It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a…. Superfish? What this is and how you might already be protected

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Humpback_Anglerfish_(Melanocetus_Johnsonii)

You may have heard of a trending topic called Superfish. No, it’s not some kind of giant squid or aquatic vigilante. In fact, it’s something with malicious potential that could live on your very hard-drive.

What is Superfish? Well, it’s a type of adware, the likes of which you have probably seen before: unwanted ads, additional pop-ups when browsing, or highlighted text that links you to online shopping results.

How is Superfish different? Superfish was recently discovered pre-loaded on some computers. Most adware is user-installed, inadvertently, when people visit sites and pick up “cookies” that track their shopping habits, etc. While normally harmless, and intended to enhance the online shopping experience, this particular adware has been found to have unfortunate, greater implications — ones that made users vulnerable to hacking. What was created as a partnership to enhance online shopping, in this case, unwittingly turned into a much larger security issue. Superfish had a back door that could allow hackers to access credentials, passwords, or any items they put into their browsers. If a Superfish-carrying computer is used over open-access portals, such as public WiFi, a user could be at risk. This exposure creates a potential security loophole.

Fortunately, Windows was quick to update its Windows Defender anti-malware program to detect and automatically remove the compromised adware. Computer manufacturers have also provided their own set of tools and source code to help others look for any issues that might have been missed.

At Everon, we routinely strip all of the computers we set up for any of our clients. We then reload the hard drives with only the software and systems our clients want and need — leaving out what they don’t. As a precaution, though, as soon as we became aware of the Superfish issue, we immediately assessed all of our Managed Customers’ computers. Because of our standard due diligence in doing set-ups, our customers could breathe-easy: we uncovered only one instance of Superfish, out of over a thousand Managed Customer computers. (We immediately removed the adware on the isolated machine, without the client having to do anything.)

But what if you’re not an Everon Managed Customer? How do you fix this problem?

Well, here is a step-by-step guide to removing Superfish from your computer. However, if you would just feel more comfortable, feel free to contact one of our Everon techs at 888-244-1748. Or contact us at [email protected] We’ll be happy to assist you.

 

Can my phone get a virus? Should I use an antivirus on my Android device?

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Hello to everyone reading this, and welcome to another “brain dump” of Tony! :) Today we are going to talk about viruses, malware, and Android devices — how they play together, and my thoughts on antivirus/anti-malware software. This is something quite a few people are curious about: “Can I get a virus on my phone? How would I know if I did have a virus or malware? How would I get rid of said infection? How do I protect myself going forward?”

I have wondered all this myself, honestly, and not until recently had I done research on it. Once I did the research, it really all made sense to me, so I am going to relay my findings, in my own words, and put it into perspective. Like anything else, technology is ever-advancing. With that, so are viruses and malware. When something new comes out, there is always someone breaking apart its code and creating infections that makes everyone’s lives that much harder. That will never change! Since I am a heavy Android user, that’s what I am going to talk about.

When it comes to viruses and malware on phones, is it possible? Yes, it is very possible and is becoming more and more common. When you think of a virus, you think of it in the sense of what you’d experience on a computer. While they have some things in common, they do differ a little bit in behavior. If you happen to get malware on your phone, it would more than likely be in the form of applications that look and act like legitimate apps — they might even look like ones you use on a daily basis. These are the targets, because if people think they’re on their normal apps, then they are more comfortable putting in their personal information. That’s really the sole purpose of malware: stealing information. Also, like Internet browsers on PCs, malware on your phone can come in the form of those pesky popups. And also page redirects. One moment you are browsing your favorite news website, and the next thing you know you are taken to a website trying to sell you something (or worse, an “adult” page).

How would I get this on my phone? That’s a good question. In most instances the Google Play store is the biggest culprit, as that is the easiest way to target most Android users. Google Play is not as regulated as one would think. The process of getting your self-made app into the market is not that extensive. If you have ever just browsed the app store, you can see there are a ton of apps and different versions of the same thing. When you are downloading free apps or purchasing apps, make sure they are from a company that you know, or from the company itself. For example, if you were going to download the Facebook app, make sure it is published by Facebook and not some 3rd party vendor. Beware, some of these apps to which you give permission to use your phone-resources can, in the end, cost you a fortune. They have the ability to do things such as sending out texts without you even knowing. They can send texts to certain numbers that cost more and can rack up a huge bill.

Now that that is out of the way, lets talk about prevention. Of course, the best prevention is always being cautious of what you are downloading and opening. This, ultimately, is best but can also be difficult (because when applications look and act like real apps it’s hard to tell the difference). Next, some people utilize and antivirus/anti-malware software. When it comes to using software like that, my suggestion would be to use a paid version and not a free version. Just as with programs on a PC, the free versions are limited and are lacking in the things that are most important. Also, when using such a program on your phone, be aware of the performance issues that you may face, as well. They tend to run frequently, which slows down your processing power, eats up your battery, and the notifications can become annoying.

In all of this, there are many options to help protect yourself, but the biggest tool you have is knowledge. And a company, such as Everon, to help educate you. If you have any questions about security on your devices, or have a question about an app before you download it, please feel free to reach out to us (888-244-1748 or [email protected]). We are always more than happy to help!

 

Five Things You Should Do to Clean Your Computer This Weekend

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Fall cleaning? Don’t forget your computer!

There’s no time like now to get in all that fall cleaning you want to do before the holiday season kicks in. So why leave your computer out of all the fun? I asked the techs at Everon what they would do to clean their own computers. Here are their top five responses:

1.      Run a virus and/or malware scan. If you don’t want to spend the time running both, pick one and do the other later. You can get good virus removal programs, like Avast, AVG, Symantec, or Malwarebytes, a malware removal program, for free. Each of these scans could take several hours. A good idea is to start the scan before you go to bed and let it run all night, while you sleep.

2.      Get rid of extra programs that you don’t need. A lot of times, when you download or install new software, you’re also saddled with extra programs you neither asked for nor need. Those can be a real memory-suck. Look for ones that redirect your browser. (Any extra toolbars on your Internet browser?) Now is a good time to uninstall these pieces of baggage. Also, bloatware – preinstalled software on a device – is another nuisance. Check out this blog, by James, for one way to get rid of it. This process should take around 30-45 minutes.

3.      Blow the dust or lint out of your system, especially the fans. This can be done with one of those handy cans of compressed air, available at just about any store that sells office supplies, or with an air compressor. If you haven’t done it in a while there will be a lot of dust, so you may want to take your computer outside. Remove the outer casing and blow away. (Note: do not use your breath! The moisture from your mouth can damage the microprocessor. Plus, if you get too close to all that dust you will probably sneeze.) Pay particular attention to getting those dust bunnies out of the fans. If they stay clogged up, your computer can overheat.

4.      Clean your keyboard. While you’re taking your computer outside to power-blow it, unplug and bring along your keyboard. Tilt it upside down, and blow it out, too. You will be both grossed out and amazed at what falls out of there. But all of that stuff can build up between the keys and make them stick or not work properly.

5.      Clean your screen, mouse, and keyboard (again). As long as we’re doing a proper cleaning, let’s do it right. You can get out the isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and cotton swabs, or you can just buy pre-moistened, disposable electronic wipes (my preference). Wipe down your computer screen and your mouse. Pay attention to the buildup on the mouse’s underside. Also, before you plug your keyboard back in, give the keys a good wipe down. These last three steps will take you 30 minutes or less.

There, all done. This entire process can take an hour or so (not including the scan that ran while you were asleep), but once done your computer will run more efficiently. You can add years on to the life of your machine with regular maintenance like this. Not to mention how good it feels to have a sparkly-clean desktop. ;)

Google Chrome Malware Cleaner

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Google Chrome has quickly become a top contender in wanting to be your internet browser of choice. With its speed, customizability, and ease of use, I thoroughly enjoy and recommend it to everyone. Unfortunately, when any application starts to gain attention and a user base it also gains the attention of malware developers.

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Browser malware can interrupt many things. It can hijack your searches to other search providers. It can add an incredible amount of ads and/or pop-ups. Or it can simply just slow things down to a crawl when browsing or opening/closing the application itself.

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That’s where the Google Chrome Software Removal Tool comes into play. It is available to download at https://www.google.com/chrome/srt/.

Downloading and running the tool will do a quick scan, which will check for anything suspicious, then request to clear caches and such.

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Very handy tool worth checking out, if Chrome is acting up for you. Only takes a few moments! 

The importance of updates

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You know those annoying popups that you see every so often telling you that there is updated software ready to be installed on your computer, the ones that you ignore time after time because you are in the middle of something else?

With very few exceptions, it is a good idea to install these updates.

For example, that Java exploit that has infected some 600,000 Macs last week (read about that virus here)? There’s an update for that.

Microsoft has Patch Tuesday, where updates to Windows, Office, and other Microsoft products are released on a regular schedule.

Smaller updates can be released to address specific problems, but larger updates are rolled into Service Packs that reach hundreds or thousands of megabytes in size, so the time spent downloading an update can be significant. Ignoring updates means that more will need to be downloaded when you finally get around to installing them making what could have been a few minute process into a half a day update.

As a network engineer servicing small businesses I’ve run into machines that haven’t been updated in months or even years, resulting in program crashes, compatibility issues, poor performance, increased vulnerability to viruses and/or malware, and lost productivity.

In addition to operating system updates, antivirus definitions, new versions of your favorite web browsers, and even firmware updates for Blu-ray players are all pushed out over the internet and should be installed periodically.

I mentioned a few exceptions before and here is what I mean: some software only works with certain versions of the operating system, or it may have compatibility issues. Your system administrator should be aware if any of these conditions apply to you, and should be testing your updates accordingly before they are pushed out to your organization.

Have questions about updating your software? Leave a comment or give us a call at 888-244-1748.