Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Beware of Census Scams

The Census is a prime opportunity for new scams intended to steal your identity.  So be on the lookout!

Census forms began going out in the mail on March 17, 2010 and folks should be getting the shortly (if you haven't already).  If you don't fill it out and mail it back, you will get a visit from government census takers sometime between April and August.

If you do get a visit from people claiming to be government census workers, be very cautious and don't assume they're who they say they are.  If you have the means to verify their identity, do so (by calling your local census office).

DO NOT fill in any forms (or give out) that ask you for your social security number or bank account info.  These are definitely fraudulent.

#1 in Identity Theft ProtectionCensus workers will NOT contact you via email either.  So ignore any emails you get claiming to be from the Census Beareau.

I'd also recommend NOT inviting any strangers (including those claiming to be  "government workers) into your home.  If you do get a legitimate visit from Census workers, step out side and close the door to answer their questions.  They don't need to be in your home and this just offers a bit of extra security in the event they're not who they say they are.

As always, just be aware and cautious when giving out personal information. Don't be a victim of a census scams!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How Run Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Most of my clients know that one of my favorite software programs is Malwarebytes Anti-Malware!  This program has helped me remove some of the top Malware and virus threats on their computers. As a result, I help all my clients download and install this program on their computers.  I've written much about about Malwarebytes Anti-Malware in previous posts, but I wanted to focus this post on showing folks how to update it and run the scans.

First, after you download and install Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, you'll see a red icon with a white "M" on your desktop (like that shown on the right.  You may or may not see the shield on top it.  To run the program, just double left-click the icon (Windows Vista and 7 may ask you to confirm that you want to open/run that program).  After the program opens, you'll see the screen below.

Don't be fooled by all the tabs you see.  The only two that you really need to pay attention to are the "Scanner" tab and the "Update" tab (circled in red). 

If you're using the free version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, you'll have to manually update the software and run the scan.  

So first thing you want to do after opening Malwarebytes,  is click  the UPDATE tab so you can update the software. 

Once on the update page, there are two pieces of information you'll want to pay attention to.  The first is the date of the last update.  Malwarebytes provides updates daily. And every time you update it, this date will change.  Knowing when you last updated the software and ran the scan is helpful.  

The next step is to click the "CHECK FOR UPDATES" button (you must be connected to the internet for this step).  Depending on when you last updated the software, it could take a few minutes to complete, and you may (or may not) need to reboot the computer to finish the update.  Sometimes Malwarebytes will need to close the application and then you'll have to reopen it.

Just be sure to always update the software before running the scan.  

After Malwarebytes has been updated, click the SCANNER tab to run the scan.

There are two types of scans you can run - Quick Scan or Full Scan.  Most of the time, the Quick Scan will suffice (especially if you're running scans regularly).  The only time I run the Full Scan is when I want to perform a deep thorough scan for maintenance purposes or when I suspect a problem.   

The Quick scan takes 15-30 minutes are on average and the full scan can take anywhere from 1-6 hours (depending on the size of your hard drive and how much data you have on it).  The good news is that you can do other things on the computer while the scan is running - although it may slow you down a bit.

After selecting the type of scan you want to run (Quick or Full), click the SCAN button to start the scan. 

While the scan is running, you'll notice that it shows "Objects Infected" followed by a number (which is zero at the start) on the screen.  If Malwarebytes finds any problems, "Objects Infected" will turn red and show a number.  You'll have to wait for the scan to complete before you can see what it found.  If Malwarebytes doesn't find anything, this number will remain "0".

If you look at the bottom of the window while the scan is running, you'll see two buttons:  "Purchase" (if you're running the free version) and "Exit".  If  Malwarebytes finds infections, these buttons will disappear after the scan completes and you'll see a new button labeled, "SHOW RESULTS" (you'll only see this button if infections are found).

If you see the "SHOW RESULTS" button after the scan completes, you'll want to click it. The next screen shows you in detail what infections were found and by default, all are checked.  To remove those infections, you'll want to click the REMOVE ALL button.  In most cases, you'll be told to reboot computer to complete the removal process. 

After you reboot computer, I would recommend running the scan again to make sure it comes out clean.  I have seen cases where a scan needed to be ran 2 or 3 times before all infections were removed.

I recommend updating and running Malwarebytes Anti-Malware at least weekly to help keep your computer clean of malware. 

How to Protect Your Computer From Malware

In addition to virus protection, it's important to protect your computer from Spyware, Adware, and Malware.  Some "internet security" and Antivirus software will protect you against some of the additional threats, but they may not catch them all.

For years I ran Stopzilla and  Lavasoft's Ad-aware on my personal computer from spyware and adware.  But since discovering, Malwarebytes Anti-malware, I now favor this program. I've written several posts about the biggest Malware threat (Windows Antivirus) nfecting many of my client's computers, and Malwarebytes Anti-malware is the ONLY program out there that's been able to completely remove it in most cases.  For that reason alone, I've become a HUGE fan of Malwarebytes.

Malwarebytes makes a free and paid version of their Anti-malware program.  I've been using the free version, which is fine for me, but it's takes some discipline on my part.  The biggest difference between the paid and free version is automation.  With the free version of Antimalware, I have to remember to update the software and run the scans myself.  The paid version will automate updates and scanning for you.  If you're one of those people who doesn't want to be bothered with managing the software yourself, then I'd highly recommend getting the paid version.

Regardless of which version you use of Malwarebytes Antimalware (paid or free), I highly recommend downloading and installing it on your computer.  And of course, don't forget to use it!  This is one program you really want to have on your computer BEFORE some of these problems find their way onto your computer because some malware programs will prevent you from installing it after they infect your computer.

Between Norton Internet Security and Malwarebytes Antimalware, my computer stays really clean of viruses, malware, spyware and adware.

To download and install Malwarebytes Antimalware, click here.

Symantec's Norton Internet Security 2010