Printers Spewing Ads Caused By The Milicenso Virus

Not to worry, they are already working on the fix for this one. 

If you have not updated your Virus program in a while, it’s a good time for a reminder.   Personally, I use Microsoft Security Essentials.  It’s free, it’s widely seen as one of the better ones, and you don’t have someone looming over your shoulder selling you something every so often like a subscription.

I haven’t gotten hit by a virus yet, although MS Security Essentials has caught them on a download.

Just consider this as a friendly reminder to take a look at your virus program and make sure it’s up to date.  If the date on the “Virus Signature” is more than a couple days old, you’re going to need to update it.  I saw a computer recently that stopped updating its virus signatures.  The fix for that was to uninstall their old virus scanner, and install a new one of their choice. 

This particular virus is really a trojan.  It serves up advertising and makes your printer waste paper printing out reams of ads.  If you’re at home, you will notice it faster than if you’re at work.   There you’ll have your “IT Guy” having a fit with the printer.

Kind of an amusing threat, if you’re not the person who has to do that sort of desktop support.

So if your printer is spewing paper, update your virus scanner and make sure that you run a full scan.

Which ever virus scanner you have.

If you are feeling particularly “Geeky” you can read the write up on this latest virus here at Symantec.

Facebook Worms and some small steps to protect yourself

This morning I was answering some messages from some folks that I know and care about in other parts of the country.  While doing this I was staring at my lap and wondering what sort of pseudo-intellectual blather I’d write about and it presented itself to me.

Facebook has some well known privacy flaws.   I have my own account’s privacy settings turned so tightly that the only thing you’d be able to tell about me is my picture, my name, and what city I live in.   I’ve given that much away here on this blog, and more. 

The problem is that most people sign on and think that it is this warm and fuzzy place to chat with friends near and far and everything is safe.  Links that people post to You Tube about dogs that make demented sounds like this one, links to NPR quizzes about whether you could pass the citizenship test (I got 100%), and links to this blog amongst others.  Those are safe. 

The question is how would you know if they are?

The answer to the question is that you never can be 100% certain.  There are people out there that get their “jollies” at causing others pain.  In the gaming world they’re called “griefers”.  In psychology there are many names for them, psychotics, sociopaths and deviants come to mind but I am sure you can find other names as well. 

There are some steps you can take though. 

First, I use Firefox.  Others use Internet Explorer which I personally find slow and lumbering.  Both of those browsers have a strip at the bottom of the window (caught you looking, didn’t I?) that is called a Status Bar.  The Status Bar is well named since it gives you information on what is happening to the browser at this moment.  See, it tells you about the status.  Well named, right?  Ok, I’ll tone down the chirpyness since I have only had one mug of coffee at this point this morning. 

You can check in Firefox to make sure it is turned on by these simple steps:

Click View, and the words “Status Bar” should have a check mark to the left of it.  
If not, click on it.

The Status bar will tell you when you hover over a link what that link points to.  It is up to you to look at that link and decide whether it is safe and that is a judgment call.   If the link is supposed to be to the rather excellent organization that will help deserving dogs and cats and other animals find a way out of a shelter to a forever home called Petfinder and you hover over the link you will see the following text in your status bar:

http://www.petfinder.com/index.html

It is a reasonable link.  However if you find a link to a Russian Site or to something that simply doesn’t fit – DO NOT CLICK!

Second you have to be informed.   This is not a “Gas and Go” culture.  This is a computer.  Yes, you can go your entire life and never get hit by one of the nasties out there, but people are looking for you.  The nasties could be as simple as being Rick Rolled and getting to see a video from Rick Astley here.

Go ahead, you can click on those two links and see a discussion on the phenomenon and internet meme as well as the song itself.

The idea is that forewarned is forearmed.   Why it is important to be informed is that this culture offers many benefits to those who are connected.   You can be anywhere in the world, connected on any sort of link or any sort of computer and order something from your favorite store, get a discount over the corner shop usually, and have it waiting for you when you get home from your Holiday in Ibiza if the trip is long enough.  You can transact banking business with your Tennessee based bank from the beach in Key West on your laptop.  This is all well and good, it makes business more efficient and lowers costs and creates savings that are supposed to be passed onto the consumer and usually aren’t but it also creates a problem.

The problem is that if you are a “gas and go” computer user you most likely already have a virus or a trojan.  If you have a trojan that reports back to the host your user name and password you have lost your banking security.  Imagine taking your ATM Bank Card and writing your PIN on it in ink so that it may be read.  That is what happens when your details are stolen online and they happen frequently.

A possible solution is to never use a computer for anything but banking and perhaps shopping at “valid” sites, but we’re back to that judgment call thing. 

I found another option.   On Facebook I “like”d Sophos.  Sophos has been reporting back to me virus information so I can be informed.  Now you can too.  This link is to their Facebook page.  If you are on Facebook, I suggest you add them and you will get a message or three a day.  I am sure there are others and as I find them I’ll add them too.  Their page is also open and visible to the outside world so if you check them periodically and do not have Facebook, you can be informed as one of the many sites that have this sort of information.

These sort of evils on Facebook are all browser based viruses.  You can get them on any modern browser, and the Facebook exploits actually change Facebook to add an application that you do not want so that it can spam everyone and get more widely spread.   If you are on Windows, you can go to http://safety.live.com  and run a free virus scan but I really recommend getting to Microsoft and installing Microsoft Security Essentials.  I did that when I worked as an IT Manager and since it is free to windows users, you don’t have to pay Mc Afee or anyone else and remain protected.

Since it is browser based, you can also get this on a Mac or Linux.  You are less likely to get them there for various reasons, but it is up to you to make sure that you don’t have the problem.  I don’t run either operating system as much as I could or should, and I have both, but they also get effected.

Good luck.  If you need help, my billable rate for this sort of thing is negotiable.

Virtually Safe Surfing

There are a lot of viruses out there on Windows.  If you are not using an anti virus program, you are probably harboring them as well as a trojan or two.

This isn’t a primer on how to get rid of viruses.  I have already gone down that road.   There’s a lot of different ways to clean a computer.   Most folks get frustrated that their machines have slowed to a crawl and go out and buy a new one.   If that’s you and you have a laptop that us under a year old in that state, feel free to send it to me… oh and get yourself a Mac, they don’t have the same numbers of viruses.  You won’t be quite as compatible, and the software is more expensive, but as long as you stay in the Mac Environment you will be much better off.   If you’re a casual user it frees you up from having to deal with all that virus crap.

On the other hand, if you’re a little bit technical, you should look into getting a virtual environment and running a computer in a sandbox.   That is how I am writing now.   I’m looking at Firefox running on a virtual Windows XP program that is running on Virtual PC 2007 that is running on Windows 7.

Got all that?

I have done all this so that I can stay away from Viruses and Google’s snoopy tendencies (They already know WAY too much about everyone and I’m moving away from Google’s software) and do everything I need to.  When I am done, I click the X box to close the entire environment, tell it no to “Save State” and its done.   All the snoopy things are gone.   There’s no connection to the main machine, there are no worries about viruses and illicit cookies, and I’m completely safe.

If you are really curious, and have an older Windows Machine that you want to save, you can create an image legally from your existing older machine (It is legal as long as you have retired the computer you image – like this one was), install free software like Virtual PC 2007 or VMWare Player, and you are good to go.   You just need to have an extra amount of memory over what you normally run on the computer.  

If I’ve lost you, find your favorite 16 year old geek and turn them loose on this and tell you what you want to get done.  Get the right software on the machine and you’re safe.

I’ve obviously glossed over everything here, this is basically a very high level executive summary.   But that is how to do it.   It works well.

Microsoft Windows Virus Protection for Casual PC Users

In view of the new Clampi virus that goes after your financial information, this seemed timely.   I hadn’t heard of it before I started on this post, but I did and went through the steps below, myself.
When I lived near family I’d go home and visit my Mom, and my Sister and my Nephew.   They were not the most technical people, but understood that there were uses for a home computer.   I got my nephew started when he was 2 with a PC, and he had one ever since.  Mom really didn’t see that she needed to learn although she was curious and my sister was an occasional user.
On the weekends I’d come home, after the long Honey-Do List I’d sit down and see if their PC, my nephew’s mainly, was still working.   This was back in the days before high speed internet was widely popular and they were still on a modem.   Every time I’d sit there, I’d hear “It’s not working right, do you know what’s wrong?”.   Sure, the virus protection was turned off, and after a scan there were sometimes hundreds of viruses.
That a teenager (then) would have viruses on the machine didn’t surprise me, and many people have them without noticing.   I personally run a copy of Symantec Antivirus on XP, don’t bother with anything on Linux or Mac OSX because I don’t do anything even slightly risky there.
I do have a backup plan and here is my recommendation.   For now and into the immediate future what I do is on Windows based PCs to surf via internet explorer, and this is about the only use I have for IE, the following link:
That link brings up Microsoft‘s free scanner.  It does not work unless you go there, answer the questions and start the scanner yourself.   Its best use is an occasional use where “something doesn’t feel right”.
Start the link, I’ll wait…
There’s a lot of text on that page, but if you page down to the button “Full Service Scan” and click it.
There may be a click through “Service Agreement” signing all sorts of legalese rights away, and a good lawyer could get them back, so page down and click “Accept” and a small window should pop up.   If it doesn’t, check your pop up blocker settings and allow the site to pop up.
Make sure that the following boxes are checked:
Comprehensive Scan
Virus Scan
Spyware Scan
All boxes under Performance and Network Scan should be checked.
Under “Comprehensive Scan” there is a link saying “Select Folders” or Customize.  This will allow you to set the scanner to look at drives other than your C Drive.   I’ve got two drives, so I can click there to turn it on to scan them, but if you are like 95% of the people, that link should be unneeded.
This being web software the links may change, so you’ll want to try this out if you’re unsure of your current scanner.   It is free, Microsoft tries to keep it up to date, and they intend to include this in the next operating system I’ve been told, called “Windows 7”.   For those of us out there who haven’t gotten Win 7 yet, and as of this writing, it is not yet out officially, this exercise is a great backup.
Oh by the way, you may want to do this and leave the machine up over night or while you’re at work.   It takes a couple hours for my machine to do a full scan.  It isn’t so much of a “resource hog” that you can’t do other things, but you then won’t have to babysit.  I have it running now as I sit in my Ikea Poang chair and bounce.
It took my system three hours to get to the point that it was through churning.   It came back with a window titled “Results”.   I didn’t have any viruses, thankfully.   But what I did here was to click the boxes that said “Defragment your hard discs” and clicked Next.
When you’re finished the scan, the final window asks you to “Let Windows OneCare take care of your PC”.  That is not necessary.   Click on the link that says “Not Yet, I’m not ready”.  
Now you have the Summary.   Click to clear the box next to “Share information with Microsoft”.  I don’t THINK so.   I personally share as little info as humanly possible.   Make sure that box is cleared, then click on the “Next” Button.
After the window refreshes, you may close that window and any other window you like.  You’re Done.
And so am I.   CYA!