Steve

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So, you, your child or spouse accidentally installed a program/toolbar/something else, and since then your computer has been acting a little (or very) off. Your browsers homepage has been changed, all kinds of ads are popping up when you’re browsing, and so on. It is possible that you have what is commonly referred to as a Possibly Unwanted Program, or PUP.

How can I tell if I have PUPS?

Generally, the first part of a PUP is installed because of something you choose to install. It might be a program (like Conduit Search, a toolbar, Coupon Printer, or something else) that is packaged with another program, and you merely forget to uncheck that you don’t want it installed when you are installing another, legitimate program. Other PUPs can sound like something that might be useful, like a driver management program, or anything else that the makers feel might sound useful and attractive. Many pups get installed merely because you are trying to download something, and mistakenly click on a download button that is part of an ad.

Some things which can indicate that you have PUPS are if your browser is using a search engine other than Google.com or Bing.com (and you don’t remember changing it to something else), your homepage opening to a page you are not used to seeing, pop-up ads on websites where there are usually none, and even a much slower experience when using your computer. These things can reflect that you have other malware as well, however, most of the malware I have been encountering recently has been PUPs. It is important to realize, that if you have some of these symptoms such as a different homepage, or default search provider, and you just change them back, you didn’t remove the program, you just removed some of it’s symptoms.

How can I remove PUPs?

Different programs may require a  different removal process, but there are some things you can run, that will effectively remove many possibly unwanted programs.

First, go to http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/download/adwcleaner/, download and run adwcleaner. When it comes up, click the Scan button on the left. After it is finished scanning (the scan button will turn Grey), you can check the tabs under results to see if it has selected anything you want to keep. However, in my experience, everything that is selected by adwcleaner for removal are things that you aren’t going to miss. Then click on the Clean button. After it is finished cleaning your computer, it will prompt you to restart.

Then, go to http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/download/combofix/ to download and run combofix. Allow it to do anything that it asks to. After it has finished running, restart your computer.

Go to http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/download/junkware-removal-tool/ to download and run the Junkware Removal Tool. Allow it to do anything it asks to, and when it is finished, restart your computer.

If you don’t already have Malwarebytes installed, go to http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/download/malwarebytes-anti-malware/ to install Malwarebytes. When your installing it, the free version is all you need. Allow it to receive any updates it asks for, and then run a full scan.

Finally run a full scan using your Anti-virus software.

If any symptoms still persist, seek the help of someone more knowledgeable in dealing with malware, you may have something else, or it may be a PUP that is particularly hard to remove.

How can I avoid getting PUPs?

The best way to avoid getting PUPs, is to be careful what you click on online, only install programs that you know you need (while asking someone who is more tech savvy if you aren’t sure about a particular program), and when you are installing legitimate software, make sure you read each step of the installation process so you can opt out if there are other bundled Toolbars/Software. In addition, you can install the Web of Trust add-on in your web browsers, so that you have a better idea of what reputation webpages you visit have.

Basic Computer Maintenance

by Steve on March 4, 2014 · 1 comment

155420143Computer maintenance is important. Whether you use a Mac or a PC, there are some things that need to be done to keep your computer in optimal running condition, and to ease the urgency of computer crises’ in the future when things do go wrong. Below I have three different sections (and you can use the following links to navigate to sections relevant to you); Windows Users, Mac Users, and Web Browsers/Backup information (which is for both Mac and Windows users) talking about things that we ask all Cru staff in the Great Lakes to do to help maintain their computers, and help prevent them from having some common problems.

Windows Users

CCleaner

To get things started, for the windows users, we encourage you to use CCleaner, to delete unnecessary files and keep your computer running more efficiently. If you don’t already have the free version of CCleaner installed on your computer you can get it by going to this link http://www.piriform.com/ccleaner/download and installing it after you download it. To run it there are two things we are asking you to do at least once a month. We want you to run the file cleaner (for instructions on how to do this go here http://www.piriform.com/docs/ccleaner/using-ccleaner/cleaning-your-pc/cleaning-your-pc) and to run the registry cleaner as well (instructions here http://www.piriform.com/docs/ccleaner/using-ccleaner/registry-cleaning). When you clean the registry we encourage you to fix all of the selected issues that CCleaner finds.

Malware Bytes

This is a program that finds and eliminates malicious software on your computer. It detects things that traditional antivirus doesn’t detect, and it is often the easiest way to remove malicious software from your computer, even when antivirus programs can’t. You can install the free version of this program by going here http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/download/anti-virus/malwarebytes-anti-malware. This is another program that we encourage you to run once a month, or whenever you suspect that you might have a virus. For instructions on how to run Malwarebytes, go here http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/virus-removal/how-to-use-malwarebytes-anti-malware-tutorial.

Antivirus

There are a few different antivirus’ that people here in the regional office are using. Please make sure your antivirus is scheduled to run at least once a week. If you do not have antivirus installed please install and use Microsoft Security Essentials, which you can download through windows update from Microsoft, or by going here http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/. You can view this help page from Microsoft for more information on how can you affirm that Security Essentials is running as it should.

If you are on a computer that has Windows 8, it comes with a version of Security Essentials called Windows Defender, so no antivirus is usually needed.

Updates

It is important to have a good update strategy. Keeping all of the programs you use up to date can keep your computer running smoothly, and most of the time when windows computers are compromised, it is because of malicious software taking advantage of vulnerabilities in programs that have not yet been updated.

The easiest way to stay up to date, is by installing Secunia PSI from here http://secunia.com/vulnerability_scanning/personal/. Once Secunia PSI is downloaded and installed, it will automatically install major updates that fix security problems, or if it can’t install the update itself, it will let you know that a manual update is needed, and in many cases, help walk you through the process of updating out of date programs.

Secunia PSI’s main focus is on security related updates, so sometimes you don’t get other updates, that can bring new features and enhancements to software you are currently using. So, if you want to make sure you get all the updates that many of your programs have, you can use ninite.com. To do this, browse to ninite.com select all of the programs you have installed or want to have installed on your computer (not including Microsoft Office, that is a trial only). Then download and run the installer. When you run that installer in the future, it will insure all of your programs are up to date. I recommend running the installer you downloaded 1-2 times a month. However if you don’t have Secunia PSI installed, I encourage you to run it as often as you can, even once a day if possible. Also, if you don’t use Secunia PSI, and there are any other programs you have on your computer than you need to manually check to see if they have updates at least 1-2 times a month, however most of the programs you use are probably on ninite.com.

If you need help with any of these things please let Kristin know so we can set something up.

Mac Users

Just like windows users, your operating system also takes maintenance to keep it running well. For Mac users, we have a program that we want you to use to keep your computer in good shape. It is called Main Menu, and many of you probably already have it installed on your computer. We ask that you run this program at least once a month. For more information on getting Main Menu and running it you can go here on the wiki for a step by step tutorial http://wiki.uscm.org/display/CMIT/How+to+Install%2C+and+Use+MainMenu+on+your+Mac. If you do not have Main Menu installed please go to http://incrediblebee.com/mainmenu for more information on getting this software. If you are part of the regional team, contact Ryan for information on getting it.

Updates

Like Windows users, it is also important for you to keep your computer up to date. If your are notified that updates are available, I encourage you to install them sometime the same date that you receive a notification about them. For your programs, if you got them through the App Store, they should stay up to date automatically. However, if there are programs you are using that aren’t in the App Store, you should check for updates to them, at least 1-2 times a month.

Web Browsers/Backup information

Firefox, Chrome, and other browsers, what should I use?

(Digital Strategies at Lake Hart is still migrating tools over for use in Chrome, so the recommendations here will change with time). Over the last few years you have probably been encouraged to use Firefox, and now Chrome instead of Internet Explorer (or possibly even over Safari). I want to clarify where we are coming from given the increasing number of browsers out there that you might use in your everyday lives.  Many of you have a favorite browser that might not be Firefox or Internet explorer.  For ministry, many websites were built specifically to work with Firefox and Internet Explorer, however as we transition to Google Chrome is increasingly a supported option for doing ministry as well.  We encourage you to try to use Firefox or Internet Explorer if you are using any of Cru’s non-google web tools if you experience any issues in Chrome. If you use an unsupported browser for some of Cru’s tools and are having problems, neither I or the Digital Strategies staff can effectively support you. Outside of Cru’s non-google utilities, please feel free to use any other web browser you are comfortable with. Most web browsers work equally well for personal browsing, as long as you are using the latest version of your browser. Even for Google, Chrome provides the best compatibility but many including myself use other browsers without issue.  We do ask that you check to make sure your browser(s) is up to date at least once or twice a month, for the best and most secure browsing experience possible. If you need any help with this let Kristin know.

Backup information

We also encourage you to be backing up your computer, and there are a few different ways you can do this. If you already are backing up to an external hard-drive, we expect you to do this at least once a week.  However, it is best to do it once a more if it possible.  If you don’t currently have a backup system in place, we highly recommend using something like Crashplan (http://www.crashplan.com/). For more information on Backup and a lot of other tech information you can visit the CM Information Technology part of the Wiki (link here http://wiki.uscm.org/display/CMIT/Home), which is maintained by Technology Specialists in Cru around the country.

Thanks for hanging in there through this post. I will notify you if there are any notable updates to it in the future.

Computer Security and Ministry: Social Networking

September 14, 2011

It has been a while, and once again, I want to take a more extensive look at social media threats, and how to improve safety on social media sites. Be Wary of Unknown Links Last time I posted, I said to be careful on social networking sites like Facebook. One of the most common ways […]

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Computer Security and Ministry

June 27, 2011

What we are covering today covers one of the more vital things that computer users should know about, yet it is often something that isn’t talked about enough within the context of ministry. In addition, staff/volunteers in student ministries are especially susceptible to malware in some specific ways. On one hand, staff who work in […]

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Using Dropbox for MPD and other ministry purposes.

February 10, 2011

If you haven’t discovered it yet, one of the easiest ways to keep your important documents and files syncronized across multiple computers, is by using a service like Dropbox. Dropbox is a service that combines online web storage, with an app that you can use on Windows, Mac’s, Linux and even mobile devices like ones that […]

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