All posts by Carlos

Viruses & Spyware in 2015

Viruses & spyware are things which have evolved over time to become what they are today. Bad stuff for your PC. How do you protect yourself in today’s world of this? It’s not easy if you’re looking for solutions online, but very easy if you already know exactly what you want and where to get it. So let’s see if we can help everyone be safer online and safer overall.

VIRUSES & SPYWARE DEFINED

These are nasty little bugs that get on your system. While different people (and companies) will have different definitions for each, and some will even group them all in the same category, they do have some slight differences and the names of each also depend on what they do.

Viruses in general harm your system by compromising some key components and usually tries to duplicate itself. You’ll find that some spyware does this too, but while viruses typically harms your system or covertly replicates itself spyware is blatant about being present – but in a nice way.

Let’s get some definitions in this. Courtesy of Google.

Virus – a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data.

Spyware – software that enables a user to obtain covert information about another’s computer activities by transmitting data covertly from their hard drive.

Malware – software that is intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems.

Scareware – malicious computer programs designed to trick a user into buying and downloading unnecessary and potentially dangerous software, such as fake antivirus protection.

Ransomeware – a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.

And believe it or not – there’s more. For each method used you’ll find a different definition. For the purpose of this post however we’re going to just use the two broad categories of viruses and spyware.

So let’s break it down for clarification. Viruses and spyware may behave in similar ways, but viruses act behind the scenes while spyware is more up-front. Usually spyware will install itself bundled with something that’s good or that you want. A typical example of this is the Conduit Search spyware which is bundled with a lot of different things that you may want to use – like Crystal DiskInfo.

The software you’re installing is good, but the installer package that the programmer uses may just have garbage bundled with it. Most end-users are programmed by technicians to “just click NEXT, YES or I AGREE” and as such they do this. The problem is that the “bundled offers” with most packages are the things that mess you up, and then trips to the store for multiple unwanted popups or unable to change your home page or similar things come up. Stuff that finds things to fix on your PC but you have to pay for the software to get the supposed fixes. Then once your credit card info is obtained – you’re stuck with them for life.

In order to keep yourself protected and have minimal down-time if you get infected we’re going to give you three steps. Not necessarily simple steps, but three that should be fairly easy to do.

  1. Always have a system backup.
  2. Practice safe browsing.
  3. Use protection.

The steps are not listed in any particular order – it’s just how we put it while typing them out.

1. SYSTEM BACKUP

This involves two things you need to have. First is your actual system or factory image/backup and the other is a backup of your files.

Most persons have a desktop or laptop that they use. If it’s a laptop then half of your work is done. If it’s a desktop that’s a custom build – meaning not a Dell, Acer, HP or any other factory-made machine – then it’s a little harder.

For laptops and factory machines you should have an option to create your factory or system recovery discs. This entails purchasing DVD discs or an external drive (for systems without CD/DVD drives) and running the manufacturer’s software to create your recovery/factory image. Once this is done you will always be able to restore the laptop/desktop to the way it was when you just purchased it.

For desktops that are custom built you will need third-party software from Paragon or Acronis. While both will have paid solutions you can find a free solution from Paragon.

Create the backup disk image using the software of your choice and then we’re on to the next phase – the file backup.

Click on START then on RUN. For persons with Windows 8/8.1 press and hold the WINDOWS key on the keyboard and then press R. This keyboard shortcut can be done from any edition of Windows but is specifically needed for Windows 8/8.1 as they have no start menu. If you do have a start menu but can’t see the RUN option just use the same shortcut key. Type in %UserProfile% and click on OK or press ENTER on the keyboard. This should bring you to your user profile folder. Copy the entire contents to DVD or an external drive. If using DVDs you may need multiple depending on the size of the folders – an external drive is highly recommended.

Once these steps are done keep the backups in a safe place. Make periodic updates to your backup of the folders from the %UserProfile% folder to keep things current. This will ensure that you can always get your system back up and running and your files will always be safe.

2. PRACTICE SAFE BROWSING

This is something that can’t be stressed enough. Check your email. Check your social media. Check forums and such. Don’t click on the pretty flashing ads. Just don’t.

While infections can come from any angle the bulk of new infections come from clicking on things that you think are harmless. There have even been some FaceBook viruses (scripts) that hijack your account and replicate themselves by posting random things to your wall for others to click on. Some of these include porn-related things for celebrities, stating that the account holder won money and you can get a share, photos of friends that you caught that they don’t have and other such claims.

While it seems like being paranoid – and it kinda is – in some cases it’s needed. If you see something that you like, check it out by running a search about it first. If you’re still not sure then go to a reputable site – like Download.com from CNet – and search for the program there. If it’s not listed then it’s probably not safe – that’s not a rule to live by, but it’s a start. One example of a good app that’s not on CNet would be Explorer++. It’s not bundled with any spyware (at the time of this writing) but it’s not listed on CNet.

So…………..basically you just need to read the things you’re installing. Stay within the zone you’re accustomed to. Don’t download and use things that you’re not familiar with.

3. USE PROTECTION

Finally – we suggest the use of free protection if you can’t afford to buy protection at this time. Free things to use include AVG and Avast! antivirus. Paid versions of most antivirus software will work, and other popular ones include Norton, Kaspersky and Bit Defender.

ALREADY INFECTED?

If for some reason you believe you’re already infected then download and install one of the antivirus packages mentioned above and run a full scan. If you think you still have an infection then use SUPER AntiSpyware and MalwareBytes Anti-Malware – not one or the other – BOTH. Download and install then run a full scan with one then the other. If you find that this has not cleaned your system then you’ll need to perform the steps in #2 to get your files off, and use the backup created prior to an infection in #1 to get your system back up.

CAUTION

At the time of this writing it’s been brought to our attention that some of the reputable sites – like Download.com – may have started to bundle installers with some of their downloads. As a result ensure that you’re only installing things that you WANT and not additional bundled items. Here’s a few names to look out for and avoid when you’re downloading or installing stuff.

Babylon toolbar
Conduit Search Protect
Delta search
Delta toolbar
Facemoods
Qvo6
Search Assistant SearchWeb
Search result
Snap.do
Trovi Search Protect
Vitalia installer

Norton has provided a tool to remove some of these toolbars free of cost.

Hopefully with the information provided here you’ll not be needing a format/reinstall or restore from backup, and if you do end up needing it then hopefully the information here will prepare you for the worst.

Acer Aspire 4830T Keyboard Removal

This will go through the removal process for the 4830T – specifically the 4830T-6452 – but you may be able to apply some of the steps here to other models.

DISCLAIMER
While the steps here should be straightforward we don’t recommend doing this unless you either have no other choice or feel REALLY safe doing it yourself. In all cases take it to a professional or take it in for warranty repair if it’s still under warranty. DON’T DO IT YOURSELF!!!

OK. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down into your laptop.

Flip it over and you’ll notice that there’s a lot of screws. Fortunately 90% of the screws on this model are exactly the same, so taking them out and mixing them up won’t be much of an issue.

This model has a sealed battery, but removal of the first cover will trigger a switch that turns the battery off.

DSC08630

In the uploaded picture you’ll see blue dots on the various screws that need to be removed. The bottom panel has already been removed. There’s a gold arrow pointing to the screw that has to be removed before sliding off the panel and a green arrow at the screw for removing the optical drive (ODD). If all you need to change is the ODD then remove the indicated screw and slide it out after ejecting the drive previously and before shutting down the system or after the system has shut down with a paper clip. That means – you eject the drive with a paper clip and pull it out after the system is shut down – not shut down the system using a paper clip.

If you only need to get access to the memory (RAM) or hard drive (HDD) then remove the indicated screw for the lower panel and slide it away from the laptop (down) and then lift off. There is a switch highlighted in a red box that shows the on/off position. On the panel which you remove there is a tab that must align with the switch. Be careful not to break it.

Getting further into it you’ll want to remove the bezel below the keyboard. Ensure that all the screws from the bottom have been removed (see first picture). Flip the laptop over and open the screen. Once all the screws are removed the lower bezel is held in by clips. Pry it off (carefully) using your preferred tool/method and prepare to remove some ribbon cables. Pardon the messy table.

DSC08632Then you want to flip the bezel over and remove the trackpad cable. Once done you can take the bezel off.

Acer Aspire 4830T Trackpad CableDisconnect the ribbon cables and remove the indicated screws. One screw is different and has a red dot instead of blue. This one goes through a fabric-like attachment on the cable that connects the USB (and I think audio) on the right side. Since it goes through this part the screw shouldn’t fall out, but the fabric may tear when screwing it back in so be careful. The green arrow on the USB+ cable can be removed either from the board in the middle or from the part on the right. It’s up to you to remove one or both connectors. Either way the screw in the middle must be removed.

Acer Aspire 4830T Top BezelOnce this is done you’re almost at the keyboard. Remove the entire top bezel including the keyboard. This entire part is now held in by clips so just snap them out. Personally I took it up from the left side, then the back (close to the monitor) then all the way around. I know the pic is dark.

Acer Aspire 4830T Top Bezel RemovalOnce the top bezel is off you should be able to see the motherboard and battery.

Acer Aspire 4830T MotherboardWe’re not going into any other type of replacement specifically right now – while you can replace some other parts with what’s been done so far what we want is the keyboard.

Acer Aspire 4830T Keyboard Bracket

The picture shows all similar screws in the same color. White arrows show clip areas. The screw in purple holds the USB ports and audio jacks (labeled as USB+ previously) and must be removed prior to sliding the bracket off. Once all the screws are removed slide the metal bracket up (according to picture orientation) and then lift it off.¬† There may be some tape holding the black covering to the bottom of the keyboard – just peel it off as you go along.From here you can take off the exact part number for the keyboard to order it. You can then either put it back together till¬† you get the part or leave it disassembled – just don’t lose the screws. Once you have the replacement keyboard just remove and replace. When done just follow the instructions in reverse to put it all back together.

Acer Aspire 4830T Keyboard Bracket2 Acer Aspire 4830T Keyboard Acer Aspire 4830T Keyboard PNPLEASE NOTE – Your keyboard part number may be different. Ensure you’re getting the correct part. On this one there are two possible numbers from Sunrex or Compal – simply search for either one on eBay or Amazon.

Ticket System Up!

We now have a ticket system integrated into our site! By going to the link -> http://catsinja.com/ticket/ <- you can create a new ticket or view the progress of your existing ticket. This means that any work done can be easily tracked online right up to completion. Once done you can opt to pick up the device or have it dropped off. Remember that delivery around the town is free but based on availability.