Rent-To-Owns Use Computers to Spy on Customers.
4:39 pm edt
10/6/2012 - If you have previously rented a computer from a rent-to-own company, you need to
sure you are no longer being monitored by the rent to own company. .” Any location
tracking software that
remains active on a tablet, laptop or desktop system should be disclosed
to you. That’s right, you need to check
on this phenomena to ensure you are no longer being
monitored by software from DesignerWare.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced recently that seven rent-to-own (RTO)
settled with them in a spying case that has been ongoing since they first began
installing monitoring software between 2007 and 2009. The companies implicated are Aspen
Way Enterprises and Watershed Development
Corp., franchisees of Aaron’s; Showplace, Inc.,
which does business as Showplace Rent-to-Own; J.A.G. Rents,
LLC and Red Zone, Inc.,
franchisees of ColorTyme; and B. Stamper Enterprises, Inc., and C.A.L.M.
of Premier Rental Purchase.
All agreed to settle FTC complaints that they spied on their customers.The RTO stores used
software for “capturing
screenshots of confidential and personal information, logging customers
computer keystrokes, and in some cases
taking webcam pictures of people in their homes, all
without notice to, or consent from, the consumers.” In
addition, the pictures included people in
various states of undress as well as engaged in intimate and (full) sexual activities.The software
from DesignerWare called “PC Rental Agent” was designed to help the stores
track down rented computers
that weren’t returned as required by the contract or were stolen.
It also had a “kill switch”
that could render the computer inoperable, as well as a capability to
wipe the hard drives clean when a computer
was turned in and rented out again.
within PC Rental Agent was a package that was called “Detective Mode”. At the
request of an RTO store,
DesignerWare would remotely complete the Detective Mode
installation process on an individual computer and
activate ‘the Detective.’ Detective Mode
would surreptitiously log the computer user’s keystrokes,
capture screenshots, and take
pictures with the computer’s webcam and send the data to DesignerWare’s
DesignerWare nor the RTO stores who have used Detective Mode disclosed to computer users
were being monitored in this manner.
”The information captured by DesignWare software included, “couples engaged in sexual activity,
and confidential details about computer users, such as their passwords for access to
email accounts, social media
websites, and financial institutions. Other confidential information
was also captured, including medical records,
private emails to doctors, employment
applications containing Social Security numbers, bank and credit card statements,
discussions of defense strategies in a pending lawsuit.” It also captured photos of renters’ and
their families or friends personal activities.
RTO stores used Detective Mode to send renters “fake ‘software registration’
forms” in order
to deceive them into providing their contact and location information. The stores
also used a featured added by
DesignerWare in September 2011 to PC Rental Agent that
allowed the stores “to track the physical location
of rented computers via WiFi hotspot
locations.” The FTC said the stores wanted the information in order to
keep track of their
computers in case they were stolen, but it was also used to keep track of computer renters in
case the stores needed to collect debts or repossess the computers.
seven RTO stores and DesignWare agree to stop using monitoring software and using
deception to gather any
information from renters. They also agree to stop using geolocation
tracking without the consent of renters.
They also cannot use any information so far gathered
for debt collection purposes, and must delete all
information captured unless prohibited by court
order or some other legal prohibition (e.g., a lawsuit). The
FTC intends to monitor the agreement
for 20 years.If you have rented a laptop or any computer from a Rent-to-Own,
mentioned in this FTC investigation, you have a lawsuit based on the harm caused by
unwarranted invasion into your home and life and its capture and disclosure of
the private details of your
individual and family life (according to the FTC).
are the same circumstances that occurred when a Philadelphia suburban school district
spied on students and their
families through school-issued Apple laptops several years ago.
They eventually paid out $610,000 to settle two lawsuits.
Removing The DNS Changer Trojan
11:03 pm edt
07/08/12 - DNS Changer is a Trojan horse, which is commonly
disguised as a video codec and
is distributed in many other various forms. When it’s downloaded and installed,
changing the computers DNS addresses to Rove Digital domain name server and redirects all
to malicious websites, alters user searches, replaces ads. Nonetheless, it’s very
important for users to check
their PC’s if they’re not infected by this DNS Changer malware.
Although FBI took over those name servers
and the traffic from infected computers is redirected
to the real sites, you still shouldn’t be infected by a virus.
FBI won’t be providing this service
forever. Most likely, it will discontinue it on the 8th of March 2012. Then
the infected computers
will not be able to reach or find anything on the web, because all their traffic will be redirected
dead servers, or won’t be redirected at all. And the DNS Changer doesn’t come alone – it
other Trojans, like Trojan.Fakealert or Trojan.Generic. It even blocks your anti-virus
software and hides the security
updates, which leaves you open for new infections in the
So, how do we check if it’s on our computer?
The easiest way is to follow to one of three
websites, which checks your name servers and tells
you, if it’s on the rogue name servers list. You can find them
dns-ok.us (United States)
If you get a Red sign – your computer is probably infected with the DNS Changer
Green means you’re computer is looking up IP addresses correctly.
Another way is to visit FBI’s website, and enter your DNS name servers there
if you get a notification saying “Your IP corresponds to a known rogue DNS server” You’re
infected by DNS Changer.
The third way is to manually
check your DNS name servers and compare them to the table
Also you can check this document, it has useful information on how to check your DNS settings
and see if you’re
using the bad ones.
Finally, you can check your router. Compare your routers DNS servers to the servers on the
table above. If
you find one or several from infected range – DNS Changer most likely has
infected your PC.
User Guides on restoring DNS settings to default:
How to disable DNS Changers servers on Windows XP?
You should go to Start > Control
Panel > Network Connections and select your local network.
Then right-click Properties, then select Internet Protocol
Right-click again and select Properties.
Click Properties and select Obtain DNS server address automatically.
Then click OK to save the changes. That’s it! DNS Changer servers are disabled.
How to disable DNS Changers servers on Windows 7?
Go to Control Panel.
Network and Internet, then Network and Sharing Center, and click Change adapter settings.
Right-click Local Area Connection,
and click Properties.
Select the Networking tab. Select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) or Internet Protocol
Version 6 (TCP/IPv6) and then click Properties.
Click Advanced and select the DNS tab. Select Obtain DNS server address
click OK to save the changes. That’s it! DNS Changer servers are disabled.
How to defend your computer and remove the DNS Changer Trojan?
Check this page:
When you finish these guides, you can be sure that your computer is
using the right DNS
servers and is free from DNS Changer malware.
Data Recovery Virus
5:36 pm edt
070712 - Data Recovery virus is a fake PC optimization tool created to make you forget about
normal routine on
your computer. Even more, this malware does all it is capable to do in order
to earn some money for its creators –
as soon as it gets on the system, it tries to convince you
into believing that your hard drive has various errors and
that you must purchase its commercial
version in order to fix it. However, it doesn't really detect all these issues
it claims to have found.
All its errors reported are fake and the only real problem is the same Data Recovery virus.
Instead of keeping this fake PC defragmenter, remove Data Recovery from your computer. This
will help you to bring
your PC to normal. It is another alias for so called Data Recovery virus
which we call Smart Data Recovery or Smart Repair.
CAN I GET INFECTED WITH DATA RECOVERY?
Data Recovery gets into
a computer using backdoors, like software vulnerabilities and security
holes spotted on the system. Typically, all its
files are downloaded by trojans infiltrating the
system through those holes that additionally modify the Registry and
add new unwanted files on
some of the system directories. Of course, all these changes remain undetected by a user but
he definitely notices additional problems caused by Data Recover virus. This fake PC
defragmenter starts getting on
the nerves of its victim by displaying fake alerts and scanners
every time PC is rebooted. All these bogus alerts announce
about hard drive errors detected in
registry access is not allowed.
Registry defragmentation required
Hard Drive rotational speed decreased
Disk drive C:\ is unreadable.
System files are damaged.System is unstable.
The problem may cause
errors while loading operating system
Ram memory speed decreased significantly and may cause system failure.
Hard drive boot sector reading error
System blocks were not found
Error 0x00000024 - NTFS_FILE_SYSTEM
Error 0x00000078 - INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE
Error 0x0000002E - DATA_BUS_ERRORError 0x00000050 - PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA
The DRM attribute value is too small before disk scan
Hard Drive not found. Missing hard
We must warn you that you should never believe
in Data Recovery which is another fake
defragmenter spreading on the Internet. It does not detect any of its problems
displays only fake issues and errors. The only reason why it does that is trying to lure people
into buying its commercial version.
HOW TO REMOVE DATA RECOVERY
The main rule you need to remember is that you must ignore
all Data Recovery alerts and
scanners. In addition, you must contact your credit card company to dispute the charges
have purchased this fake PC defragmenter. Finally, we highly recommend you to remove Data
if you have spotted it on your machine. Try using our anti-spyware programs
SpyHunter and Spyware Doctor that will find and remove infected files for you. In addition, if
you can't launch any of thse scanners, reboot your infected machine to safe mode with
5:33 pm edt
070712 - FBI Moneypak is a ransomware infection that clearly shows how the bad guys are
skillfully improving their
techniques while trying to earn more money. This virus not only displays
misleading alerts looking like a legitimate
notification sent by the FBI but also locks the system
down so that you can't do anything about it. The main reason why
scammers have released
such a virus is really simple – they expect you to believe that you have been 'illegally
copyrighted content and now you have to pay a 'fine' through Moneypak service'. Of course, you
fall for FBI Moneypak virus because you will only support the online criminals in
How people get infected with FBI Moneypak?
intruder gets inside the system via trojan horses that come inside unnoticed
by a user and download all the files needed
for FBI Moneypak. In addition, FBI Moneypak locks
the system down and displays its pop-up message based on misleading
copyright and related rights law violation. In fact, it looks almost like a legitimate message
by FBI! However, you must keep in mind that this alert is completely deceitful and
wants only to mislead you into spending
your $100 to unlock the PC. Instead of that, you
should don't waste your time and remove FBI Moneypak from your computer
before it starts
additional activity on your computer.
can I remove FBI Moneypak?
First of all, read how you can avoid
getting infected with FBI Moneypak virus: security experts
recommend to ignore all the spam letters and never open attachments
that can be found inside
them. In addition, stop wasting your time with freeware because such programs may also come
together with viruses. Finally, always make sure you have reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware
so that they could help you to prevent such viruses like FBI Moneypak.
In order to remove this dangerous threat and unlock
your computer, it is highly recommended
that you use a reputable anti-malware program, such as Spyware
Doctor or one of the others
listed below. In addition, if you find yourself completely disabled, follow these
steps before you
run a full system scan wiith anti-malware:
- Take another machine and use it to download Spyware Doctor or
other reputable anti-malware program.
- Update the program and
put into the USB drive or simple CD.
- In the meanwhile, reboot
your infected machine to Safe Mode with command prompt and stick USB drive in it.
- Reboot computer infected with FBI ransomware once more and run a full system scan.
Removing Rival Gaming
6:49 am edt
06/16/2012 - Rival Gaming is a browser toolbar that typically
to such scams imbeds itself on the
IE, Firefox or other browser without any user’s approval asked. For unaware
PC owner, this
program is presented as gaming toolbar which promises to allow him navigate between the
any time. However, this is a potentially unwanted application that comes together with
other software from insecure websites
– it has been widely reported to spread bundled with it. In
addition, Rival Gaming toolbar makes itself comfortable
on the target PC and starts initiating
annoying activity which may result in identity or privacy theft.
As you can see, though it looks useful
this toolbar is potentially dangerous. You must know that
it may also install additional malware onto the compromised
machine and collect information
about the user, such as browsing habits, commercial data, passwords and other. Note that
must remove Rival Gaming toolbar but it’s almost impossible to uninstall it manually though the
Programs option. For that we recommend following these steps:
- Click arrow on the right of search box
- Do following
- On IE8-9 choose Manage Search providers
- On ie7 click change search defaults
- Remove Rival
Gaming from the list
On Firefox :
- Go to “about:config” settings and do following =>
- Type “Keyword.url” in the search box. Right click it & reset it.
- Type “browser.search.defaultengine” in the search box. Right click
it & reset it.
On Google Chrome:
- Click wench icon on browser toolbar
- Select Settings
- Select Basics ->Manage Search
- Remove Rival Gaming from list
Finally, we recommend scanning with Spyhunter to check if you haven’t been infected with moreRival Gaming is Extremely dangerous
malicious software. Besides,
you are highly advised to avoid visiting insecure domains that
spread scams like this one.
- Rival Gaming is a corrupt Anti-Spyware program
- Rival Gaming may spread
- Rival Gaming may display fake security messages
- Rival Gaming may install additional spyware
to your computer
- Rival Gaming may repair its files, spread or update by itself
- Rival Gaming violates
your privacy and compromises your security
Q. How do I avoid rogue antispyware and antivirus software?
A. Make sure you 'Choose Industry Certified "Security Program"
If your PC is connected to
the internet, uses e-mail, has software of an unknown
installed and comes into contact with recordable media (jump drives, dvd's,
cd's, etc) Antispyware and Antivirus protection is a requirement. They help prevent
attacks through e-mail (and/or attachments sent with e-mail) and surfing the web.
They also help you eradicate infections which are the result
of security holes and
bugs in software. (The e-mail, web surfing
and software holes and bugs result in
the most serious internet
way to know you're purchasing a trustworthy application is to confirm that
you choose has earned certification from the leading labs.
from ICSA Labs, Virus Bulletin, West Coast Labs, the National
of Specialist Computer Retailers, and others all require antispyware/
antivirus programs to meet stringent requirements to receive certification.
Smartphone and Tablet
Tips to create a safe passcode.
Smartphones and tablets open the
door to your Work, friends, family, bank details, etc... No matter which device you use, follow these tips to keep your data secure.
1. Always use a passcode. If someone gets hold of your device, the person has immediate access to your apps and
2. Make your passcode difficult to guess. Codes such as 1234 or 2580 can be cracked in seconds. Go for something that’s
unique but easy for you to remember.
3. Longer is stronger. The longer the passcode, the harder it is to crack. Make yours a minimum of six
4. Mix numbers and letters. If your device allows, use a passcode that combines numbers, letters and punctuation. Avoid dictionary words and
choose a memorable combination.
5. Make it unique. Don’t use the same passcode for anything else, including other devices,
bank cards or online accounts. That way, if one passcode gets hacked the rest stay secure.
6. Be discreet. Look around and make sure no one is watching you enter your passcode, just as
you would protect your PIN at the ATM machine.
Q. What steps need to be taken to secure
mobile devices (smartphones) for
personal/work phones and
A. Follow these steps to secure your mobile
1. Secure your device
Always lock it
b. Apply a complex passcode
c. Shield your passcode
d. Apply the latest patches
Prevent Malware Infections
Don't click on unsolicited links
b. Think before downloading apps
c. Don't "jailbreak" or "root" your mobile
Be data aware
Be careful what you share
b. Encrypt sensitive data
4. Stay compliant
a. Know and follow your organizations
Q. Do you have an example of an Organizational 'Mobile Device Security Policy'
A. Here is EZMobilePC's policy.
Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers, are important tools for the
organization and their use
is supported to achieve business goals.
However, mobile devices
also represent a significant risk to information security and
data security as, if the
appropriate security applications and procedures are not applied,
they can be a conduit for
unauthorized access to the organization’s data and IT
This can subsequently lead to data leakage and system infection.
EZMoblePC has a requirement to protect its information assets in order to safeguard
its customers, intellectual property and reputation. This document outlines a set of
practices and requirements for the safe use of mobile devices.
1. All mobile devices, whether owned by EZMoblePC or owned by employees, that have
access to corporate networks, data and systems, not including corporate IT-managed
laptops. This includes smartphones and
2. Exemptions: Where there is a business need to be exempted from this
(too costly, too complex, adversely impacting other business requirements) a risk
must be conducted being authorized by security management.
3. Policy - Technical Requirements
Devices must use the following Operating Systems: Android 2.2 or later,
iOS 4.x or later.
2. Devices must store all user-saved passwords in an encrypted password store.
3. Devices must be configured with a secure password that complies with EZMoblePC's
password policy. This password must not be the same as any other credentials used
within the organization.
With the exception of those devices managed by IT, devices are not allowed to be
connected directly to the internal corporate network.
3.1 User Requirements
Users must only load data essential to their role onto
their mobile device(s).
Users must report all lost or stolen devices to EZMoblePC
If a user suspects that unauthorized access to company
data has taken place
via a mobile device, they must report the incident in alignment
incident handling process.
4. Devices must not be “jailbroken”* or have any software/firmware installed
is designed to gain access to functionality not intended to be
exposed to the user.
Users must not load pirated software or illegal content
onto their devices.
Applications must only be installed from official platform-owner
Installation of code from un-trusted sources is forbidden.
If you are unsure if an
application is from an approved source contact EZMoblePC IT.
7. Devices must be kept up to date with manufacturer or network provided patches.
As a minimum patches should be checked for weekly
and applied at least once a month.
Devices must not be connected to a PC which does not
have up to date and enabled
anti-malware protection and which does not comply with corporate
Devices must be encrypted in line with EZMoblePC’s
Users may must be cautious about the merging of personal
and work email accounts on
their devices. They must take particular care
to ensure that company data is only sent
through the corporate email
system. If a user suspects that company data has been sent
from a personal email account, either in body text or as an attachment, they must notify
EZMoblePC IT immediately.
(If applicable to your organization) Users must not
use corporate workstations to backup
or synchronize device content such as media files, unless such content is required
legitimate business purposes.
*To jailbreak a mobile device is to remove the limitations imposed by the manufacturer.
This gives access to the operating system, thereby unlocking all its features and enabling
the installation of unauthorized software.
Q. What is the first thing I should
do when I turn on my computer.
A. Back up important files
If you follow these tips, you're more likely to be free of interference from
and spammers. But no system is completely secure. If you have important
files stored on your computer, copy them onto a removable disc or
drive, and store it in a safe place.
Q. How do I protect my password?
A. Protect your passwords
Keep your passwords in a secure place, and out of plain sight. Don't share them
on the Internet, over email, or on the phone. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP)
should never ask for your password. In addition, hackers
may try to figure out your
passwords to gain access to your computer. To make it tougher for
Use passwords that have at least eight characters and include numbers or symbols.
The longer the password,
the tougher it is to crack. A 12-character password is
stronger than one with eight characters.
Avoid common word: some hackers
use programs that can try every word in the
Don't use your personal information, your login name, or adjacent keys on the
keyboard as passwords.
Change your passwords regularly (at a minimum, every 90 days).
Don't use the same password for each online account you access.
Q. What steps need to be taken when
setting up Wireless Home Network Security.
1) Change Default Administrator Passwords (and Usernames)
Changing the default password is important because everyone
that purchases the same
Wireless access device, knows your password.
2) Turn on (Compatible) WPA / WEP Encryption
By default, your Wireless device comes
without the encryption enables. WPA / WEP are
security programs that forced your computer to provide
an encrypted password before
you are allowed access
to the wireless access point.
3) Change the Default SSID
SSID is the network name of your wireless network;
most people leave the default name,
such as, Linksys or NetGear. By changing the name, intruders have a more difficult time
identifying your system and use known vulnerabilities. (And
of course, use the unchanged
default password.) One
mistake people make is naming their home network their family
name and or address. When cruising a neighborhood of wireless devices, its always
scary to see Bobsnet444.
4) Disable SSID Broadcast
In Wi-Fi networking, the access point or router typically broadcasts
the network name
(SSID) over the air at
regular intervals. This feature was designed for businesses and
mobile hotspots where Wi-Fi clients may come and go. In the home, this feature is
it increases the likelihood an unwelcome neighbor or hacker will try
log in to your home network.
5) Assign Static IP Addresses to Devices
Most home networkers gravitate toward using dynamic IP addresses.
This means that
the IP Address, (the IP
Address is needed to participate on a network.) is typically
assigned automatically. A dynamic IP address on an unsecure system can also supply
a hacker with a IP Address.
6) Enable MAC Address Filtering
Each piece of Wi-Fi gear possesses a unique identifier called the "physical address"
or "MAC address." Access points and routers keep
track of the MAC addresses of all
devices that connect to them. Many such products offer the owner an option to key in the
MAC addresses of
their home equipment that restricts the network to only allow
connections from those devices. Do this, but also know that the feature is not so powerful
as it may seem. Hacker software programs
can fake MAC addresses easily.
7) Turn Off the Network During Extended Periods of Non-Use
The ultimate in security measures for any wireless network
is to shut down, or turn office
your wireless access point
when you are not using. You are the most vulnerable at work
or asleep, and mischief minded people know it.
8) Position the Router or Access Point Safely
Wi-Fi signals normally reach to the exterior of a home. A small amount
outdoors is not a problem,
but the further this signal reaches, the easier it is for others
to detect and exploit. Wi-Fi signals often reach across streets and through neighboring
homes. When installing a wireless home network, the position
of the access point or
router determines it's reach. Try to position these devices near the center of the home
rather than near windows to minimize
Q: What are the first security steps I should take before I connect my computer to the internet?
A: Practices Before You Connect a New Computer to the Internet
We advise home users to download and install software patches
as soon as possible after connecting a
new computer to the
Internet. However, since the background intruder scanning activity
is constant, it may not be possible for the user to complete the
download and installation of software
patches before the vulner-
abilities they are trying to fix are exploited. We recommend the
following actions 'before' connecting computers to the Internet
users can complete the patching process without incident.
Q. Where do I report
Hacking or Malware activity?
A. Here is where to report:
Hacking or a Computer Virus
Alert the appropriate authorities by contacting:
Your ISP and the hacker's ISP (if you can tell what it is). You can
usually find an ISP's email
address on its website. Include information on the
incident from your firewall's log file. By alerting the ISP to the
problem on its system,
you can help it prevent similar problems in the future. The FBI at www.ic3.gov. To
fight computer criminals, they need to hear from you.
Fraud If a scammer takes advantage of you through an
when you're shopping
online, or in any other way, report it to the Federal Trade
Commission, at ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, identity theft, and other fraud-related
complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds
of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Spam If you get deceptive spam, including email phishing
information, forward it
to email@example.com. Be sure to include the full header of the
email, including all routing information. You also may report phishing email to
of ISPs, security vendors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies,
uses these reports to fight phishing.
Personal Information If you believe you have mistakenly
personal information to
a fraudster, file a complaint at ftc.gov, and then visit the Federal Trade
Commission's Identity Theft website at ftc.gov/idtheft to learn how
to minimize your risk
of damage from a potential theft of your identity.
Parents Parents sometimes can feel outpaced by their technologically savvy
kids. Technology aside, there are lessons that parents can teach to help kids
stay safer as they socialize online. Most ISPs provide parental
controls, or you
can buy separate
software. But no software can substitute for parental supervision.
Talk to your kids about safe computing practices, as well as the things they're
seeing and doing online.
Sites Many adults, teens, and tweens use social networking
sites to exchange information about themselves, share pictures and
use blogs and private
messaging to communicate with friends, others who share
interests, and sometimes even the world-at-large. Here are some tips for parents
who want their kids to use these sites safely:
Use privacy settings to restrict who can access and post on your
child's website. Some social networking sites have strong privacy
your child how to
use these settings to limit who can view their online profile, and
explain to them why this is important.
Encourage your child to think about the language used in a blog,
and to think before posting pictures and videos. Employers, college
officers, team coaches,
and teachers may view your child's postings. Even a kid's
screen name could make a difference. Encourage teens to think about the
impression that screen names could make.
Remind your kids that once they post information online, they can't
take it back. Even if they delete the information from a site, older
exist on other people's
computers and be circulated online.
Talk to your kids about bullying. Online bullying can take many forms,
from spreading rumors online and posting or forwarding private messages
the sender's OK, to sending
threatening messages. Tell your kids that the words
they type and the images they post can have real-world consequences. They can
make the target of the bullying feel bad, make the sender look bad
— and, some-
times, can bring
on punishment from the authorities. Encourage your kids to talk to
you if they feel targeted by a bully.
Talk to your kids about avoiding sex talk online. Recent research
shows that teens who don't talk about sex with strangers online
are less likely to
come in contact
with a predator.
Tell your kids to trust their instincts if they have suspicions. If they feel threatened by
someone or uncomfortable because of something online, encourage
them to tell you.
You can then help
them report concerns to the police and to the social networking
site. Most sites have links where users can immediately report abusive, suspicious,
or inappropriate activity.
Q. What is the best way to keep malware
Try to minimize the threat.
the Effects of Malware on Your Computer
Malware is short for “malicious software;” it includes viruses —
programs that copy
themselves without your permission — and spyware, programs installed without
your consent to monitor or control your
computer activity. Criminals are hard at work
thinking up creative ways to get malware on your computer. They create appealing
web sites, desirable downloads, and compelling
stories to lure you to links that will
download malware, especially on computers that don’t use adequate security
software. Then, they use the malware to
steal personal information, send spam,
and commit fraud.It doesn’t have to be that way.
So says a website with tips from
the federal government and the technology industry that is helping consumers be on
guard against Internet fraud, secure their
computers, and protect their personal
malware can wreak, and reclaim their computers and their electronic information.
Computers may be infected with malware if they:
slow down, malfunction, or display repeated error messages;
- wont shut down or restart;
serve up a lot of pop-up ads, or display them when youre not surfing
display web pages or programs you didnt intend to use, or send emails
If you suspect malware
is on your computer
If you suspect malware is lurking on your computer, stop shopping, banking, and
other online activities that involve user names, passwords, or other
Malware on your computer could be sending your personal information to
Then, confirm that your security software is active and current:
at a minimum, your
should have anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall. You can
buy stand-alone programs for each element or a security suite that
from a variety of sources, including commercial vendors or from your
Internet Service Provider. Security software that comes pre-installed on a computer
for a short time unless you pay a subscription fee to keep it in effect.
In any case, security software protects against the newest threats
only if it is up-to-
Thats why it is critical to set your security software and operating system (like
Windows or Apples OS) to update automatically.
Some scam artists distribute malware disguised as anti-spyware software. Resist
buying software in response to unexpected pop-up messages or emails,
that claim to have scanned your computer and detected malware. Thats a tactic
scammers have used to spread malware, and that has attracted the attention
Trade Commission, the nations consumer protection agency, as well as a
security tools from legitimate security vendors selected by GetNetWise, a project
Once you confirm that
your security software is up-to-date, run it to scan your compu-
ter for viruses and spyware. Delete everything the program identifies as a problem.
may have to restart your computer for the changes to take effect.If you suspect
that your computer still is infected, you may want to run a second anti-spyware
program. Some computer security experts recommend installing one
program for real-time protection, and another for periodic scans of your machine
way to stop malware that might have slipped past the first program.
Finally, if the problem persists after you exhaust your own ability to diagnose and
treat it, you might want to call for professional
help. If your computer is covered by a
warranty that offers free tech support, contact the manufacturer. Before you call,
write down the model and serial number of
your computer, the name of any software
you’ve installed, and a short description of the problem. Your notes will help you give
an accurate description to the technician.If you need professional help, if your
machine isn’t covered by a warranty, or if your security software isn’t
doing the job
properly, you may need to pay for technical support. Many companies — including
some affiliated with retail stores —
offer tech support via the phone, online, at their
store, or in your home. Telephone or online help generally are the least expensive
to access support services — especially if there’s a toll-free helpline — but you
may have to do some of the work yourself.
Taking your computer to a store usually is
less expensive than hiring a technician or repair person to come into your home.
Once your computer is back
up and running, think about how malware could have
been downloaded to your machine, and what you could do to avoid it in the future. If
your security software or operating system was
out-of-date, download the newest
version and set it to update automatically. Use the opportunity to back up important
files by copying them onto a removable disc. Other
ways to minimize the chances
of a malware download in the future:
Don’t click on a link in an email or open an attachment unless you
know who sent it and what it is. Links in email can send you to sites
that automatically download malware to your machine. Opening
attachments — even those that appear to come from a friend or
co-worker — also can install malware on your computer.
Download and install software only from websites you know and trust.
Downloading free games, file-sharing programs, and customized
toolbars may sound appealing, but free software can come with
Talk about safe computing. Tell your kids that some online activity
put a computer at risk: clicking on pop-ups, downloading free games or
programs, or posting personal information.
Finally, monitor your computer
for unusual behavior. If you suspect your machine
has been exposed to malware, take action immediately. Report problems with
malware to your ISP so it can try to prevent similar problems and
Q. What Should Parents know about Social
A. Social Networking
"It's 10 p.m. Do you know where your
"Remember that phrase from your own childhood? It's still a valid question, but now, it comes with a twist:
"Do you know where your kids are — and who they're chatting with online?
"Social networking sites have morphed into
a mainstream medium for teens and adults. These sites
encourage and enable people to exchange information
about themselves, share pictures and videos,
use blogs and private messaging to communicate with friends,
others who share interests, and
even the world-at-large. And that's why it's important
to be aware of the possible pitfalls that
with networking online.
Some social networking
sites attract pre-teens – even kids as young as 5 or 6. These younger-focused
sites don't allow the same kinds of communication
that teens and adults have, but there are still things
that parents can do to help young kids socialize
safely online. In fact, when it comes to young kids, the
law provides some protections – and gives parents some control over the type of information that
children can disclose online. For sites directed to children under age 13, and for general audience sites
they're dealing with kids younger than 13, there's the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act
(COPPA). It requires
these sites to get parental consent before they collect, maintain, or use kids'
Information. COPPA also allows parents to review their child's online profiles and blog pages.
Parents sometimes can feel outpaced by their technologically savvy kids.
Technology aside, there are
lessons that parents
can teach to help kids stay safer as they socialize online.
Help Kids Socialize Safely OnlineOnGuard Online shares these tips for safe social networking:
your kids understand what information should be private. Tell them why it's important to
keep some things – about themselves, family members and friends
– to themselves.
Information like their full name, Social Security number, street address, phone number,
family financial information — like bank or credit card Account numbers
— is private and
should stay that way. Tell them not to choose a screen name that gives away too
Use privacy settings to restrict who can access and post on your child's website. Some
social networking sites have strong privacy settings.
Show your child how to use these settings to limit who can view their online profile,
explain to them why this is important.
Explain that kids should post only information that you — and they — are comfortable
with others seeing. Even If privacy settings are turned on, some — or even all
— of your
child's profile may be seen by a broader audience Than you're comfortable with.
Encourage your child to think about the language used in a blog, and to think before
Posting pictures and videos. Employers, college admissions officers, team coaches,
and teachers may view your child's postings.
Even a kid's screen name could make a difference. Encourage teens to think about the
impression that screen names could make.
Remind your kids that once they post information online, they can't take it back.
Even if they delete the Information from a site, older versions may exist on other
people's computers and be circulated online.
Know how your kids are getting online. More and more, kids are accessing the Internet
through their cell phones.
Find out about what limits you can place on your child's cell phone. Some cellular
companies have plans that limit downloads, Internet access, and texting; other plans
allow kids to use those features only at certain times of day.
Talk to your kids about bullying. Online bullying can take many forms, from spreading
rumors online and posting or forwarding private messages without the sender's
sending threatening messages. Tell your kids that the words they type and the
they post can have real-world consequences. They can make the target of the
bullying feel bad, make the sender look bad – and, sometimes, can bring on
punishment from the authorities.
Encourage your kids to talk to you if they feel targeted by a bully.
Talk to your kids about avoiding sex talk online. Recent research shows that teens who
don't talk about sex with strangers online are less likely to come in contact with
predator.If you're concerned that your child is engaging in risky online behavior,
search the blog sites they visit to see whatinformation they're posting. Try searching
by their name, nickname, school, hobbies, grade, or area where you live.
Tell your kids to trust their gut if they have suspicions. If they feel threatened by someone
or uncomfortable because of something online, encourage them to tell you. You
help them report concerns to the police and to the social networking site. Most
links where users can immediately report abusive, suspicious, or inappropriate
parent sections to Understand its features and privacy controls. The site should
your rights as a parent to review and delete your child's profile if your child
A Few More Tips to Protect Pre-TeensMany of the tips above apply for pre-teens, but
parents of younger children also can:
extra steps to protect younger kids. Keep the computer in an open area like the
kitchen or family room, so you can keep an eye on what your kids are doing online.
Use the Internet with them to help develop safe surfing habits.
Consider taking advantage of parental control features on some operating systems
that let you manage your kids' computer use, including what sites they can visit,
whether they can download items, or what time of day they can be online.
Go where your kids go online. Sign up for – and use – the social networking spaces
that your kids visit. Let them know that you're there, and help teach them how to act
as they socialize online.
Review your child's friends list. You may want to limit your child's online “friends” to
people your child actually knows and is friendly with in real life.
Understand sites' privacy policies. Sites should spell out your rights as a parent to
review and delete your child's profile if your child is younger than 13.
For More InformationTo learn more about staying safe online, visit the websites of the following organizations:
Federal Trade Commission — www.OnGuardOnline.gov The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business
practices in the marketplace and toprovide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them.
To file a complaint or to get free information onconsumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP
(1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.The FTC manages OnGuardOnline.gov, which provides practical tips
from the federal government and the technologyindustry to help you be on guard against Internet fraud,
secure your computer, and protect your personal information. ConnectSafely — www.connectsafely.org ConnectSafely is a forum for parents, teens, educators, and advocates designed
to give teens and parents a voice in thepublic discussion about youth online safety, and has tips, as
well as other resources, for safe blogging and socialnetworking. Along with NetFamilyNews.org, it is
a project of the non- profit Tech Parenting Group. Cyberbully411 — www.cyberbully411.org Cyberbully411 provides resources and opportunities for discussion and sharing
for youth - and their parents - who havequestions about or may have been targeted by online harassment.
The website was created by the non-profit Internet Solutions for Kids, Inc., with funding from the Community
Technology Foundation of California. GetNetWise — www.getnetwise.org
GetNetWise is a public service sponsored by Internet industry corporations and
public interest organizations to helpensure that Internet users have safe, constructive, and educational
or entertaining online experiences. The GetNetWise coalition works to provide Internet users with the
resources they need to make informed decisions about their and theirfamily's use of the Internet.
iKeepSafe.org is a coalition of 49 governors/first spouses, law enforcement,
the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other associations dedicated
to helping parents, educators, and caregivers byproviding tools and guidelines to promote safe Internet
and technology use among children.
NCMEC is a private, non-profit organization that helps prevent child abduction
and sexual exploitation; helps find missingchildren; and assists victims of child abduction and sexual
exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them. staysafe —
staysafe.org is an educational site intended to help
consumers understand both the positive aspects of the Internet aswell as how to manage a variety of
safety and security issues that exist online.
WiredSafety.org is an Internet safety and help group. WiredSafety.org provides
education, assistance, and awareness on cybercrime and abuse, privacy, security, and responsible technology
use. It is also the parent group of Teenangels.org, FBI-trained teens and preteens who promote Internet
safety. See also: Social Networking Sites: Safety Tips for Tweens and Teens
What to Do if There's a ProblemTrust your gut if you have
suspicions. If you feel threatened by someone or uncomfortable because of something online,Tell an adult
you trust, and report it to the police and the social networking site.The Children's Online Privacy
Protection Act (COPPA) requires websites to obtain parental consent before collecting, using,or disclosing
personal information from children under age 13.
Q. What are
Nigerian con-men or internet scams?
Phony Lotteries, Nigerian 419s, Advanced Fee Fraud, and Scams
While you're online:
Know who you're
In any electronic transaction, independently confirm the other party's name, street
address, and telephone number.
Resist the urge to enter foreign lotteries. These solicitations are phony
Delete requests that claim to be from foreign nationals
asking you to help transfer their money through your bank account. They're fraudulent.
emails that request your money, credit card or account numbers, or other personal information.
If you are selling something over the Internet, don't accept a potential buyer's offer to send you a check
for more than the purchase price, no matter how tempting the plea or convincing the story. End the transaction immediately
if someone insists that you wire back funds.The Internet gives buyers access to a world of goods and services, and gives sellers access to a world of customers.
Unfortunately, the Internet also gives con artists the very same access. But being on guard online can help you maximize the
global benefits of electronic commerce and minimize your chance of being defrauded. OnGuard Online wants you to know how to
spot some cross-border scams — including foreign lotteries, money offers, and check overpayment schemes — and
report them to the appropriate authorities.
For years, scam operators have used the telephone and direct mail to entice U.S. consumers into buying chances in supposedly
high-stakes foreign lotteries. Now they're using email, too — either to sell tickets or suggest that a large cash prize
has your name on it. No matter what country's name is used to promote a lottery, the pitch follows a pattern: you should send
money to pay for taxes, insurance, or processing or customs fees. The amount may seem small at first, but as long as you keep
paying, the requests for funds will keep coming — for higher and higher amounts. Some victims have lost thousands of
dollars.Most scam operators never buy the lottery tickets on your behalf. Others buy some tickets, but keep the "winnings"
for themselves. In any case, lottery hustlers generally try to get you to share your bank account or credit card numbers,
so they can make unauthorized withdrawals.If you're thinking about responding to a foreign lottery, OnGuard Online wants you to remember:
a foreign lottery is against the law.
There are no secret systems for winning foreign lotteries. Your chances of getting any money back are
slim to none.
If you buy even one foreign lottery ticket, you can expect many more bogus offers
for lottery or investment "opportunities." Your name will be placed on "sucker lists" that fraudsters
buy and sell.
credit card and bank account numbers to yourself. Scam artists often ask for them during an unsolicited sales pitch. Once
they get your account numbers, they may use them to commit identity theft.Resist solicitations for foreign lottery promotions. Report them to the appropriate government officials, then hit delete.View a sample fraudulent foreign lottery solicitation.
"Nigerian" Foreign Money Offers
The "Nigerian" scam got its name from emails that supposedly came
from Nigerian "officials" who needed your help getting at their money — which was tied up due to strife in
their country. Today, people claiming to be officials, businesspeople, or the surviving relatives of former government honchos
in countries around the world send countless offers via email to transfer thousands of dollars into your bank account if you
will just pay a fee or "taxes" to help them access their money. If you respond to the initial offer, you may receive
documents that look "official." But then, you will get more email asking you to send more money to cover transaction
and transfer costs, attorney's fees, blank letterhead, and your bank account numbers, among other information. Subsequent
emails will encourage you to travel to another country to complete the transaction. Some fraudsters have even produced trunks
of dyed or stamped money to verify their claims.The emails are from crooks trying to steal your money or commit identity
theft. Victims of this scam report that emergencies arise that require more money and delay the "transfer" of funds;
in the end, you lose your money, and the scam artist vanishes. According to the U.S. State Department, people who have responded
to these solicitations have been beaten, subjected to threats and extortion, and in some cases, murdered.If you receive an
email from someone claiming to need your help getting money out of another country, don't respond. After all, why would a stranger from another country pick you out at random to share thousands of
dollars? Report the solicitation to the appropriate government officials, and then hit delete.View a sample fraudulent foreign money offer.
Check Overpayment Schemes
no to a check for more than your selling price, no matter how tempting the plea or convincing the story. Check overpayment
schemes generally target people who have posted an item for sale online. The con artist, posing as a potential buyer from
a foreign country (or a distant part of the U.S.), emails the seller and offers to buy the item with a cashier's check, money
order, personal check, or corporate check. Or the scammer may pretend to be a business owner from a foreign country, needing
"financial agents" to process payments for their U.S. orders; in exchange, they promise a commission.Regardless of the cover, here's what happens:
The scammer sends you a check that looks authentic — complete with watermarks — made payable for more money than
you expected. They ask you to deposit it in your bank account, and then wire-transfer some portion of the funds to a foreign
account. They provide convincing reasons why the check is for more than the necessary amount, and why the funds must be transferred
quickly. Sometimes, the counterfeit checks fool a bank teller, but be aware that the check still can bounce. The scammer vanishes
with the money you wired from your own account and you are on the hook for the entire amount of the worthless check. In addition,
a scammer who has your bank account number is likely to use it to withdraw more money from your account.
Reporting a Cross-Border Scam
If you think you may have responded to a cross-border scam, file a complaint at www.econsumer.gov, a project of 20 countries of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement
Network. Then visit the FTC's identity theft website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft. While you can't completely control whether you will become a victim
of identity theft, you can take some steps to minimize your risk.If you've responded to a "Nigerian" scheme, contact your
local Secret Service field office using contact information from the Blue Pages of your telephone directory, or from www.secretservice.gov/field_offices.shtml.In addition, report telemarketing fraud and check overpayment scams to your state
Attorney General, using contact information at www.naag.org.Report unsolicited email offers to firstname.lastname@example.org — including offers inviting you to participate in a foreign
lottery, looking for help getting money out of a foreign country, or asking you to wire back extra funds from a check you
received.If you receive what looks like lottery material from a foreign country through the postal mail, give it to your local
For More InformationForeign Lottery Scams
U.S. Federal Trade Commission — The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive,
and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them.
To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.
The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure,
online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.Competition Bureau in Canada — The Competition Bureau is an independent law enforcement agency
in Canada that investigates anti-competitive practices and promotes compliance with the
laws under its jurisdiction. To file a complaint or to get free information, visit www.competitionbureau.gc.ca or call toll-free, 1-800-348-5358. The Bureau has the ability to refer criminal matters to the Attorney General of Canada,
who then decides whether to prosecute before the courts.United Kingdom's Office of Fair Trading — The United Kingdom's
Office of Fair Trading is responsible for making markets work well for consumers. They protect and promote consumer interests
throughout the United Kingdom, while ensuring that businesses are fair and competitive. To file a complaint or to get free information,
visit www.oft.gov.uk or send an email to email@example.com.Australian Competition and Consumer Commission — The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission encourages vigorous
competition in the marketplace and enforces consumer protection and fair trading laws. To file a complaint or to get more
information, visit www.accc.gov.au. The ACCC advocates consultation and negotiation as the first and
best option to settle disputes, but once the ACCC pursues legal action any sort of mediation becomes less likely.
"Nigerian" Advance-Fee Scams
U.S. Secret Service — The Secret Service investigates violations of laws relating to financial
crimes, including access device fraud, financial institution fraud, identity theft, and computer fraud. To file a complaint
or to get free information, visit www.secretservice.gov or call 202-406-5708.U.S. Department of State — The Department of State's mission is to create a more secure, democratic,
and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community. As part of that mission, the
Department of State seeks to minimize the impact of international crime, including cross-border internet scams, on the United States and its citizens. To get free information, visit www.state.gov.
Q. What should I do prior to disposing of an old computer?
A. Computer Disposal
Once you have a “clean” computer,
consider recycling, donating, or reselling it – and keep the environment in mind when
disposing of your computer.If you want to get rid of your old computer, options include recycling,
reselling, and donating.
you log off for thelast time, there are important
things to do to prepare it for disposal. Computers
personal and financial
information, including passwords, account numbers, license keys or registration numbers for software
programs, addresses and phone numbers, medical and prescription information, tax returns, and other personal documents.
Before getting rid of your old computer, it’s a good idea to use software to “wipe”the hard drive clean. If you don’t, consider
your old hard drive a 21st century treasure chest for identity thieves
and information pirates. The Federal Trade Commission
(FTC), the nation’s consumer
protection agency, says you can deter identity theft and information piracy by taking a few
Understanding Hard Drives
A computer’s hard
drive stores data, and maintains an index of files. When you save a file, especially a large one, it is
scattered around the hard drive in bits and
pieces. Files also are automatically created by browsers
systems. When you open a file, the hard drive checks the index, then gathers
the bits and pieces and reconstructs them.
delete a file, the links between the index and the file disappear, signaling to your system that the file isn’t needed
any longer and that hard drive space
can be overwritten. But the bits and pieces of the deleted file stay on your computer
until they’re overwritten, and they can be retrieved with a data recovery program.
To remove data from your hard drive
it needs to be wiped clean.
Cleaning Hard Dives
Before you clean your hard
drive, save the files that are important to you on an external storage device – for example,
a USB drive, a CDRom, or an external
hard drive – or transfer them to a new computer. Check your owner’s manual, the
manufacturer’s website, or its customer support line for information on how to
save data and transfer it to a new
computer. Utility programs to wipe your hard drive are available both online and in stores where computers are
They’re generally inexpensive; some are available on the Internet for free. Wipe utility
programs vary in their capabilities:
erase the entire disk, while others allow you
to select files or folders to erase. They also vary in their effectiveness:
programs that overwrite
or wipe the hard drive many times are very effective; those that overwrite or wipe the drive only once
may not prevent information being wiped from being recovered later.
If your old computer contains sensitive information
that would be valuable to an identity
thief, consider using a program that overwrites or wipes the hard drive many times. Or,
remove the hard
drive, and physically destroy it. One more thing to keep in mind: If you use your home or personal
for business purposes, check with your employer about how to manage information on your computer that’s business-related.
The law requires businesses to follow
data security and disposal requirements for certain information that’s related to
Once you have a “clean”
computer, here’s how to dispose of it:
Recycle it. Many computer manufacturers have programs to recycle computers
and components. Check their
websites or call their toll-free numbers
for more information. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has
information on electronic product recycling
program. Check with your county or local government,
including the local landfill office for regulations.
Donate it. Many organizations collect old computers and donate them to charities.
Resell it. Some people and organizations buy old computers.
Check online. Keep
the environment in mind when disposing of your computer.
Most computer equipment contains hazardous materialsthat don’t belong in a landfill.
For example, many computers have heavy metals that can contaminate the earth.
The EPA recommends that you check with your local health and sanitation agencies for ways to dispose
of electronics safely.