A new virus has infected several of our customers computers. We were seeing the effects of this virus less than one a month several weeks ago. Now we are seeing two or more every week. The virus, trojan or whatever it is is stealing email passwords. It may get other passwords (such as to your bank) but we have not confirmed that. It shares your email address and password with spammers all over the world and sends in some cases over 100 thousand emails (from you) to the rest of the world.
The immediate result is our mail server gets blocked by Spamhaus and other spam fighting systems and you are unable to send email to many on your contact list or other recipients. You get thousands of bounced messages because they could not be delivered for one reason or another. It causes you a lot of trouble and it causes us a lot of trouble.
How do you get the virus? It may come to you in an email or an add-on to a website you visit. I have not found the name of the virus yet so, I don’t know how it propagates. I don’t know what it does beyond sharing email address and password for the email addresses on the affected box.
Think about being proactive and taking care of your computer before you become a victim.
How do you keep from getting the virus? Install a good virus scanner and active protection. One that moitors what is coming into your computer and stops it or alerts you that this is not good, giving you the opportunity to block or deny access to it. If you have a business and your company depends on communications through the Internet, buy good protection for your systems. It is your reputation that is on the line here.
How do you get rid of the virus? Buy a good virus scanner, install it, update it’s database and let it scan your computer twice with nothing else running, especially email and web browsers. Allow the virus scanner to quarantine or delete any viruses it may find. Set the scanner to run continuously in the background watching Internet traffic. From that point, you should periodically scan your whole computer. If you have any virus, change all of the passwords used on that computer. Especially banking and credit card related passwords.
One of the most important things you can do is shut off your computer when you are done for the day. Set it so it updates the virus scanner daily. This is best done early in the morning after you have had time to turn it on. Set the operating system to keep itself updated all the time. Shutting down and restarting allows it to complete most updates that require a reboot. That keeps your systems all up to date and you are not really interrupted at all by the process once you have it running.
I’m going to recommend one other thing that goes against common wisdom regarding passwords. Write them down and keep them where only you can see them. Update them frequently with long unguessable passwords. Here are some suggestions you might find easy to get long passwords and remember them.
- You have a favorite password. Add a word to it that is also easy to remember making the whole password at least 12 characters. Very long passwords are the key to security along with keeping your computer safe.
- Use keyboard sequences. Watch your fingers as you type some of these and you will see what I mean. 1qaz2wsx3edc
- Get a password you like and add a character or two to it representing the month, birth month, birth day, number of sisters and brothers. Just use something you remember and write it down where you can find it but no one else can or at least would know what it was if they saw it.
- Get creative. I once used the manufacturer and model number of the speakers right on the desktop next to the computer. Long and quite easy to remember. Next time it was the model number and serial number of the same speakers.
Remember, no matter how long the password is, it is easily hackable by a virus or over an insecure internet connection.