malware

Could a repair shop install monitoring software on my computer?

Wallace from Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Episode 1325

Wallace took his computer into a repair shop, and now he's concerned that they could have put monitoring software on his computer. This is a legitimate concern, and often times it happens remotely with people calling that claim to be from Microsoft or something. If someone has physical access to the system, though, all bets are off. Taking a computer into a repair shop is an absolute act of trust. There's not much he could do about it, though, if he needed to bring it in. There's no certification process or national organization of computer techs, so he'd just have to trust them.

Why are the graphics on my PC getting large right before it crashes?

Dave from Canyon Lake, CA

Episode 1326

Dave upgraded to a Windows 10 Acer PC and his graphics are too large. Then it crashes, causing him to have to reboot. Leo says that's a common video driver issue. Leo says Dave needs to make sure he has the latest drivers from Acer. What Dave needs to do is figure out which video card he has, whether it's a dedicated video card or an integrated video card. He should look in the Device Manager to see the list of hardware. Then once he has that information, he should go to the Acer website and download the drivers. It could be via video card or machine model number.

Are third party download sites safe?

Mike from Fountain, CO

Episode 1325

Mike says that Carbonite has created a new service for an additional $10 for mirror imaging. It's a great value. Leo agrees. Being able to restore from an off site image can be beneficial no matter where he is.

Mike downloaded an app from Downloads.com and now he keeps getting other apps added. Leo says that's why he should never, ever download from a third party site because they always add other stuff. It's how they make money and Leo says it's akin to malware.

(Disclaimer: Carbonite is a sponsor)

What's a good antivirus for Windows 7?

David from Burbank, CA

Episode 1324

David is trying to find an antivirus for Windows 7. Leo says that Microsoft's own Security Essentials (or Defender, depending on the version) is sufficient, and it's free. The problem is that viruses are usually coming out so fast (called zero day exploits) that you can get infected before the AntiVirus finds it and removes it. Then the viruses are often attached to a system file and it renders the computer unusable. Even security experts put antivirus low on the list of things to do to prevent infection.

Can I make an image of my computer to wipe out malware?

David from Phoenix, AZ

Episode 1323

David wants to know how malware effects reinstalling apps. Leo says that once he strips off the malware, he'll have to reinstall his apps. The only way to be sure that he's eliminated the malware is to backup his data, wipe his drive and reinstall Windows. How about an image of the drive? As long as he has a clean image, he could use that. If his computer has malware when he makes the image, he'll just restore the malware. Leo would wipe the drive, reinstall everything, update it all, and then make an image.

Imaging options include:

Did I get scammed by malware?

Ellen from Santa Monica, CA

Episode 1322

Ellen feels like she got ripped off by Microsoft. She got a popup saying she had a virus and listened to it, then paid $250 for support. Leo says that wasn't microsoft. That was a bad guy. Leo says it was a browser popup and they use that to phish for gullible people to sign up. Microsoft will never, ever do that. It's even worse, though. They likely got remote access and not only do they have her credit card, they have also likely installed more malware on the computer. At this point, Ellen should call the credit card company, reverse the charge and have her card number changed.

What is a proxy?

Jay from Providence, NC

Episode 1322

Jay noticed in OS X El Capitan that there's something called "proxies." What is that? Leo says that unless he's using a proxy server, he should ignore it. If it has been set and he didn't know it, it could be a security software thing. Or perhaps a VPN. Proxies are used so that he can link another computer to get online, or use a different service. If it bothers him, he should just turn it off and see if it affects anything else. It could also be malware.

Why do I get a popup to open a file?

Tim from LaHabra, CA

Episode 1319

Tim has a message popping up that asks which app to open a file with. It happens automatically and he doesn't know what file it is. Leo says that's disconcerting. Leo suspects AdWare or worse! There's something on his system that is running in the background and the antivirus can't kill it. He'll have to figure out what the app is that's starting up. He'll have to expect that his system has been compromised, though, and the only real way to be sure he's gotten rid of the malware is to backup his data, wipe his hard drive, and reinstall Windows.

New Exploit Gives Governments the ability to hack into iPhone

Episode 1317

Remember the legal battle that Apple fought against the US Government to prevent unlocking of the iPhone's encryption? The US Gov't ended up going to a third party company who had created a hack to do it. Now that hack is being used to unlock and peer into the mobile phones of dissidents and other undesirable elements that the government wants to keep tabs on. Even reporters. Leo says that Apple has pushed out a fix to block it, and everyone should install iOS 9.5.3 to stop it. Otherwise, you're vulnerable.