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Issue #521: July 16-22, 2017

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Q: I’m always getting pop-ups regarding “updating my drivers”. I don’t know if there is really a problem with them or not. How would I know if my drivers have a problem? My PC is working fine. I have a Toshiba Laptop running windows 7. Please advise.

– Teresa F.
Odessa, Texas

A:  Hello, Texas!  Always happy to hear from my readers of the Odessa American. 

You are right to be suspicious of those “pop-ups”, Teresa, even if you’re not sure how to tell if the message in them is legitimate.  If your computer is working as well as you say it is, I can practically guarantee that your PC doesn’t have any driver problems, although I would have liked to see an actual screen capture of the offending message box to be sure.  Since drivers are pieces of software that help Windows to interface with various hardware, the way you’d know there is a problem is if something isn’t working properly.  It may be only one or two features of a device, or the entire device may appear to stop working.  At that point, diagnostics on that particular driver may be needed, but that is something you would determine on your own.  You probably wouldn’t be informed by a seemingly random pop-up.

I suspect the messages you’re seeing are being generated by a web page you’re visiting, as are many such illicit messages.  Chances are, these are attempts to install malware.  Most anti-malware software will not allow a software installation that simply starts on its own – especially one that originates on the Internet.  However, one that starts in response to the user clicking a dialog box has an air of legitimacy about it.  The anti-malware software doesn’t interpret the contents of the dialog, it just knows that you approved whatever the dialog said.  This is often enough for the anti-malware software to allow the installation to proceed. 

The key to stopping such attacks is educating yourself, and writing to It’s Geek To Me is an excellent way to educate not just yourself, but many of your fellow geeks and geek wannabes who happen to be readers.  So, here are some tips for you that should help you out as you traverse the minefield that is the Worldwide Web.

First of all, most dialog boxes generated by web sites have a certain look to them that is different than what Windows would pop-up to inform you of a problem with your PC.  Learn the difference in the appearance of such pop-ups, and you’ll be better able to recognize the miscreants when they appear on your screen.  You can start your education with a Google search of “How to spot fake pop-ups”.

Second, beware of pop-ups that suddenly appear while you are browsing the web, especially when your PC otherwise appears to be healthy.  No websites can or will attempt to diagnose and identify problems on your PC just because you happen to be visiting their page.  So, any messages that you receive complaining about system problems while you’re web browsing should be looked at very suspiciously.  If certain websites you visit habitually generate these messages, you would be wise to avoid these sites, as they either propagating malware themselves, or allowing advertisers on their website to propagate malware.  In my book, neither is acceptable.

Finally, as I’ve harped on many times before, don’t just click a dialog to get rid of it until you’ve thoroughly read it, so you know what you’re clicking on.  Don’t expect to read “This site wants to install malware.  Continue?” but also don’t believe everything you read.  Rogue software can and will generate messages that say anything that might entice you to click “OK”.  Whether it’s an offer to fix drivers, a sweepstakes entry notification, or an opportunity to view secret naughty pictures of your neighbors, if you didn’t ask for it, don’t believe it! “X” it off your screen to be safe.

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