For instance, I once helped a neighbor recover some data off of a failed hard disk. Two weeks later he had me on the roof helping to realign his satellite dish.

8. Things can snowball

Sometimes when you fix a friend’s computer for free, the expectations of free technical support can snowball into free support for everyone. I once fixed a computer for someone in my family. When I was done, the person told me that they have a friend who is also having problems and asked if I could look at that too.

9. Your service isn’t just free, it is costing you money

For instance, you are probably spending money on gas to drive to your friend’s house. You might also end up using supplies such as blank media or printer ink. I have even had friends who expect me to supply them with the software licenses.

10. Fixing computers is too much like work

The best reason of all for not fixing friend’s computers for free might be that doing so is too much like work. If you spend all day at work fixing computer problems, do you really want to deal with the same thing when you leave the office?
What is your policy on volunteering your tech skills for friends and family?