The cold and flu season has yet to hit, but there is an outbreak among us spreading worse than a cold through a middle school. There is an old virus with a new name and it is looking for your computer.
Pop-ups are rampant and they are the type that won’t go away. Warnings of imminent danger abound. Click here or you’ll never see another e-mail. Buy this program or be doomed.
The fact is, those warnings are the virus. It goes under the name of Antivirus 2008 or 2009, mostly. I have also seen it called XP Antivirus. Just to be clear: Those are not real antivirus programs.
I have worked on an inordinate number of computers lately with this infection. The pop-ups appear genuine and just threatening enough to make you take notice. But once you click on them, they spread. There is no shutting them down. If you close one, another appears.
The warnings tell you of a specific number (in the thousands, usually) of infections and intimidate you to buy a product that in fact does not even exist. The pop-ups look so legitimate that they seem to come from Windows.
But Windows won’t tell you that you are infected; that’s not its job. Some have Google inform you. Wrong again. Your antivirus or spyware program will give you that information, and then only after it scans your system.
That’s not the worst news. These viruses are resistant to removal via the conventional method. To date, there is not a program on the market that will eradicate these infestations. They must be removed manually, which is a tedious job.
Once you scrutinize what is on screen, you may realize it is bogus. The name is a bit too generic. There is little or no information to be had about the program or the company (because neither exists).
I came across one instance of the virus where the warning box did not even have an “x: in the upper right-hand corner to shut it down. When there is an “x,” it doesn’t work. Even if you succeed at shutting one down by using Control + Alt + Delete, another will take its place.
The infestation needs to be removed, if you have one. If you don’t, you need to be ever-vigilant in watching how you compute. Get protection from viruses, spyware and adware. Be careful where you go and what you click on.
It is now easier than ever to spread things on the Internet. Malware can be attached to messages or embedded in photos. You can get them from rogue programs or unsecure Web sites.
In the past you had to open an attachment to an e-mail to get infected. Not so anymore. Many times you may never even discover where your infection came from. All you can do is be careful. If you get an invitation from someone on Facebook or MySpace that you don’t know, don’t click on it.
Antivirus 2008 may not be stoppable, but others are. Get a couple of good utilities and use them. These programs won’t work through osmosis. They take just minutes to set up.
Make sure you update the malware definitions on a regular basis, whether for viruses or ad or spyware. Then be sure to setup the scheduler in the program. Set it for a time when you’re not using the computer so it doesn’t slow you down.
I’ve had clients with infected computers who insisted they had protection. They did; they just didn’t bother to either update or even use them. Go to the settings area and be sure the update box is checked and that the scan is not set to manual.
If you don’t have protection, do a Google search. There are a bunch of good programs out there, many free. Also look around at download.com or majorgeeks.com. You might also consider a better firewall than the anemic one that comes with Windows. Consider one at pctools.com/firewall or another at personalfirewall.comodo.com, both good freebies.
A few things you could do to help discourage infections are to disable the file and printer sharing and not allow remote connections or invitations. They just make it easier for hackers to have access to your system. If you do need to share files, just set up a password to be more secure.
If you think the pop-ups from the utilities are annoying, deal with it. It’s nothing like what you’ll get from Antivirus 2008 when it strikes.
Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly. E-mail Arthur with your computer questions and ideas for future columns.