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Issue #133: February 7, 2010

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Q: I am interested in joining a computer club. Please let me know, if we have one in the Fort Walton Beach Area.

– C. A.
Fort Walton Beach, Fla

A: There sure is.  In fact, the computer expo that took place a couple weeks ago would have been the perfect place for you to make contact, as it was put on by the Northwest Florida Association of Computer User Groups (NWFACUG).  Local clubs in Fort Walton Beach include the Emerald Coast Computer Society, which meets the 2nd Monday of each month in Teresa Village, and the Center for Lifelong Learning Computer Club, which meets the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the University of West Florida Fort Walton Beach Campus.  There are also other clubs in the region that are not located in Fort Walton Beach itself.  The NWFACUG website has more information on their affiliate organizations.  Check out their website at nwfacug.org and click the “Club Pages” link.

Q: I’m a snowbird and really enjoy your columns of computer advice.  The other nite while my husband was on numerous fishing sites a notice came up from Windows Security stating we had a TROJAN virus – download an exec. file. I did but it froze the computer and I could not get all the warnings off the screen. At the same time my BitDefender Antivirus Progam came on in the corner saying it had detected a TROJAN type virus and after running the antivirus scan for over an hour said it had quarantined the virus.  The next day while BitDefender said there were no Security issues the Windows program came up again! Do you have any idea of what is going on???  I do not save passwords.  Should I be worried????

– Sandy G.
Fort Walton Beach, Fla

A: The honest truth is that these days, anyone who uses a computer to connect to the internet should be worried.  I don’t mean that to be facetious either.  Malware is on the rise, and the attacks are getting sneakier, and the software is getting tougher to weed out.  Your case is a classic example.  It sounds to me like you’re the victim of what has been termed “Rogue Antivirus Software”.  It works like this:  A website tricks you into downloading an executable program by presenting you with a fake, but legitimate-looking dialog telling you that you have infected files on your computer.  The executable file you download is billed as a virus scanner, and indeed, it looks and acts like a virus scanner.  However, once installed, it “finds” viruses everywhere, including in places that your regular virus scanner says are clean.  However, you only have the “demo” version, and they want you to purchase the “full” version to clean off these supposed viruses.  Once you do that, all the warnings cease.  Problem solved, right?  Well, yeah, except that the whole thing was a fake.  The “virus scanner” software is just a con job, programmed to flag just about any file it sees you using as virus-ridden.  The worst of these programs actually encrypt your files, rendering them unreadable.  This essentially holds your files hostage until you pay for the unlock code to regain access.  There are many of these Rogue Antivirus software programs in existence.  Malware Bytes has a free scanner that can remove quite a few of them.  You can download it at [Redacted – link no longer functional].  You can protect yourself in the future by learning what a legitimate virus warning from your real virus scanner looks like (you can find screen shots on the web) and then don’t be tricked into responding to fake warnings.

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