Friday, November 20, 2009

Cyber Security Hoax

This is my 200th posting. And it's not personal. Last night A neighbor called. She had a scary message on her screen warning her about computer viruses. I told her it was an ad or a virus and in either case not to click on it. My warning came too late. Not only had she clicked. She was in panic mode. And it was a virus. It disabled her McAfee Antivirus program.

McAfee does not provide free help when you get a virus. I have to ask what she paid them for. Is their software no more useful than locking your door? When you buy a lock for your door, that's a one-time purchase. When you buy antivirus software, that's an annual purchase. You update daily. You do everything you can and they don't do everything they can.

I tried the usual antivirus tricks. I looked for the programs that load in startup, using msconfig. I tried to uninstall with the control panel. I looked for registry entries with the word cyber in them (other than cyberlink, which is a good DVD program). I knew I needed help. This virus kept popping up with box after box with phony warnings, slowing down the computer, and grabbing the cursor, making it nearly impossible to get any work done.

I decided to buy PC Tools. They have a 30 day money back guarantee. Life is never easy. When I copied and pasted the multi-digit registration code from the email, the software insisted that I'd entered the wrong number. I emailed the company. They didn't email back. I poked around on their website. No phone numbers. But eventually I found a link for web chat.

The virus hated that. It gave me a blue screen of death. I rebooted. I went back to the chat. The chat disconnected before I could ask for help. I went back to the chat a 3rd time. I got in. I asked for a phone number. To my amazement, they gave me one. I got a live human who got the program working. Several PC Tools boxes popped up asking if I wanted to block unwanted activity. I clicked Yes. After the 3rd box, the scary messages from the phony Cyber Security program stopped appearing. PC Tools reported that it found 33 infections. I left it scanning. I'll be back this evening to check on it. I think the evil virus has been eradicated from my neighbor's computer.

Of course now she's cranky that between paying me fees and buying the software, she's paid half the cost of her computer. I can't win for winning.

So, two warnings:

1) if you see what looks like a cyber security warning on your screen, do NOT click on it. Go into your control panel. Click on the security icon. See what your computer's real cyber security screen looks like. At the moment, these hoax warnings do not even resemble it.

2) Consider the competition when you buy an antivirus program for your computer. Make sure which ever program you choose will give you support when you need it, without charging you extra.

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