Avoiding Malware Infections Requires Training, Vigilance, Proper Tools

NEWS ANALYSIS: When your computer suddenly tells you to do something unusual or offers you something you didn't ask for, it helps to be suspicious, even paranoid.

I walked into my office on Sunday afternoon to pay some bills and look at real estate listings that I can't afford, but when I sat down at my computer, I found a message on the screen telling me that I might be the victim of counterfeit software.

Inside the dialog box, which had opened in the center of the screen, was a link inviting me to click and resolve the problem. I put my hand on my mouse, but before I clicked, I stopped.

I knew that the copy of Windows 7 on my computer was installed by Hewlett-Packard when I bought it, so it was highly unlikely that there was anything wrong with that. My copy of Microsoft Office 2013 was new, but that came directly from Microsoft, so that wasn't counterfeit, either.

Since the message on the screen implied that the counterfeit software came from Microsoft, I started to really wonder. What really made me suspicious of the message was the repeated use of the ® registered trademark symbol. Microsoft rarely uses that symbol in its communications.

So I grabbed my mouse again, and this time I hovered the pointer over the link. Nothing appeared, so I right-clicked it. Normally that would have led to a choice to copy the Web address, but nothing happened there, either. By now I was satisfied that I was seeing activity that was somehow related to malware on my system. Problem was, I'd just run Symantec's Norton Internet Security, and it hadn't found anything besides tracking cookies.

Then I remembered Malwarebytes, This is one of those products that I've known about for years, but for whatever reason never thought about. My daughter, a tech support engineer for a major technology company, has been singing its praises recently. Then I remembered that I'd downloaded the free version a while back, so I opened it and tried to run it. That try failed, but it occurred to me that it had been a few years. Maybe even pre-Windows 7.

It turns out that Malwarebytes still has their free download available, so I downloaded a current version and tried again. The company said in their product information that their product was compatible with most antivirus applications, so I just left Norton running. I launched Malwarebytes free version, and let it run in its quick scan mode.

Once the scan was finished, the results showed that Malwarebytes had eliminated seven pieces of malware, most of which seemed to have ended up in the directory for the Chrome browser.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...