• Donald Hoskins

Who can you trust?

In a recent article posted by the Seattle Times Technology writer Patrick Marshall ( https://www.seattletimes.com/business/technology/considering-the-nuclear-option-for-ridding-computer-of-malware), a question was written in regarding Malware.

Q: I have Malwarebytes. I just ran a scan. I am still getting those annoying pop-ups on the lower right of my screen. Currently, it says, “How to get rid of Saggy Jowls.” I’ve tried everything to get rid of these. If you address these in your column, it would be greatly appreciated.
A: I’d say you definitely have a piece of malware on your computer. The trick now is finding it. Malwarebytes is a good program, but no anti-malware program I know of can snag all pieces of malware, especially new variants. If there are no other clues as to the source of the malware — such as if it was hyping only one product — you’ll just have to try different packages until you find one that removes the culprit.
That, or … If it was me and there wasn’t a quick way to remove the malware, I’d reinstall Windows. During that process you’ll be prompted as to whether you want to reformat the drive. Do so.
Before going this route, however, note that you’ll also have to reinstall any applications you want to use. And, above all, save all data you care about to external storage — and external drive or cloud storage — before you reinstall.

Aside from the annoying audio advertising that auto-plays every few minutes, this answer made me positively cringe for a number of reasons.

First, and foremost, this actually doesn't sound like "Malware". It sounds like a Notification window. If that is the case, no anti-malware or anti-virus software will ever do anything about it. Why? Because it isn't malware or a virus; it is something the user asked for, even if they don't realize it.

If you've ever gone to a website and see the popup that says "So and so wants to Show Notifications" with an Allow and Block button, you've seen what it is like for a website to ask for this permission.

This gives your browser permission to use push notifications (notifications sent from the far end without you asking for them first) to your Operating System.

Windows 10 Notifications

These can be used in any way that the website you give permission to wants to. They can be great for sending notifications about updates, but nothing says they can't push advertising either!

As a user, you probably hear the basic tropes of "Internet Security". These break down into just a few, basic suggestions to follow.

1) Never open email from people you don't know

2) Don't install mobile phone software from 3rd party sites

3) Double check the website address you are at before logging in

4) Never reuse passwords

I always council the following, in addition to the above:

5) Always check the permissions you are being asked to approve

This applies to mobile applications on your phone, or the website you are visiting. Does the website you are visiting really need to Know your location or Send you notifications? Maybe, but probably not. You bank might use your location for "security purposes" or to help you better locate the nearest branch or ATM, but unless you can think of a legitimate reason, just say No. For the same reasons, you should ask these questions about your mobile applications. Most reputable application developers will tell you why they need a given permission. If you install a streaming service, can you think of a reason it might need access to your camera or contact info? These are red flags and should be investigated further.

It's a fallacy to believe that Google, Apple, or Amazon will protect you. Being proactive and taking control of your information should be the primary goal in everyone's tech life. Time to take control of yours!

Turn Notifications On or Off

Chrome - https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/3220216

Firefox - https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/push-notifications-firefox

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