Virus and Virus Hoax Resources
Virus et canulards
When you're working on your home computer,
you are your own Help Desk.
These are some of the better resources I've found on the net when I think I may have caught a virus, or when someone sends me one of those "URGENT VIRUS ALERT" messages.
[By the way : If you do receive one of those URGENT messages, do check the "Virus Hoaxes" links below before forwarding the message to 250 people in your address book.]
What you'll find on this page:
(click to jump directly to a particular topic further down on the page you're reading now)
- Want to find out if you have a virus right now?
- what viruses are "out there" right now?
- Need an anti-virus program?
- Virus Hoaxes and Urban Legends
- General precautions against viruses and virus hoaxes
[short version: (1) enable Microsoft Windows Updates on your PC; (2) never open email attachments; (3) Be careful out there.]
- Internet Petitions, Shminternet Petitions. Stop now, please.
- is it just the Internet that's slow or what?
"Microsoft"anti-virus scam - January 8
As a rule, I don't highlight links to articles about spam, phishing, spoofing,
mass marketing and telemarketing fraud and all that skullduggery. However, the
article below by Ellen Roseman struck a chord with me because I've personally
had three calls in the past two months from people introducing themselves as
Microsoft employees with that exact same pitch.
Read on and heed...
Beware this anti-virus scam!
By Ellen Roseman
January 8, 2012
Its a consumer scam that reached epidemic proportions in Canada last year. You get a call from someone who says your computer is at risk of crashing because of a virus or malicious software. The caller may suggest he or she works for Microsoft and is aware of issues with your Windows operating system. You may be asked to open a program called Windows Events Viewer, whose contents are worrisome. They look like a long list of errors, some labelled critical. The caller offers to guide you through the steps to fixing it. The selling of fake anti-virus programs has gone viral in Canada. It accounts for 70 to 80 per cent of the frauds reported daily, says the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. The centre, formerly known as Phonebusters, is operated by the RCMP, the Ontario Provincial Police and the federal Competition Bureau.
[ Comments (35):
Moneyville (Toronto Star)
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
The CAFC is jointly managed by the RCMP, OPP and the Competition Bureau Canada and its mandate has expanded to include many versions of Mass Marketing Fraud (MMF) these frauds are essentially schemes that target many victims at the same time whether by telephone, facsimile, postal mail or the internet.
[ About the CAFC :
"the largest non profit anti trojan website on the planet, featuring removal information on over 1000 different trojans, plus heaps of freeware downloads and a free help forum"
If you want to find out if you have a virus or some other nasty stuff on your machine right now:
HouseCall - online virus scan-n-fix. I highly recommend HouseCall if you're worried about a virus on your home PC. When I caught the MTS virus back in November 2000 from a newsgroup posting, several people told me that the only workable solution was to reformat my hard drive. As a measure of last resort, I found a web page that gave precise instructions on removing this specific worm and fixing its damage. With nothing to lose, I blindly followed the instructions, which included a visit to HouseCall. Everything worked out well - I didn't have to reformat my hard drive. HouseCall is very impressive...
Panda ActiveScan - like HouseCall, only different.
SpyBot Search and Destroy
Free Online Virus and Security Check - from Symantec, makers of Norton Anti-virus
you know what processes (programs/services) are
running on your computer right now?
Free Process Information
Find the latest information about spyware, adware, trojans, viruses, system processes and common applications.
"a site dedicated to providing you with detailed information on the processes that are running on your computer"
- over 12,000 processes identified and described
If you just want to see what viruses are out there :
Virus Map - tracks the progression and status of the 10 major viruses
in the world, and it includes links to detailed information on every virus that's
out there. You can move your mouse over a continent to see what viruses are spreading
there in real time (ongoing updates), or click on the name of a virus to see detailed
information about it and how to repair any damage it might cause. The stats used
to generate the virus map come from HouseCall virus scan logs (see above).
NOTE: The link above will take you to the map on the TrendMicro website. Until recently, there was a copy of the map on this page; however, I removed it because some browsers have problems with the Java script used to generate the map.
- includes links to free tools, virus hoax info and much more...
Anti-Virus Resource Centre - Latest Virus Threats
An excellent starting place to search for viruses and virus hoaxes by name.
Need an anti-virus program?
Anti-Virus software --- FREE!
I use this one on my notebook. Works like a charm, but if it's on a notebook, you have to remember to start it up once in awhile so the AVG virus definitions can be updated...
Home Edition --- FREE!
This is the antivirus service that I use now on my main machine. (I use AVG on my second machine and my laptop.)
Free for non-commercial use, and just as good as the McAfees and the Symantecs, if you ask me...
"Avast (www.avast.com) In a world filled with high-priced subscription-based antivirus programs that bog down your PC while protecting it, Avast stands out. This program is one of the few free antivirus applications that do as good a job as any of the big boys. Avast includes more than seven different varieties of shields, safe-surfing tools and real-time virus protection for your OS, as well as for Outlook. Reader panelist John Van Dam says: Its uncomplicated and quite happy to run in the background without nagging me to allow it to update and install files. The program downloads and installs updates automatically, and Avast works with both Windows Vista and XP. Why pay?"
(PC World Magazine, July 2007)
The Free Site --- FREE!
AntiVir Personal Edition --- FREE!
Symantec (Norton Anti-Virus) ($) - I started with this on my main machine, but it slowed my system down to the point that I decided not to renew after the first year --- I went with BitDefender
BitDefender - this one cost me about half as much as the anti-virus products from McAfee and Symantec, and it worked as well. I'll resist the urge to say that I haven't had a virus since I started using this software, because that would be asking for it...
Virus Hoaxes and Urban Legends
Snopes.com is THE definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation. Use the search box at the top of the page to locate your item of interest, or browse the site by category.
This page compiles the 25 urban legends currently circulating most widely, as determined by frequency of access, user searches, reader e-mail, and media coverage.
The Threat Explorer is a comprehensive resource for daily, accurate and up-to-date information on the latest threats, risks and vulnerabilities.
Free Health Check (no download required) and free Online Scanner (requires the F-Secure Online Scanner add-on for your browser)
For General Hoaxes, Scams, Spam, Email Chain Letters, etc.
Truth or Fiction
Don't Spread that Hoax
precautions against viruses and virus hoaxes
[short version: (1) enable Microsoft Windows Updates on your PC; (2) never open email attachments; (3) Be careful out there]
If you use a Mac or Linux, the following doesn't apply to you.
Check to see if Microsoft Windows
Update is set to work automatically on your machine:
[ Windows Update is a free service of Microsoft that distributes patches and fixes for their operating systems to protect them against malware, spyware, etc. ]
* Protect your PC by installing software to guard against viruses, spam, hackers and antispyware.
* If you find out that you didn't have Windows Update enabled on your machine, do a Windows update right away to get caught up re. system patches, etc. and then set the updater to work automatically from now on.
* If you don't want to give Microsoft
that much control over your machine, you can continue to update Windows manually
week or two. However, if you don't update your Windows operating system, your PC will be more vulnerable to exploitation by malware and spyware that can exploit and take control of your machine.
[Face it - you're now part of the Microsoft Empire, and you'd better stick with them (and their Windows Updates) for your own good.]
* NEVER open an email or Instant Messaging (IM) attachment unless it comes from a trusted source and you are expecting the attachment.
* For users of Windows XP and Windows
Vista: if you're not sure whether you have Anti-Virus, Firewall and Anti-Spyware
software installed on your computer, use this free service:
(Works only in Internet Explorer versions 6 and 7)
* Use web-based email programs (Rogers/Yahoo, Gmail, Sympatico, etc.) as your main email account; they scan all incoming AND outgoing mail for bad things.
NEVER click on Web links sent by someone you don't know. It's quite simple to
disguise a hypertext link so it looks totally harmless; you *think* you're clicking
the link to a friendly site, but the actual hyperlink can be to any link of the
nasty person's choosing, including a site that starts doing bad things to your
computer as soon as you click on the link.
TIP : to check any textual hyperlink, just move your cursor over the hyperlink without clicking your mouse. The web page address or URL ("Uniform Resource Locator") that's behind the link will appear on the status bar near the bottom of your browser. If you move your cursor down over the link below and look at your status bar (at the bottom of your browser), you'll see that the URL hidden in the link is to a different location - that's how a malicious webmaster can trick you into clicking on nasty links...
Apple Pie website
...and what's better than Mom's apple pie, eh?
* Keep security patches up to date for your computer's operating system.
* Avoid forwarding ANY virus alert message to others unless you can confirm with some certainty that the threat they describe is real. Go to Google.ca, and do a search using the word HOAX plus the subject line or some key words from the message itself.
* Re. "e-cards" : Since many of these malicious messages imitate notifications from legitimate e-card sites, recipients should get into the habit of never clicking on links contained within e-card notification e-mails. Instead, go directly to the web site of the card company, find the card pickup page within that site, and enter the ID code included in the e-mail. (If the message was a fake, the worst that will happen is that you won't get a card.)
* If you *must* send an alert out to everyone in your Address Book, ALWAYS remember [after you've deleted MY email address from your Address Book] to use blind copy (BCC). Otherwise, you're handing people's private email addresses around like Halloween candy, and there's plenty of software out there that harvests lists of active email addresses directly from those messages that we send out from our machines.
Petitions, Shminternet Petitions.
Please stop now.
I've had problems with the concept of online petitions from the very first one that I was asked to sign back in the late 1990s, because they offer a simplistic feel-good solution (for the signatories) that's easy to do. It's sometimes called "Slacktivism", and it's so easy that there's software out there now that can create the most authentic-looking collection of fake signatures and e-mail addresses for *any* petition. Lawmakers and judges know this, and they don't give much weight to such petitions...
In 2002-2003, the Internet conferred celebrity status upon Amina Lawal, a Nigerian woman sentenced to death under Sharia law for adultery. Like most people who are connected to the social justice movement in Canada, I received invitations to sign an online petition advocating for fairer treatment of Amina Lawal; I also received a number of requests to post the link to the Internet petition on my website and in my newsletter.
I decided to inform myself to help me make a more enlightened decision whether or not to post the Amina Lawal petition on my website. I exchanged e-mails with both Amnesty International Australia (the NGO that was spearheading the petition effort) and with BAOBAB, the Nigerian women's rights group that was defending Ms. Lawal. BAOBAB felt not only that the Internet petition would be ineffective, but that it could well inflame anti-Western sentiment among the Sharia judges and result in a worse outcome for the defendant than if there had been no intervention at all.
Needless to say, I didn't post a link to the petition. I also felt that it was worth documenting the whole course of events, and it was also worth including an article by Michele Landsberg of The Toronto Star stating flatly that Internet petitions are "a complete waste of time and cyberspace". I agree.
and Letter-Writing Campaigns - Yes or No?
The story of Amina Lawal
- includes links to the e-mail exchanges and related web content - read all about Amina Lawal here.
On a more general level, there are
many problems with the whole notion of Internet petitions in addition to fake
lists of signatories.
Here's one of the better overviews of the dangers of Internet petitions that I've seen recently:
[NOTE: this text is five years old, but every word is as true today as back then.]
"(...) Those truly committed to righting the wrongs of the world are encouraged to take pen in hand and craft actual letters to their congressmen or to whomever they deem are the appropriate people to contact about particular issues. Real letters (the kind that are written in a person's own words and sent through the regular mail) are accorded far more respect than form letters (let alone petitions), and that should be kept in mind by those intent upon being heard."
Snopes.com Urban Legends
[NOTE: Snopes.com is one of the best online sources if you want to check to see if something you received via e-mail is a hoax.]
text below is part of a message from "A contact in the RCMP" forwarded
to me by my uncle Rick in Bancroft:
[the "alleged" source (RCMP) is questionable, of course, but the techniques are very plausible...]
"Anytime you see an e-mail that says, "Sign this petition and forward this on to 10 (or 25, or all) of your friends, and you'll get good luck" or whatever, it has either an e-mail tracker program attached that tracks the cookies and e-mails of those folks you forward to, or the host sender is getting a copy each time it gets forwarded and then is able to get lists of "active" e-mails to use in spam e-mails, or sell to others that do."
Post Scriptum (Post Rantum):
Oh yeah - and the same goes
for those straight-from-the-heart expressions of True Friendship or religious
fervour, or awe and wonderment with respect to one of the Wonders of Nature.
No, I won't send these to everyone in my Address Book within the next 24 hours, for the reasons above AND because we all have different a different set of values and a different sense of humour.
The only time I reply to ANY email (joke, petition, expression of undying friendship, etc.) that's forwarded to me as part of a mailing list by a friend or relative is when there's an actual message to little old *me* somewhere in there. If you *must* send jokes and what-not, at least have the decency to put people's names in a BCC list so they're not exposed for all the world to see...
Maybe it's not a virus OR your computer --- maybe it's just just the Internet itself that's slow.
Internet Traffic Report - Real-time monitoring of Internet traffic around the world
How to Search for a Word or Expression on a Single Web Page
Open any web page in your browser, then hold down the Control ("Ctrl") key on your keyboard and type the letter F to open a "Find" window. Type or paste in a key word or expression and hit Enter - your browser will go directly to the first occurrence of that word (or those exact words, as the case may be). To continue searching using the same keyword(s) throughout the rest of the page, keep clicking on the FIND NEXT button.
Try it. It's a great time-saver!