WHAT’S NEW AT PC PITSTOP, MARCH 2004
IN THIS ISSUE
- Spyware Wars
- Tip: Emergency Access To PC Pitstop
- Another Smoking Gun
- PhatBot Lets Spammers Own Your PC
- Comcast Yanks the Plug On Infected Customers
- Will Legislation Stop Spyware and Spam?
- Tip: System Security Checklist
- Solve Your PC Problems At The Pit
Within the past year, Internet viruses have changed. Not only are they spreading more quickly than before, there are new people behind them. Instead of trying to harm your PC, these new viruses want to steal your personal information and use your PC to spread more spam and spyware. When your PC is taken over by these viruses, it becomes part of a worldwide crime network, with spammers and spyware makers at its center. Their motivation is money. Every time you buy a product from a spam message or leave your PC unprotected from spyware, you are adding to the problem and encouraging more of the same.
We’ve been making headway against some of these threats, but sites like PC Pitstop that try to help people identify these threats are increasingly becoming targets of these networks. Sites such as Hijack This, Ad-Aware, and SpywareInfo.com have been targeted with denial-of-service (DoS) attacks to keep people from being able to access the information they need to protect their PCs. If they can knock us offline, then can keep us from helping you.
Tip: Emergency Access to PC Pitstop
If you find your system is infected by spyware or one of the new spamming worm/viruses, it may block access to any site that might help you fix your computer. After all, they want to make sure you stay infected! If you find you are unable to get to PC Pitstop, try our IP addresses. If you reach the site that way, your system bay be infected by these nasty viruses. Here are the IP addresses for our site:
- http://22.214.171.124/ pcpitstop.com
- http://126.96.36.199/ support.pcpitstop.com (our forums)
Another Smoking Gun
Right now some of you are saying that we must be too paranoid, but here’s proof that they really are out to get us–and you. This links to a posting from a Usenet group showing hackers how to block a list of antivirus help sites, including ours:
This code is already part of some viruses and spyware. Many recent viruses, worms, and spyware also detect and disable antivirus, anti-spyware, or firewall software they find on a PC, so don’t assume your PC can’t become infected just because you have virus and spyware scanners installed. Treat every email attachment and downloaded file with care.
PhatBot Lets Spammers Own Your PC
One of the worst new threats is called PhatBot, and it uses just about every trick in the book. It modifies itself to avoid detection by antivirus software, and disables firewall programs that it finds running. It uses several techniques to spread to systems that have not been patched by Windows Update. It can steal software license keys, web site passwords, PayPal account information, and emails from web sites or address books. It can be used as a proxy service so that attackers can access sites and make it look like it came from your system. Here are the details:
Comcast Yanks the Plug On Infected Customers
If having your PC infected by spyware and viruses isn’t enough of a motivation to keep it safe, here’s another reason. Internet service providers are waking up to the havoc caused by infected PCs and are disconnecting the service of users that don’t clean up their PCs. Comcast is one of the first to try this approach to control the problem. Don’t let it happen to you.
Will Legislation Stop Spyware and Spam?
Although the CAN-SPAM act went into effect in the United States this year, spam rates haven’t slowed yet. Now the government is planning to go after spyware, but will that be more successful? Already several bills have been introduced in Congress, and the Federal Trade Commission is planning a public hearing on the spyware threat in April. Let’s hope any resulting law has some teeth that can take a bite out of these scum. In our opinion, money is what fuels the spyware and spam cycle. An effective solution will need to cut off the money supply and remove the incentives that attackers have to hijack your system.
Tip: System Security Checklist
We can’t emphasize this enough. To keep your system safe from these threats, there are some simple steps you need to take:
- Keep Windows patched using Windows Update
- Use an antivirus program with updated signatures (daily!)
- Use a spyware scanner and keep it up to date
- Patch your applications (MS Office, Adobe Reader, etc.)
- Use caution when reading email attachments
- Read before you click dialogs and license agreements
Some people worry that updates will mess up their system, but our experience shows that is pretty rare. The greatest threat is from the security vulnerabilities of stale software. Here are some links to help you find and fight security threats:
Our Full Tests: http://pcpitstop.com/tinylink.asp?FullTest Free Antivirus: http://pcpitstop.com/tinylink.asp?AV Pest Patrol: http://pcpitstop.com/tinylink.asp?PestPatrol Windows Update: http://pcpitstop.com/tinylink.asp?WinUpd Office Update: http://pcpitstop.com/tinylink.asp?OffUpd
Solve Your PC Problems At The Pit
Need some help figuring out a tough computer problem? Can’t seem to shake some spyware or a virus? Stop by the PC Pitstop Forums–we call it “The Pit”. It’s free and friendly!
About PC Pitstop
PC Pitstop, LLC (http://www.pcpitstop.com) was formed in February 2000, and offers users a unique way to make sure their PCs are running fast, stable and secure–all through a free, Web-based interface.
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