Over the next several weeks, I will be writing about Security. This topic is so broad that I think it will require at least four essays.
The first area I wish to cover has become a major concern for me and to the people I help. Therefore I decided that not only would I post this on my blog, It needed to be sent directly to you. Please forward this to you friends, and anyone else that you think it would help.
Over last few months, many of my customers have received some very strange phone calls. They start out saying they are from a “Major Computer Company” and there is problem with your computer. They ask the customer to go to their computer so they can show them the problem. The “Computer Tech” then asks the customer to type something into the computer, and to read what comes up. They then proceed to read the customer the same information.
Unfortunately, this is a SCAM! It is a threat on several levels.
1. They want you to purchase a service you do not need.
2. They take control of the computer, which then gives them access to everything in it.
3. They may load software allowing them to steal passwords and account information even into the future.
4. They can use your computer for other purposes, including spam, criminal activities and web attacks.
This really is not a new problem. But we need to remember that the rules for computer safety are much the same as we have always used. When I was a teenager, my mother told me a simple rule to follow: “If you didn’t originate the call, DO NOT give out any personal information to the caller.” I even believe there may have been Public Service Announcements telling us the same thing.
There are several other items that also share these risks.
One is a message coming up on your computer, telling you that you have major (or many) problems with your computer, and you should “Click Here” to fix them. Please don’t! It may seem counter-intuitive to reject an error message from your computer, but please do not just react. You can find yourself on the wrong end of malicious software, or just losing a few dollars, but you don’t need the risk. Call someone that you trust and ask them what they think. If they are computer users, they may have seen the same gimmick. If you don’t have anyone you would ask, call a local computer professional and ask him.
Second, many people experience problems with their computers, printers, software, or their providers. The first instinct is to go to the internet, and to search for a phone number. Once again, this is dangerous territory. There are many unscrupulous companies and individuals out there. These crooks (and I am being gentle in my terminology) put logos and phases on their websites that imply, suggest, and otherwise manipulate most people into believing They are the Support Provider for the company you are seeking. Nothing could be further from the truth. No major computer entity is farming out support without acting as a gatekeeper. If you need a support phone number, it should appear on the company’s website. If it doesn’t, then they probably won’t support you by phone.
The problem is that these people rely on the trusting nature of good people. And good people trust others to be good people too. But you need to Trust and Verify, as President Reagan put it so well.
Three simple rules to follow:
1. If you are not looking for help, you do not need any.
2. If you are looking for help, call only a number that you know, or can verify. If you have to search at random for help, find someone locally who can work with you, and for you.
3. Never work with anyone you do not trust. And absolutely do not let anyone whom you do not trust into your computer, by loading their software, allowing remote access, or by sitting at your keyboard.
We suggest that everyone have a go-to person for Computer Support. We recommend people in the following order: your friends, your family, a friend of a friend, or professional help. You can call a store or a technician with questions, but always remember that they are general answers, not necessarily the ones you need. Obviously, I, as Computer House Calls would like to be your first call, but even if we are not, please feel free to call with your questions.