Antivirus Scanners

April 15th, 2009

Q:  What type of an anti-virus scanner should you put on your computer?

 A:   Whatever you choose, you need to have enough memory (RAM) in your computer to run these protections without dragging your computer down. 

 The average public might choose the scanning software packages made by the manufacturers called “McAfee” or “Norton”.  These are common products and often come with a new purchase (as a trial version).  However, it is recommended that you should have at the minimum 1 GB of memory for these programs to run well without slowing down your computer.  This is because the new software that is being released requires more memory to run then it ever has before.


Internet Websites Can Get “Hacked”

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April 15th, 2009

Several legitimate websites have come under attack from hackers who have modified the programming code of these websites.  The hackers do this to distribute malware to unsuspecting users who visit the site. When a user visits an infected site, an invisible connection is established to a remote server, which can then attempt to install malware on the user’s computer. The intention could be to generate spam, or possibly something more sinister, such as stealing personal information e.g. bank account or credit card details.

In 2008, several high-profile websites were targeted, including USA Today, ABC News, Target and Wal-Mart.  Many popular travel and recreational websites have also been compromised. Visiting one of these infected websites could have resulted in the user’s computer being infected.

We suggest installing software called AVAST which has proven over the past months to detect the infections.  AVAST is free for the personal user, and AVAST has recently detected compromised websites for a number of Government sites in the US, including the United States Forest Service, the US International Trade Commission and the websites of several embassies around the world.

AVAST! antivirus will detect and block access to any website that is infected by this threat and will display a warning that a virus has been detected. If Avast! displays this warning, you should discontinue your attempt to connect to that particular website.

Call Computer Care Associates (508-370-8080) to either review your computer if you suspect a virus or malware infection problem, and/or to work with you to install crucial protection for your particular circumstances. No matter what software you use on your computer system, it is essential that your computer has antivirus protection

Be prepared before your computer is infected.  It may never happen, but it is better to put some safeguards in place – think of it as “your assurance that your computer is insured” from an attack from possible internet hackers.


Malware, Spyware and Viruses – Becoming more difficult to remove

March 27th, 2009

I have seen all sorts of infected computers with malware and viruses in them. 

Just a few months ago, getting rid of malware was relatively easy.  We would perform and run spyware scans, antivirus scans, review the registry and the files in startup. 

Recently, I have found that once a computer is infected with Trojan Viruses, it is not easy to make sure these threats are gone. I end up spending extra time in making sure a computer is clean.

I worked on a computer where the system tray where the anti-virus would have been was disabled.  It was hard to tell if the system tray was originally corrupted or whether the Trojan Viruses caused this.  Everything looked good except for this.  I could tell by additional scans that Trojan Viruses were still in the computer.  Instead of spending 8 additional hours cleaning the computer, I reformatted the computer to make 100% sure that the computer didn’t have any remnants of viruses and spyware.

I discourage anyone to clean up a computer on their own.  This is because most of the time, the problems can increase ten-fold.  However, we find ourselves often giving out information and advice on how to backup, what protection to use, and in troubleshooting problems. 

If necessary we can remote in to your computer.  More often, we will recommend that the work on your computer is done directly in our office.


Don’t Try To “Do It Yourself” !

March 1st, 2009

We are all worried about the economic climate.

At Computer Care Associates, we are sensitive to different changes in circumstances.

With our help you don’t need to let your computer frustrate you, and you won’t be frustrated by your computer!

Call COMPUTER CARE ASSOCIATES at the First Sign of a Problem

When it comes to keeping your computer working well and running smoothly, you can’t ignore maintenance, backups, improving skills and basically keeping your computer up-to-date.

In this economy, people are taking longer to decide to clean and service their computer.  Unfortunately, the longer you wait, the more corrupt your computer becomes.

At Computer Care Associates, we have made an effort to charge reasonable flat rates, discount labor charges and provide free diagnostics.

That’s right – the initial diagnostic service on your computer is free!  After we complete the diagnosis (usually in the first hour), we will call you and let you know what the results are.  We will tell you the cost to repair your computer, and if it is too expensive – we will honestly let you know that it might not be worth the expense.  In fact, we may help you with a purchase instead that is more cost effective in the long run.

If you need our services for repairs or to get rid of extensive virus infections – we charge a flat rate of $195.00 (no matter how long it takes to be virus free).

BACK UP YOUR DATA

An organized computer makes backing up the data much easier and more efficient.  You won’t be able to back up applications, only data and pictures.

Applications are the software programs that either came with the computer or programs you have purchased.  They often are CD’s, and you should try to keep them all in one place.  This is partly because if you ever need to re-install a program you have it, but also – if you had a virus or your hard drive crashed, you might have to re-do your computer.  You would have to then reinstall all the programs and data that you (hopefully) had saved back into the computer.

Before backing up any data, you will need to know the SIZE requirements of your BACKUP:  You will need to find out how much memory (in terms of Gigabytes) the backup will need.  That will let us know what size of a backup you will require – flash drive, external hard drive, server, off-site/remote (like Carbonite or Mozy), etc.


How did I get that Virus (or Spyware)?

February 1st, 2009

After diagnosing computers that come into the office with Viruses and Spyware —–  the question is always “how did I get these in my computer?”  The answer is never exact, because the problems are masked and it is difficult to determine exactly where the malware came from.

However there are actions that bring in the culprits.  What follows is a quick list of what can and should be avoided.

1.        However much your children or you want free music, never download files from Limewire, Kazza, Frostwire or any other free downloading service called “Peer-to-Peer” Networks.  These are frought with malware and are easily (and invisibly) passed from one computer to the next.

2.       Downloading Programs that haven’t been carefully reviewed.  I’m referring to “free anti-virus scanners”, toolbars, smileys, games etc.  I test products first before referring them to others.  You can call me up (508-370-8080) to ask me about a product before downloading something you suspect may be bogus.

3.       Don’t open an email attachment if it is from someone you don’t know, or if it contains strange attachments.  Don’t accept strange messages from others using a messenger program.  Even links can be dangerous to click on.  Be cautious!

4.       Finally, don’t visit adult-oriented sites!

Many Internet Providers such as Verizon, Comcast, RCN, etc. offer anti-virus protection for their customers.  For example, I have a customer whose computer has 256MB of memory.  In this particular case, the Internet Provider all but forced the customer to install a “Suite” of Protection.  An Anti-Virus Suite, needs (at the minimum) 1-2 GB of memory in order to run.

SYSTEM RESTORE

Never use SYSTEM RESTORE in an attempt to remove malware.  It will not do any good as System Restore only monitors and restores certain Windows files.  In addition, attempting System Restore on an infected computer will bury the bad files deeper in the Registry making them more difficult (or impossible) to remove.  It may appear that System Restore removed the infection, but it is still there, just flying further under the radar.

Internet Providers

Does their Anti-virus Protection work?

In my experience, I have seen many computers whose systems are running McAfee antivirus, Norton Antivirus, even Trend Micro Antivirus without first determining the amount of memory in that computer.

Lo and behold, these popular anti-virus products are not effective.  I have found many viruses in a computer even with retail antivirus products.

Also, do not use registry cleaners/optimizers. They will not help and have the potential to do great harm.


Your Computer’s Resources

December 1st, 2008

Your computer uses RAM (random-access memory) for quick, short-term storage.

Programs store their instructions in RAM when they run, so RAM determines how many programs you can open at once, the size of the files you can open in programs, and, to some extent, how fast a program executes its instructions.

Where do I Find the Information about My Computer’s Resources

STEP 1
Start your computer and locate the My Computer icon.

STEP 2
Right-click on your mouse when you touch it to the My Computer icon, and select Properties from the menu that appears.

STEP 3
Look under the General tab.  This is where you can find out information about the size of your hard drive, what operating system your computer has, and the amount of RAM in megabytes (MB) or Gigabytes (GB).

STEP 4

If you just [left] clicked on the My Computer icon with your mouse, you will need to follow this STEP 4.

Next, click on View System Information. Write down this information (your Computer’s hard drive size; OS; and RAM in MB or GB).

What Might Cause My Computer to Run Slowly

After you download some new software program, have you noticed your computer is running more slowly or is quite sluggish?

These days, computers require more memory to run faster and more efficiently because the newer and more recent computer programs use more memory (and more of your computer’s resources).

As an example, two drains on the resources of your computer are:

(1) Some Anti-virus protections

(2) AOL

Memory

If you have installed either Norton AntiVirus or McAfee on your computer, your computer should have at least 1 GB of memory.

Most memory is inexpensive, so upgrading your computer’s memory doesn’t have to be a costly proposition.  Depending on the make and model of your computer, prices vary, but now is a good time to increase the memory your computer has to run the anti-virus programs and other software (such as AOL).

Computer Care Associates will order the correct memory for your computer, and install it for a mimimal labor charge.


With Appreciation

November 1st, 2008

It’s the time of year when we’re reminded to give thanks.

Instead of waiting until next year to be reminded, we are thankful every day. May you and yours have a safe and memorable Thanksgiving.

It tends to sound like a cliche, but based on the economic trends and the time of year, loyal (and new) customers are always welcome!

We at Computer Care Associates wanted to THANK our customers and clients for using our computer services.

When you call us with a computer issue, if it requires an on-site visit (to a home or office setting) – we try to fit it into the schedule within 4 hours if a crisis and within a day or two if not as urgent.

Although not every problem can be easily solved, we work diligently on your behalf to clean out even the most pesky and dangerous of viruses and spyware.

AWARENESS & SWIFT ACTION ARE CRUCIAL

This time of year, there are more sneaky and dangerous malware and viruses that can come into your computer.

If your computer is acting funny or you’ve noticed a recent change, that could be a sign that your computer is infected with something. CALL 508-370- 8080!

Basic common sense should prevail.

  1. Don’t click on an attachment from someone you don’t know.
  2. Be wary of prices and software or hardware for sale that comes unsolicited and that sounds ‘too good to be true.’

Keep your anti-virus protection up-to-date.  Call the office (508-370-8080) for product information.

Remote Access – Saves Time & Money

Computer Care Associates can connect remotely to your computer to repair and provide support services. All you need is an internet connection (cable, not dial- up) for this to occur.

We can log into your home or business, a hotel suite while telecommuting, or even through local wireless ‘hotspots’.

Our friendly online technicians can remotely solve your computer repair and support needs wherever you happen to be. Just sit back and watch as our technician remotely controls your mouse and keyboard to diagnose and fix your computer problems or to demonstrate an application.

If it turns out that the issue cannot be fixed remotely, we will arrange for one of our technicians to come to your location and provide on-site computer repair.

Remote access is not available for dial-up connections. The cost is $65 per incident.

Please note that server-related problems have a different pricing structure.

Prices are subject to change.

Instruction

Individual instruction or small classes offered at Framingham office location.

Sample areas covered are:

  • Beginning Excel
  • MS Word
  • Outlook email program
  • Internet surfing and research for the beginner
  • Optimizing Your Computer.

Each meeting session is 1-2 hours (depending on the number of students and the subject matter). Minimum is 2 meetings (2-4 hours instruction).

Off- site instruction for groups or individuals can be arranged for a separate fee structure.

Please be sure to inquire about what current courses our technicians may be teaching through a local continuing education program. Prices are subject to change.

CUSTOMER APPRECIATION

So, in closing – Thank you again for your referrals, continued loyalty and call-backs.

Your testimonials are heartwarming, and your feedback is invaluable.


“Fake Alerts” Are A Sign Of Trojan Viruses

October 1st, 2008

Recently our office has been servicing many computers that come in with Fake Security Alerts.  These attempt to trick people into purchasing “rogue” anti-spyware.

The definition of “rogue” is: Rogue security software is software that uses malware (malicious software) or malicious tools to advertise or install itself or to force computer users to pay for removal of nonexistent malware. Rogue software will often install a trojan horse to download a trial version of software.

Unfortunately, the hackers who do this will use several methods to lure you into buying this phoney security software.

The longer you wait, the worse it gets.  If the “rogue” software sends you one trojan virus, they multiply and infest your computer.

The trick used is the program uploads trojan viruses into your computer, then gives you a warning that “there are viruses that need to be fixed”.  The problem is if you become a victim of this scam and you purchase their software, you are not better off at all!

If you see this happening to your computer call us at 508-370-8080.  Hesitation to act in many cases makes the matter worse.


A “No Brainer” – Backup Your Data!

September 1st, 2008

A crucial task with computers is backing up your important data.  It’s possible that your computer will last forever, or will crash and burn within a few years.

Whatever the case, you should consider that a backup is like an insurance policy.  People buy insurance not because they expect to be in a car accident, but just in case something happens, they are protected.  Also, having a safety net of sorts is a good peace of mind.

You can either chose to backup over the internet (to a remote location), or backup to an external device like an external hard drive, a CD/DVD or even a flashdrive.

BACKING UP DATA REMOTELY

There are two different remote backup programs that I would recommend:

  1. Mozy  –  Mozy charges $5.00/month of unlimited backups, which is $60.00 per year.  They make a full backup of your entire hard drive, then you can schedule future modified backups.
  2. Carbonite  – Carbonite charges $50.00 per year, which is around $4.17/month.

The problem with backing up over the internet is the speed and with pictures, videos, and songs, one backup may take 3 days.

BACKING UP AT YOUR OWN LOCATION

Personally I use External Hard Drives which hold 250 GB of data space (and there are external hard drives which hold even more – 500 GB, 1 Terabyte, etc.) with a Backup Program that can be scheduled to back up automatically.

I can recommend a third party backup program called NTI backup.  Especially now when you could be dealing with two different operating systems (Windows XP and Windows Vista) which each have different built-in backup programs.  In addition, I also recommend Genie-Soft Backup Solutions.

NOTE:  There are many different software programs on the market that will allow you to backup your data.  Most offer a trial period at no cost so you can download and try different backup programs to see what is right for you.  What’s good for one person may not be good for the other.  Please contact my office (508-370-8080) so we can discuss which options might be good for your particular situation.

Backing up your data (which can include pictures, songs, and financial information) is vital because if you lost it you would have to spend untold hours recreating the missing data.  Certainly, you couldn’t ask your sister to give birth again to her [now] 4-year old twins!

However, restoring a backup (and knowing how to) is also just as vital.  There is nothing like thinking you’re backing up only to realize you haven’t done this properly and cannot restore your information after you’ve had a catastrophe.

We will teach you how to backup and restore your data.  Call us today (508-370-8080) for a no obligation discussion of the best way to protect and back up your important data!