Cyber Threats are all around us
Back in the old days, scams were usually done face-to-face. You probably remember some of them, like the tricky three card monte game or those pesky used car salesmen. But let's be real, those interactions usually ended up being a total disaster. As time went on, video game consoles like the Gameboy and Atari were replaced by newer ones like Nintendo and Sega Genesis, and personal computers became more popular.
You might even remember feeling pretty cool when you got an email and heard that iconic sound of "You've Got Mail" accompanied by the loud, anxiety-inducing frequencies that could be felt to ones very soul called a modem. Life on the internet was pretty simple back then, until 2008 that is.
The Origin of the Microsoft Scam
I remember a client who came to the computer store I was working at back in October 2008. They were quite upset and told us about their experience with someone who claimed to be a 'Microsoft' Support Agent. They had given the agent access to their computer, but to their surprise, their entire savings account was wiped clean within minutes. Unfortunately, many more people came to us with the same story that resulted in the same outcome.
Despite the government's efforts to put a stop to these operations, more and more scammers kept showing up with better tactics and less risk of getting caught. According to Wiki, 85% of the geolocated IPs of confirmed scammers originate from India, 7% from the United States, and 3% from Costa Rica. It's sad that people with so much talent and experience in sales and tech choose to use it for bad purposes
How do these messages get on my computer?
One of the most common inquiries I receive is how I suddenly received a warning from various entities such as Microsoft, FBI, and HP Printer Support, informing me that my device is infected with a virus and a 1-800 number to call. I have not engaged in any unusual activities or installed anything, so why am I being targeted?
Based on my observation, these warnings typically come from two main sources:
A. Infected websites that have been hacked by cybercriminals to generate fake infection popups.
B. Fake emails that appear to be from reputable sources, such as Amazon, Microsoft, a family member or friend, or a bank, that contain an attachment that will open their counterfeit popup website on your browser.
It's important to note that opening a masked email does not necessarily mean that you are infected with a virus. However, be cautious of attractive attachments with extensions such as .htm or .pdf that claim to be an invoice or payment receipt.
The sole purpose of this extension is to open a webpage with fake messages claiming that viruses have been detected on your computer. Additionally, it may display messages stating that hackers have obtained compromising photos of you and threaten to send them to your family and friends unless you send bitcoin to a specific address.
If you haven't opened a .exe file or a .doc/.xls and enabled Macros, then all the messages claiming that your computer is infected are fake. You will only become infected if you give them remote access to your computer by calling them or opening one of the extensions mentioned earlier. It's important to remember that none of the companies they claim to be from will ever request remote access to your computer through email or phone calls. Here's an example to help you understand better:
How to tell a Legitimate Email from a Fake?
Are you wondering how to tell if an email claiming to be from Microsoft or Amazon is legitimate or a scam? It's actually quite simple. For instance, I received an email from a hacker pretending to be Microsoft. But upon closer inspection, the "From" name and email address didn't match.
If it were truly from Microsoft, the domain would have been a simple @microsoft.com or @live.com. Also, big companies typically address you by your full name or include something that proves their legitimacy. If you're ever unsure, send us a screenshot of the email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll verify its authenticity for you.
How to ensure your safety
Protecting yourself from online threats is more than just using good antivirus software or a VPN. Awareness of scams and knowing how to spot them is the most important factor in keeping yourself safe. You can avoid falling for scams by being able to distinguish between what's real and what's fake, and knowing what to do if you become a victim. Malwarebytes Browser Guard filters out annoying ads and scams while blocking trackers that spy on you.
It's important to remember that anyone who asks for access to your computer, especially if it's through a warning alert, is likely a scammer. You should never install remote support software like Anydesk, Team Viewer, or Ultra VNC, as this could give them access to your computer. If you receive a scam email, forward it to the FTC at email@example.com and report the scammer to them.
In addition to being aware of scams, it's also important to have strong antivirus software that updates its database regularly. We've tested and tried several different types of software, including active and passive scanners, VPNs, and browser guards. While they all have their pros and cons, Malwarebytes is the only program that offers comprehensive protection without overtaxing your system.
Malwarebytes recently acquired the passive scanning software ADWCleaner, which makes a great addition to your protection arsenal. The Premium Edition of Malwarebytes offers real-time protection against online threats, including attachments that could harm your computer. It also includes a browser guard that protects you against hacked websites, and a VPN to add an additional layer of security.
Malwarebytes is compatible with all devices, including Windows, Macs, iPhones, iPads, Chromebooks, and Androids. Installing and activating the software takes only 2-4 minutes per device, and it runs on autopilot so you can install it and forget it.
When you choose to purchase Malwarebytes Premium by clicking on the banner link below, you're doing more than just protecting your device - you're also supporting our team's efforts to provide you with quality tech content that you can rely on. Our unbiased and transparent approach to reviews and recommendations ensures that you can trust us to always give you the best advice.
If you prefer to leave virus removal and cleanups to professionals, we're here to help. Our flat rate for all virus removal services is $150. We not only eliminate any threats from your computer, but we also conduct a thorough cleanup and tune-up service that significantly boosts your computer's current speed. Most computers come detuned, like a car, but we can enhance their performance by 30-50% with minor adjustments to graphics settings, virtual memory allocation, proper defragmentation, junk file removal, and manual startup removals. We'll also inform you of how you became infected and what you should do to avoid it in the future. You can choose in-store, onsite, or a secure remote session using an encrypted connection via TeamViewer Business while we discuss our findings over the phone. Alternatively, you can visit our store at 1875 South 14th ST Suite D on Amelia Island, Fl 32034. Stay safe and happy browsing!