All posts by Steve


Removing Possibly Unwanted Programs


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 or (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, restart your computer, and boot into safemode with networking. Most of the computers that Great Lakes Cru use are dells, so to get to the option to boot into safemode, enter your encryption password like usual, and a millisecond after hitting enter, start repeatedly mashing the F8 key. If you don’t have Truecrypt encryption on your computer, you can just start hitting F8 after you start up your computer.

After you are booted into safemode with networking, go to, 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 to download and run combofix. Allow it to do anything that it asks to. After it has finished running, restart your computer.

Go to 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 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.

There are additionl tools on the site, and most of them are good tools, so if you want to try any other tools, go for it, however if you are unsure about trying a tool, Kristin for help from the Zero Canvas team, or the Digital Stratagies team for help. Likewise, 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

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


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 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 and to run the registry cleaner as well (instructions here 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 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


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 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.


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 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 To do this, browse to 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

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 If you do not have Main Menu installed please go to for more information on getting this software. If you are part of the regional team, contact Ryan for information on getting it.


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 ( 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, 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

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 that cyber criminals are compromising online identities right now is through social networking sites like Facebook. I told you that on these types of sites, if you receive a link or a video that you didn’t know was coming, to contact your friend on Facebook (or other similar sites) and verify that they intended to send it to you. However, the problem is deeper than that. Often when people have their account hijacked, videos or images will get posted to their wall. When you click on these videos, the same kinds of things can occur that take place when you get a malicious video or link in a message. It is important when on social networking sites that if you see a link or a video that links to something that isn’t clearly personal to your friend, you verify that it is safe to click on that link.

Some people have assumed that they could click on the link, and they would still be safe if they didn’t download anything. That often is not the case. Let me explain a little more about what these links do. One recent scam was an Oslo bombing video scam. This scam showed up on Facebook on the 22nd of July, and it took advantage of the recent tragedy in Oslo, Norway. On average, shortly after this scam started, someone was clicking on this “video” about once every second. The way this scam spreads is through “clickjacking.” By clicking on the video, it replicates itself to your wall so that all your friends can see it. If even a few of them click on it, it can spread like wild fire. Clickjacking can also possibly give the malicious individuals behind these campaigns access to your account. These kind of attacks are common on Facebook and Twitter, and might possibly be taking place in Google+ too, though at the moment I have no verified reports of this happening. Due to integration tools for other social media sites, clickjacking has happened through Google+ if you are signed into Facebook or Twitter at the same time. It is also important to note that since this isn’t traditional malware, clickjacking can occur on any operating system regardless of whether you are using Windows, Macs or Linux distros.

Other Malicious Links
As common as clickjacking is, there are also other malicious links on sites that when clicked on, will also ask you to download something. To briefly expand on this, clickjacking generally involves compromising ones online identity or other online information. Links to downloads can serve a variety of purposes, but generally the desired end result is that the user will install malicious software onto their computer, and compromise it. As I’ve said before, unless you were expecting something, do not download anything until you have confirmed with your friend that they intended to send you a download. If you believe that your social networking account has been compromised, change your password right away and contact your social networking site to obtain further advice from them about how you can ensure your account is uncompromised.

Final Thoughts
Finally my advice from the last post still stands. In general, do not click on any links that you are unfamiliar with, and do not download any attachments that you weren’t expecting. In the very least, confirm that they are legit with the sender. Institutions rarely if ever send attachments. So, if you get an attachment from your bank, promotional company, or some other organization, contact them first to verify that the attachment is legit. If there is ever reasonable doubt that you downloaded an attachment that is not legit, delete it immediately and empty your recycle bin or trash. Be careful out there.

via: seventy8Productions

Computer Security and Ministry

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 ministry generally try to live very frugal, and financially responsible lives. However, many times malware threats use promises of deals on food or merchandise that look like legitimate marketing campaigns from well-known businesses to infect their victims. Another common susceptibility that I have heard about is intelligence agents from foreign closed countries attempting to hack into the computers of staff members if they believe that other staff from that same church or organization might be in their country, since this might allow them to gather intelligence.

Malware has become a multibillion dollar underground industry, and it is something that is always changing. There are always new attacks and new ways that criminals try to take advantage of computer users who don’t know enough, or aren’t careful enough about what they are doing online. It is my goal and desire to provide some illumination regarding what we know is going on in the world of malware, and how computer users can be careful to prevent possible attacks from malware and other malicious online threats. It isn’t my desire to bring about fear, only careful discernment as we use online resources. Today I am going to briefly touch on some new threats, or recently discovered information regarding potential threats. I will try to touch on a few ways that computer users can hopefully avoid many threats out there today, and take steps to avoid malware and other security threats.

Also, I am going to attempt to lay ground work for future discussion regarding computer security. I would like to begin by saying that this is going to focus on computer security, not Mac or PC security. In the past there has been a mostly true idea that if you were using Mac’s then security doesn’t need to be as large of a concern. While that has historically been true for malware threats, this is changing. In the last few weeks, the malware industry has come out with a new equal opportunity offender. They have made a kit that is being referred to as a “Weyland-Yutani” kit. This kit allows computer users with even marginal experience using a computer to make their own malware by purchasing this kit. This kit can make malware for Windows and Mac operating systems, and the anonymous people who made it have promised buyers that future versions of this kit will also allow them to make malware for iOS (iPad/iPhone/iPod touch) devices, as well as for Linux based operating systems. Historically the unpopularity of Mac and Linux have kept them from being as much of a target, but this is starting to change. It is now important for users of all operating systems and mobile devices to be careful about the security of their devices online.

In addition, malware threats are starting to hit an all-time high. According to AppRiver, during the month of May malware pieces at times were hitting as high as 10 million pieces per day. It is easy to think that you can only get a virus by doing something irresponsible online, but that isn’t necessarily true. Due to the variety of tactics used by the malware industry, the user who isn’t cautious, or doesn’t show care online can easily become infected.

For now, here is some broad advice regarding some things you can do to stay safe out there. If you are on a social networking site like Facebook, or you are on IM, and you receive a message from someone you know asking you to go to a link, it is probably best to contact the person and verify that they intended to send you a link. This is one of the common ways that malware is spread. In addition, never download any attachments in your e-mail, unless you know for sure what they are, and are expecting them. If any e-mail attachments are questionalbe, then contact the sender, and ensure they intended to send you an e-mail attachment. If there is reasonable doubt that an attachment isn’t legitimate, delete it, and empty your recycle bin or trash.

via: seventy8Productions

Using Dropbox for MPD and other ministry purposes.

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 run the Android operating system. However sometimes, things like this can seem like a mystery, until you start using it, and maybe you don’t know how you can use it within the work you are currently doing for your ministry. I am going to cover some of the basic features of Dropbox so you can understand how it could be useful, and hopefully make some aspects of ministry easier as it intersects with technology.
A good starting point that applies to everyone, is that Dropbox is a great tool to use when your doing Ministry Partner Development (MPD). You can keep prayer letters synchronized across multiple computers, even if you work on both Windows and Mac computers. In addition, as we will cover in a later article, you can synchronize yourTntMPD database using Dropbox, so that you can easily use TntMPD regardless of which computer you are currently using. This can be really helpful if you use TntMPD on a desktop computer at home, and then want to continue using it on the road when you are doing MPD, and it can also be really helpful for staff couples who are working on MPD in different locations at the same time.

It can help with collaboration. While you can and should install Dropbox on any computers you want to sync files to and from, you can also create shared folders, and share the contents of certain folders online, so you can easily share files that are too big for e-mail without the fuss of using a file uploading service. This makes it easy to share files with a big group of people, or to deliver that video that you think would work well at tonights weekly meeting to the student or staff that is running it, and all you have to do is give them the link to it in Dropbox.

Another thing that is great about Dropbox, is with teams that are spread out geographically, it can be used as a cheap network drive for sharing and updating files among a large group of people. If you got an account for your team, you could keep 2 GB’s of data synchronized for free, and for $10-$20 a month, you could increase that to 50GB-100GB respectively.

Finally, possibly one of the most important features of Dropbox is that it keeps old versions of your files, so if you mess something up, or accidentally delete a file, then you can easily recover your file, or restore them to a previous version.

Is there a way that you use Dropbox to enhance your ministry? Let us know in the comments.