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How the Computer Guy Almost Got a Virus

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As a computer guy, I tell people all the time to be very careful about what they download from the internet and what email attachments they open. It is so easy to infect your computer with viruses and spyware. Then it happened to me.

Actually the culprits had lucky timing or I would not have fallen for it. I had just made a payment of payroll taxes to Uncle Sam via the Federal Government's EFTPS web site. About an hour later, I received an email telling me that my payment had been rejected. The email had a link to http://eftps.gov which is a legitimate web site. Here is where I messed up. If I had put my mouse pointer over that link and waited a second, a little window would have shown up telling me that link really pointed to http://204.16.128.88/about.html. Had I done that, I would have immediately known that something wasn't right about this email. The link should have pointed to http://eftps.gov.

So being concerned about my tax payment, I hastily clicked the link and my browser went crazy. It started flashing from page to page and began downloading a virus laden PDF file. It took me approximately 0.083 seconds to realize I had just been fooled. It took me about 5 more seconds to reach for the power button and hold it in until my computer shut off. When I booted back up, I ran some scans, but it was clean. I had powered off before the virus had a chance to install. I simply got lucky.

Many users question why they get infected even when they have up to date antivirus software running. Why does Norton or AVG or McAfee stop ALL the nasties. A recent report from McAfee says that there are more than 60,000 new viruses and spyware programs distributed every single day. It is really impossible for the antivirus software folks to keep ahead. A great deal of your defense then is being attentive to details. Do not click on things that look questionable. Do not download things from sites that you are not familiar with.

Today's lesson is always hover your pointer over a link in an email to be sure it's going where it says it is. Or just manually type the address into your web browser if you do not trust the link. And of course be sure your antivirus software is up to date.

Posted by Charles Swihart on 1/1/2011

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