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Virus / Malware: How did I get infected?

I got a call a couple of weeks ago from a client who suspected their computer was infected with a virus. They described to me the symptoms, a Windows box popped up, ran a scan and reported that they had 253 infected files on the computer and to clean the computer they would have to purchase the software. I told them I was familiar with that type of infection and it was rampant and I would run over to get them cleaned up, and to shut down the computer until I got there. Thirty minutes later I arrived on site, I started the removal procedure, running scans, etc. as I was chatting with the client they informed me that they had tried to remove the virus themselves and even paid for the remover but it didn’t work. After a deep breath, I told my client to call their credit card company and cancel that card, it was too late, and there were already two charges on the card for a couple thousand dollars. They were able to get the mess straightened out before too much damage was done and get the charges reversed.
The question that we always get asked is how did I get infected? While this is almost impossible to track back, especially after running standard AV cleaning procedures on a computer, it will help users to know some things to look for. One way is a pc is gets infected, that most users are aware of is through email. One of their friends or associates gets infected and that infection uses their PC and to send out infected emails to everyone in their contact list. The user gets an infected email, opens it and in the background the virus is installed on the computer and the cycle repeats itself. Most users these days are knowledgeable of these types of viruses and generally use caution when opening strange or unknown emails.
One of the newer techniques that hackers are using is by taking advantage of current or popular events in the media. The death of Steve Jobs  and Osama Bin Laden and the Royal wedding  were all popular searches that hackers were using to trick people. The hacker will use a technique called SEO poisoning; with this they “push” infected URL’s to the top of the search results. When the user clicks on this link they are directed to a web page that pushes the malware onto their computer. A 2010 study by Google found 11,000 domains hosting fake anti-virus software, accounting for 50% of all malware delivered via internet advertising.
It’s a cat and mouse game between the hackers and the Antivirus makers, the hackers are constantly creating new virus/malware or more commonly modifying existing viruses so that it will go undetected by the antivirus.  We have clients get infected while running the latest antivirus program with the latest definitions, and it happens to all the major AV companies.
Keeping your computer clean and free of antivirus and malware begins with you. Don’t depend on your antivirus alone, as none of them are 100%. As a user, you need to be smart while reading emails and browsing the web. If something looks suspicious, don’t click on it, and don’t give out credit card or personal information unless you are 100% sure who you are giving it to. If your computer is asking for permission to install a program and you are not sure about it, don’t allow it. The latest tricks from the hackers are depending on user’s curiosity and ignorance to spread their software.

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