Security and Privacy

Malware, viruses, hacks, and anything else that may compromise your identity online, computer, or digital device.

How do I get rid of Search Conduit?

Brian from Fountain Valley, CA

Episode 1074

Brian downloaded DropBox from Download.com and now he's stuck with Search Conduit. This is adware, and it's not technically malware. Leo believes that it is, though, because even though it asks the user to install, it isn't very clear. Leo says he wishes CNet/CBS Interactive would stop doing this with wrappers that install adware. Search Conduit even schedules itself in Windows to reinstall after it's removed. The fact that Brian has other symptoms in addition to this makes it sound like Brian has more malware as well.

'Heartbleed' Flaw in OpenSSL Exposes Passwords on Many Popular Websites

Episode 1074

OpenSSL is a widely used protocol for providing secure internet traffic. The "Heartbleed" bug takes advantage of a hole in OpenSSL to peer into the memory of SSL servers. It can allow a hacker to ping 64K of random memory repeatedly, thereby allowing them to glean usernames and passwords, and even fake a server certificate.

How can I get rid of the FBI virus?

Marie from Whittier, CA

Episode 1073

Marie got the FBI Virus Scam popup that has locked up her computer. Leo says it's highly customizable by the hacker who sends it out and in Marie's case, it demands she call to address the issue. So Leo thinks that it may be an offshoot of the cyrpto locker virus. Or just a malicious website. Regardless, her system has been compromised. The only real way to handle it is to backup her data, wipe the drive and reinstall Windows from a known, good source. She can also run the system restore discs, then update the OS completely.

Security Bug Found in Encryption Used in Most Websites

Episode 1073

The OpenSSL Library, a security function used in most encrypted websites, has been discovered to have a bug which the NSA has been using to spy on users in 2/3rds of the websites on the internet. It is able to read the memory of the webserver and leaves no trace. It's been there for about two years. Bad guys can use it to co-opt a site's certificate for "man in the middle" attacks.

How can I run as a "Standard User" in Windows without losing my current account settings?

Episode 1072

Sam from Sherman Oaks, CA
Windows 8 UAC permission

Sam is worried that his Windows computer is running as an administrator. Leo suggests creating a second administrator account that he won't use. Then downgrade his regular account to standard user. He could make them look completely different to tell them apart. Then if he needs to install something, it will ask him to log in as an administrator. Any software that needs him to run as an admin, he can just right click on it, select the "run as admin" option and type in his password. This will protect him from over 90% of all malware trying to get on his system.

How can I get rid of a redirect virus?

Lloyd from Huntington Beach, CA

Episode 1071

Lloyd got a redirect virus. Leo says these days there really isn't an easy way to get rid of a virus because not only is he infected by this virus, but there's usually other viruses that get invited as well. Once it's on the computer, it can be so deeply embedded that any attempt to remove it can disable the operating system. So at the end of the day, the only thing he can really do is back up his data, format the hard drive, and reinstall Windows from a known, good source. Then he should run all the available updates.

Can I get arrested for downloading music from BitTorrent?

Mario from El Paso, TX

Episode 1070

Mario downloads music and he wants to know if he'll get sued or arrested for it. Leo says that when he's sharing or downloading, law enforcement doesn't know who he actually is because it's all based on IP addresses. Both the recording industry (RIAA) and the movie industry (MPAA) often have phoney torrents in order to find out what IP addresses are downloading them. Then they have to find out who owns that IP address from the ISP.

Is an old version of Office safe to use?

Bob from Potsville, PA

Episode 1070

Bob has a very old version of Microsoft Office and he wants to know if it's safe to continue using. Leo says that this week, a "zero day flaw" was found in Microsoft Office through the RTF rendering engine, and hackers have been taking advantage of that. So if there's an update, update it. Leo also says not to use Internet Explorer. Use Google Chrome instead. He should turn off the feature that automatically launches an app when he goes to a website as well. If he's careful, he should be able to keep using his version of Office, though.