Thursday, May 7, 2015

New fast-spreading virus destroys PCs

Okay, it's true: I get a lot from the Kim Komando web site, and you should too. Visit it every day at

Today's post here:

"There's dangerous new malware out there called Rombertik that could steal your personal information and destroy your PC. If you try to get rid of it, the malware could trap your computer in an endless reboot cycle.

Rombertik usually infects computers using a malicious file attached to a phishing email. In some cases, this email is designed to look like a message from Microsoft. The malware can steal login credentials and other information you enter into websites.

Rombertik also checks to see if it's being analyzed or if other programs are trying to delete it. If it detects this kind of activity, it will try to delete a file called the Master Boot Record (MBR). This can cause your computer to go into an endless restart cycle when it is turned off and turned back on. The malware also has some other tricks up its sleeve.

One involves writing a byte of data to memory 960 million times to overwhelm analysis tools that try to spot malware by logging system activity.

Since it's extremely difficult to get rid of, the best way to protect yourself from Rombertik is to avoid it altogether. You can do that by knowing how to spot phishing emails so you don't open them. Click here to see a phishing email example and learn more about how to spot them.

And, remember, never open an email attachment from a sender you don't know. It's most likely filled with malicious software that can harm your computer.

If you're computer is infected by Rombertik, you'll likely lose valuable data. If the malware successfully deletes the MBR file on your computer, you will have to reinstall the Windows operating system."

Monday, May 4, 2015

Windows 7 still a safe alternative to Windows 8

I am not sure why anyone would shy away from Windows 8 at this point, but there is still the opportunity to buy a Windows 7 machine if that is your preference. I saw this article on USA Today.

Q. My Windows 7 desktop died; is it wise to buy a new model with Win 7 if I can find one? I'd rather not have to relearn software after switching to Windows 8.

A. Some two and a half years after Windows 8's arrival, Microsoft's earlier desktop operating system remains easy to find on new computers if you're flexible in your hardware choices.

HP's site, for example, lists eight desktop configurations available with Windows 7 vs. 35 with Windows 8; among laptops, 68 versions come with Win 8 against 31 with its predecessor. Those numbers obscure how the top computer vendor in the USA offers at least one model in most of its product lines — Envy, Pavilion, EliteBook and so on — with either Microsoft release.

At Dell, ranked second in market-research firm IDC's latest data, a similar pattern prevails with laptops. Although you have far more choices with Windows 8 than 7 — 101 choices on the menu compared with 29 — choosing the older software still gives you choices among Dell's major product lines.

With Dell desktops, opting for Windows 7 will exclude that manufacturer's all-in-one designs.

At Lenovo, fourth in IDC's ranking after Apple, specifying Windows 7 on a laptop also requires compromises. Not only does its site list only 19 laptops with Win 7 vs. 100 with Win 8, you have to forgo more advanced models such as its Yoga and Flex series.

This selection does not represent a huge shift from what I found in late 2012, not long after Windows 8's debut.

Microsoft's support of Windows 7 has changed since then, but it's not as big of a deal as it might seem. Although that 2009-vintage operating system exited "mainstream support" Jan. 13, all that means in practice is that Microsoft's updates to Windows 7 will consist only of security fixes, not new features. Those security patches will keep coming until Jan. 14, 2020, the scheduled end of "extended support" for Win 7.

That leaves potential Windows 7 shoppers few reasons to worry, Directions on Microsoft analyst Wes Miller wrote in an email.

"They can buy a Windows 7 Professional PC today and receive security fixes for almost four and a half years," he said. "I also don't expect vendors to drop support for Windows 7 anytime soon — it's extremely popular with consumers and business."

Microsoft's Internet Explorer will get left behind — the Redmond, Wash., firm is retiring that browser in favor of a new app called Microsoft Edge that will ship with the upcoming Windows 10. Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox can easily take IE's place. Since both still support Windows XP, you can expect Windows 7 to remain welcome at both browsers for years to come.

Don't rule out upgrading to Windows 10 from 7 when that ships this year. It should look much more like Windows as you've known it, including a streamlined version of the traditional Start menu. It will be a free upgrade from Win 7 as well as Win 8.