It's that time of year again; I'm going to pin this thread during the month of January in case there's anyone out there that can find the information helpful, useful, or at least interesting :) . For more specific help, see the links in my signature block at the bottom. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!
“What does ‘Crackers for Christmas’ mean, you may ask, “and what does it have to do with my computer?
“Crackers is the correct term for what are commonly known as “Hackers. While a Hacker's primary intent is to gain access to computers to see if it can be done and to gain knowledge about them – and to possibly play some harmless pranks – a Cracker's (term from the old ‘safe cracking’ days?) primary intent is to gain access for malicious intent, i.e. installing various types of viruses, setting up adware and/or spyware, keystroke loggers, etc.
“Okay, so Crackers are bad for computers; how did my brand new computer – that I just hooked up – get so messed up already?
Crackers work overtime during the holiday season, starting around Thanksgiving, coming up with new ways to attack the new, unsuspecting, users that will be coming online soon – they know a new computer is most vulnerable the first time it comes online. Unfortunately, as with any new gift, the recipient is anxious to get their new computer set up and to start “surfing the Net as quickly as possible. But the Net, or Web, is a dangerous place to be without adequate protection; and seems to become more so with each passing year. Experts from major computer manufacturers agree that the holidays are a prime time for Crackers. Malware is so rampant that users can be attacked even if their first objective is to get updates for the security they already have. And inexperienced users are more likely to click on popup ads, which will usually lead to more pop-ups, and to give personal & financial information to spoofers. Spoofers set up dummy websites that mimic legitimate sites in an attempt to get unsuspecting users to provide their account information. Crackers can even hide malware in online greeting cards and in screensavers; temptations to even some of the more experienced users.
“Alright, so I was too excited and didn’t realize how bad it was, what could I have done to prevent it and what do I do now?
Take the time to make sure you’re new toy is as ready as it can be before your first journey onto the Net:
1.) A firewall is critical these days; a software firewall is a minimum requirement, a hardware firewall is much better, and a combination of both a software and hardware firewall is best. Having more than one software firewall, however, will not offer any additional protection, and will usually create problems.
2.) Antivirus protection has been highly recommended for years and most new computers will come with at least a trial version of an antivirus program. Make sure you replace it -- or pay for the full version -- before the trial period runs out.
3.) Get the latest updates (patches) for Windows (if using a PC) and your antivirus program. Instead of getting your first updates online, try downloading them from another computer you already have connected, a friend or neighbor, or even from work or school (make sure you’re allowed to do this first!). You can download them onto a floppy disk (less common these days), burn them onto a CD, or, the easiest and quickest way, onto a flash drive. You can also order a Windows Update CD free, directly from Microsoft (by phone or online).
4.) While you’re downloading, get SpywareBlaster and SpywareGaurd; both are free and will help protect your computer by putting a list of known “bad websites into the Restricted zone of your browser. Speaking of browsers, your PC will come with Internet Explorer (IE), and you will need to keep this as it is an integrated part of the Windows operating system, and it is necessary to obtain Windows Updates online. But for most browsing activities, other browsers are less prone to attacks; browsers such as Firefox and Opera are most frequently recommended, so you may wish to download an alternative browser as well.
5.) Don’t let children, who are usually even more liberal when it comes to giving out personal information, use the computer until it has been updated. Even then, children’s use while online should be closely monitored; as mentioned before, the Web is now a dangerous place.
6.) Once you are online, don’t click on any popup ads, and don’t click on the ‘X’ to close them; right-click on the ad, and choose Close. If you get any popups or emails requesting any personal information, or about any accounts you have, do not reply, no matter how legitimate it looks! If you think it may be real, contact the institution yourself (don’t use any numbers provided in the email or ad), and ask them if they requested this information. The answer will usually be “no.
“Well, now that I know what I should have done, what can I do now that my computer hardly runs?
Make sure you are protected from further infection by following the previous recommendations, and then get the ‘tools’ you need to cleanup and maintain your computer:
1.) Firewall, updated antivirus (AV) program, patches/updates for your operating system, and protection for your browser.
2.) Download these ‘tools’ to help cleanup your system (all of these have free versions available; investigate a bit to make sure you’re getting the latest version). Again, try to use a computer other then the infected one for downloading.
SpyBot - Search & Destroy
Install and run Ad-Aware and SpyBot on the contaminated computer to cleanup many of the problems.
Before running HijackThis, follow the recommendations found here:
Install HijackThis on the infected computer, but do not fix anything using HijackThis without the assistance of a knowledgeable tech. Run HijackThis, save the log, and post it in an online forum, such as DaniWeb (http://www.daniweb.com/), that reviews HijackThis logs.
Additional tools may be necessary to eradicate your particular infection, and will be recommended by the tech assisting you with your HijackThis log.
After your computer gets cleaned up, and now that you have adequate protection, you should be able to enjoy your online experience with relatively few problems. And if you do run into trouble, you now know what to do about it!