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Help! Someone is holding my computer hostage

March 18th, 2014 No comments

If you see a pop-up window, webpage, or email message warning you that your computer has been locked because of possible illegal activities, you might be a victim of a criminal extortion scam called ransomware.

Ransomware often masquerades as an official-looking warning from a well-known law enforcement agency, such as the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The aim of ransomware is to prevent you from using your computer until you pay a fee (the “ransom”). If you get an email message or a warning like this, do not follow the payment instructions. If you pay the ransom, the criminals probably won’t unlock your computer and might even install more viruses or steal your personal and financial information.

 

Example of ransomware

What to do if you think you’ve been a victim of ransomware

If you’ve already paid the scammers, you should contact your bank and your local authorities, such as the police. If you paid with a credit card, your bank may be able to block the transaction and return your money.

To detect and remove ransomware and other malicious software that might be installed on your computer, run a full-system scan with an appropriate, up-to-date, security solution. The following Microsoft products can detect and remove this threat:

More information about how to prevent and get rid of ransomware

 

 

 

EMET: A valuable tool for PC protection

October 18th, 2013 No comments

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you’ve probably already taken steps to help protect your PC. You have antivirus software that you trust and you keep it updated automatically. You’ve activated your firewall. You regularly install security updates. You know not to respond to suspicious emails or to click links with promises that seem too good to be true.

Today we’d like to tell you about an advanced tool that complements your existing defenses, making it even more difficult for malicious hackers and cybercriminals to get into your computer. If you feel comfortable performing more advanced computer tasks, consider downloading the free Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET).

EMET is a free tool available for Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. EMET works by taking advantage of security technologies that already exist on your PC, but might not be used by all of your programs. EMET helps protect your computer from new or undiscovered threats until they can be addressed through formal security updates. Katie Couric, a journalist and a talk show host, recently hosted a segment called Protect Your Computers from Hackers and recommended that families install and use EMET.

Download EMET now

Once installed, EMET works quietly in the background without interrupting your computer use. Like any security tool, EMET doesn’t guarantee that you’ll never have any problems, but it does make it much harder for an attacker to succeed.

Already using EMET? Get support or join the EMET forum.

Filing taxes? Beware of scams

February 26th, 2013 No comments

It’s tax season in the United States, which means it’s time for us to remind you about tax scams—especially email messages that appear to come from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or another legitimate organization.

These seemingly valid offers are designed to trick you into turning over your personal information or to click on links or attachments that will automatically download malicious software to your computer.

The most common tax scams we’ve seen include:

  • Fraudulent links to get your refund
  • Free tax preparation or tax preparation software
  • Promises to get you out of paying your taxes

To help avoid tax scams

Be careful when you click links or open attachments. If you need to go to the IRS website, use a bookmark or type the URL directly into your web browser. Read more about how the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information.

Use antivirus software. Download Microsoft Security Essentials at no cost for Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. Windows Defender is an antivirus feature in Windows 8 that replaces Microsoft Security Essentials. 

Use email software with built-in spam filtering. SmartScreen technology helps reduce unwanted email. It’s built into Microsoft email programs (Outlook.com, Hotmail, Outlook, Exchange, Windows Mail, and Entourage) and is turned on by default.

Read more about security features in Outlook.com and Hotmail.

Get help with phishing scams, lottery fraud, and other types of scams


Filing taxes? Beware of scams

February 26th, 2013 No comments

It’s tax season in the United States, which means it’s time for us to remind you about tax scams—especially email messages that appear to come from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or another legitimate organization.

These seemingly valid offers are designed to trick you into turning over your personal information or to click on links or attachments that will automatically download malicious software to your computer.

The most common tax scams we’ve seen include:

  • Fraudulent links to get your refund
  • Free tax preparation or tax preparation software
  • Promises to get you out of paying your taxes

To help avoid tax scams

Be careful when you click links or open attachments. If you need to go to the IRS website, use a bookmark or type the URL directly into your web browser. Read more about how the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information.

Use antivirus software. Download Microsoft Security Essentials at no cost for Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. Windows Defender is an antivirus feature in Windows 8 that replaces Microsoft Security Essentials. 

Use email software with built-in spam filtering. SmartScreen technology helps reduce unwanted email. It’s built into Microsoft email programs (Outlook.com, Hotmail, Outlook, Exchange, Windows Mail, and Entourage) and is turned on by default.

Read more about security features in Outlook.com and Hotmail.

Get help with phishing scams, lottery fraud, and other types of scams


Clean up malware resulting from the Bamital botnet

February 8th, 2013 No comments

On February 6, Microsoft announced that its Digital Crimes Unit had worked with Symantec to successfully deactivate a major botnet called Bamital. Below is an overview of Bamital and how you can remove it from your computer.

Botnets are networks of compromised computers, controlled remotely by criminals who use them to  secretly spread malware, steal personal information, and commit fraud. Bamital was designed to hijack internet search results and take people to websites that were potentially dangerous.

To learn more about botnets, see How to better protect your PC with botnet protection and avoid malware.

A majority of computers affected by Bamital were running Windows XP and not using a firewall and antivirus software or having monthly security updates installed.

You might have malware on your computer if you see this page:

To help clean Bamital and other malware from your computer, you can install antivirus and antispyware programs that are available online from a provider that you trust.

Microsoft and Symantec each provide free malware removal tools:

For more information about how to remove malware, visit the Virus and Security Solution Center from Microsoft Support.

Read more at the Official Microsoft Blog.

Clean up malware resulting from the Bamital botnet

February 8th, 2013 No comments

On February 6, Microsoft announced that its Digital Crimes Unit had worked with Symantec to successfully deactivate a major botnet called Bamital. Below is an overview of Bamital and how you can remove it from your computer.

Botnets are networks of compromised computers, controlled remotely by criminals who use them to  secretly spread malware, steal personal information, and commit fraud. Bamital was designed to hijack internet search results and take people to websites that were potentially dangerous.

To learn more about botnets, see How to better protect your PC with botnet protection and avoid malware.

A majority of computers affected by Bamital were running Windows XP and not using a firewall and antivirus software or having monthly security updates installed.

You might have malware on your computer if you see this page:

To help clean Bamital and other malware from your computer, you can install antivirus and antispyware programs that are available online from a provider that you trust.

Microsoft and Symantec each provide free malware removal tools:

For more information about how to remove malware, visit the Virus and Security Solution Center from Microsoft Support.

Read more at the Official Microsoft Blog.

What to do if you think you’ve fallen for a phone scam

January 11th, 2013 No comments

In recent years, many of our customers have reported phony tech support phone calls from people who claim to be from Microsoft. These callers are cybercriminals who want to:

  • Trick you into downloading malware.
  • Take control of your computer remotely and adjust its settings to expose it to security vulnerabilities.
  • Get your credit card information and bill you for phony services.

A few months ago, the FTC announced a major international crackdown on these scammers, but you still need to be vigilant and hang up if you suspect a call is fraudulent.

If you think you might have been a victim of a phone scam, downloaded malware from a phone tech support scam website, or allowed a cybercriminal to access your computer, take these steps:

  • Change your computer’s password, change the password on your main email account, and change the password for any financial accounts, especially your bank and credit card.
  • Scan your computer with the Microsoft Safety Scanner to find out if you have malware installed on your computer.
  • If your computer is not running Windows 8, install Microsoft Security Essentials. (Microsoft Security Essentials is free software, so only a scammer will call you and say there is a charge for installing it.)
  • If your computer is running Windows 8, run a scan with Windows Defender. (In Windows 8, Windows Defender replaces Microsoft Security Essentials.) Windows Defender runs in the background and notifies you when you need to take specific action. However, you can use it anytime to scan for malware.

For more information, see Avoid tech support phone scams.

 

What to do if you think you’ve fallen for a phone scam

January 11th, 2013 No comments

In recent years, many of our customers have reported phony tech support phone calls from people who claim to be from Microsoft. These callers are cybercriminals who want to:

  • Trick you into downloading malware.
  • Take control of your computer remotely and adjust its settings to expose it to security vulnerabilities.
  • Get your credit card information and bill you for phony services.

A few months ago, the FTC announced a major international crackdown on these scammers, but you still need to be vigilant and hang up if you suspect a call is fraudulent.

If you think you might have been a victim of a phone scam, downloaded malware from a phone tech support scam website, or allowed a cybercriminal to access your computer, take these steps:

  • Change your computer’s password, change the password on your main email account, and change the password for any financial accounts, especially your bank and credit card.
  • Scan your computer with the Microsoft Safety Scanner to find out if you have malware installed on your computer.
  • If your computer is not running Windows 8, install Microsoft Security Essentials. (Microsoft Security Essentials is free software, so only a scammer will call you and say there is a charge for installing it.)
  • If your computer is running Windows 8, run a scan with Windows Defender. (In Windows 8, Windows Defender replaces Microsoft Security Essentials.) Windows Defender runs in the background and notifies you when you need to take specific action. However, you can use it anytime to scan for malware.

For more information, see Avoid tech support phone scams.

 

4 signs of scareware

May 17th, 2012 No comments

 “Scareware” is fake anti-virus software (also called “rogue security software”) that cybercriminals trick you into paying for or trick you into downloading along with malicious software. According to the latest Security Intelligence Report from Microsoft, one of the most prevalent forms of scareware is called Win32/FakePAV. Learn how to help prevent Win32/FakePAV from stealing your credit card information.

 Here are some tell-tale signs that could indicate a scareware infection:

  • Your computer runs  much slower than usual
  • When you try to surf the internet to legitimate anti-virus websites, you can’t get to them
  • You see a lot of pop-up windows with false or misleading alerts
  • The anti-virus software you recently downloaded is trying to lure you into upgrading to a paid version of the program

Get more information on how to spot fake virus alerts.

If you think you might have already download scareware, you can run the Microsoft Safety Scanner for free. Also, make sure you use legitimate anti-virus software, such as Microsoft Security Essentials, which is also free.

Microsoft was recently interviewed for a local Seattle news story about scareware. Watch the video

 

Microsoft helps defeat major spam botnet

April 7th, 2011 Comments off

Watch experts from Microsoft and other organizations explain how botnets work and how Microsoft and Pfizer helped bring down the Rustock botnet, a notorious source of spam, fraud, and cybercrime.

Watch the video from CNBC World Business:

Rustock Takedown Is Part of Larger War on Spam