Xagent virus targets iOS users

People used to think that Macs were totally safe from computer viruses, but that is no longer the case.

Security company Bitdefender recently discovered malware that can do some serious damage to iOS users. Discovered as “Xagent”, it’s a form of malware made for Mac OS that can steal passwords, take screenshots, and capture phone backups stored on an infected Apple computer.

Xagent targets Mac users with what Bitdefender describes as an advanced backdoor exploit. According to the analysis done by Bitdefender, Xagent can scan a computer for information about what’s inside the computer, create a list of what it’s found, and capture iPhone backups at the same time.

“The discovery of the XAgent module once again reinstates the need for organisations to tackle computer security in an unified manner, regardless of the operating system mix they have deployed,” said Bogdan Botezatu, Senior Threat Analyst at Bitdefender.

“Missing out on Macs or mobile phones because they are “inherently secure” gives determined attackers the one opportunity they need to subvert individual devices and take over entire networks to exfiltrate information for months, if not years,” he said.

Malware like Xagent highlights the need for security software on every platform.

 

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How To Speed Up A Slow PC

This guide will walk you through our steps to clean up a slow PC. This guide is not for Mac computers.

  • Dust it

One of the biggest problems we see with slow computers is, no one takes the time to clean them. They might clean the outside but the inside never gets cleaned. Fans in the computer pull air in to cool off components, much like a car does. Dust, hair, fur, etc. clog areas where the air needs to flow, and can cause the components to overheat. Today’s components are smart enough that instead of running at a high temp and burning themselves out completely, they throttle themselves down to run at a slower speed so that they produce less heat and don’t reach a critical temperature. That’s why we open up desktop computers and blow all of the dust out that we can. We blow the dust instead of vacuum the dust because a vacuum creates enough static electricity to damage any components you touch. For laptops, we blow through the vent on the sides and the bottom where the fans are located.

  • Check the Hard Drive with Diagnostics

Do the quick test and see if any errors occur. It doesn’t make sense spending time cleaning up a drive if it is failing and should be replaced. If you do find errors, find a replacement. Drives are getting faster and cheaper every day. This might be a good time to upgrade to a Solid State Drive. Although they are more expensive than a SATA drive, they will increase speeds significantly.

  • Check the Hardware specs

How much free space is there on the OS hard drive? If less than 10%, that can decrease performance drastically.

How much RAM is in the computer? We recommend a minimum of 4GB. If you run multiple programs and a browser with multiple open tabs, you should consider 8GB or more. If the software you are running requires more RAM than it physically has, it uses what is called Virtual RAM, which is basically just using the hard drive as memory. This will slow your computer to a crawl.

Are you running a hard drive or a Solid State Drive (SSD)? If it is a hard drive, what speed is it? 5400 RPM drives offer some benefits but they are notorious for being a performance bottleneck. We recommend upgrading from a 5400 RPM drive whenever you can. 7200 RPM drives are cheaper, but a SSD is the best way to go.

Graphics Card – If you use graphics intensive software (Photoshop, Movie Editors, or high quality games), a graphics card upgrade may offer a significant speed increase.

Processor upgrades may offer some speed increase but usually require a new motherboard. Given today’s computer costs, a new machine is probably a better way to go.

  • Power Options

By default, Windows is set with a “Balanced” Power scheme. This setting is an attempt to save users money by using less electricity. The computer can run slowly because the power options can throttle the processor down. We change these settings on desktop machines to High Performance. If you are using a laptop, change the advanced settings of the current power scheme so that the performance settings are set to high when the laptop is plugged in. This allows the computer to run slower to conserve battery life when not plugged in, but to run faster if it is plugged in.

  • Check for Rootkits

Run Malwarebyte’s Anti-Rootkit, or MBAR. We do this as a first step in our process for removing malware because if there is a rootkit, it will continue to download and install Adware, Malware, and viruses as you try to clean them off.

  • Scan for Adware

Run AdwCleaner. While adware isn’t dangerous, it can slow the computer down and inject unsafe ads that link to computer scams and virus infected sites. AdwCleaner does a great job of removing toolbars, fake proxies, browser hijackers, ad inserters, etc. all in one nice tool.

  • Check for Malware

Malware at this point in the process usually consists of remnants of the rootkits, viruses, and adware we have already removed. Cleaning these up can help improve performance as some of these pieces run on their own and slow down the computer. We use Malwarebyte’s Anti-Malware (MBAM) Free to do that.

  • Clean up unused files, empty folders,  and unused registry keys

While this may not seem like a big deal, cleaning up space and unused items on a computer is much like cleaning things in your house. You make room for new things, but also make it easier to move around. Install and run CCleaner from Piriform. it is a great Free utility to clean up the computer. They have been around a long time and have a good reputation for not removing things out of the registry that are still needed. It is the only registry cleaner that we trust. It also does a better job at cleaning the computer than the Windows Disk Cleanup Utility.

  • Startup Entries

We’re not really fans of software that changes what programs run at startup. They don’t often work well and typically have to run at startup to check for new startup entries. You may gain some performance, but it will not be as good as it could be. One of our favorite hidden tools, MSCONFIG, is included with Windows. In Windows 7, run MSCONFIG from the command prompt (as administrator), go to the startup tab, and uncheck the items you don’t want to run when Windows starts. In Windows 8 and above, the Startup Entries have been moved into a tab in Task Manager. Highlight the item and choose disable at the bottom to stop it from running at startup.

  • To Defrag or NOT TO Defrag

If you have a SSD, do NOT defrag. Mechanical Hard Drives need to be defragged, and SSD’s should never be defragged. Also note, defragging a hard drive will not defragment a database. if you are having issues with QuickBooks or some other database driven software, run the maintenance utility included with that software. It will clean up and reindex the database which will increase the performance of the program.

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Our Favorite Free Software

Anti-malware

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (MBAM) is an anti-malware software for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS that finds and removes malware. Made by Malwarebytes Corporation, it  is available in a free version, which scans for and removes malware when started manually. There is also a paid version, which additionally provides scheduled scans, real-time protection and a flash memory scanner.

Windows – https://www.malwarebytes.com/mwb-download/

MAC – https://www.malwarebytes.com/antimalware/mac/

AdwCleaner  – https://toolslib.net/downloads/viewdownload/1-adwcleaner/

A free removal tool for : Adware (unwanted adssoftware), Toolbars, Hijackers

It comes with both “Scan” and “Clean” mode. It can be easily uninstalled using the “Uninstall” button.

Compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10 in 32 & 64 bits.

Antivirus

BitDefender – http://www.bitdefender.com/solutions/free.html

System Requirements:

Operating system: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10
Hard disk space: 2 GB available free hard disk space
Intel CORE Duo (2 GHz) or equivalent processor
Software requirements: Internet Explorer 10 or higher

Microsoft Defender – 

Depending on which operating system your computer is running, you can use either Windows Defender or Microsoft Security Essentials to get rid of malicious software and viruses.

If your computer is running Windows 8 or Windows 10, you can use the built-in Windows Defender to help you get rid of viruses, spyware, or other malware.

If your computer is running Windows 7, or Windows Vista, Windows Defender only removes spyware. To get rid of viruses and other malware, including spyware, on Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP, you can download Microsoft Security Essentials for free.

Microsoft Security Essentials – https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/14210/security-essentials-download

Excel and Word Viewers

Open, view, and print Excel workbooks, even if you don’t have Excel installed. This download is a replacement for Excel Viewer 97 and all previous Excel Viewer versions.

Excel – https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=10

Microsoft Word Viewer is a small, freely redistributable program that lets you view, print, and copy Word documents on a computer that does not have Word installed.

Word – http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=3657ce88-7cfa-457a-9aec-f4f827f20cac&displaylang=en

Open Office

A software suite that contains a word processor (Writer), a spreadsheet (Calc), a presentation application (Impress), a drawing application (Draw), a formula editor (Math), and a database management application (Base).

http://www.openoffice.org/download/

Rootkit Scanner

Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit BETA is a free, cutting edge rootkit scanner & remover that detects and eliminates even the nastiest malicious rootkits.

https://www.malwarebytes.com/antirootkit/

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Warning – New Malicious E-Mail Campaign Is Spreading Ransomware

One of our clients was recently infected with a variant of the Locky ransomware virus.

Ransomware is a type of virus that encrypts your data files. It is designed to prevent you from seeing your pictures, documents, and other files, and forcing you to pay to get your files back.

Ransomware viruses utilize more than one way to spread themselves. E-mails with attachments are the most common. Those e-mails try to convince unsuspecting users that the messages they convey are important, as is the attached file that comes with each one of those e-mails.

The file is presented as an invoice or something similar. The email address that it comes from uses an address that looks legitimate. It may even look like it’s coming from within your company. The files might look harmless, but they are the source of the infection. If you open one of these attachments, your computer will get infected, and your files will be encrypted.

Here are some examples of file attachments that ransomware uses, with the first being the most common:

CJPOG21534.wsf
newdoc12.zip
doc0.zip
untitled9.zip

There are situations where a .wsf is attached, and sometimes it has a hidden 1-character file along with it. Other spam email campaigns which spread ransomware place the payload files in a zip file. Researchers have also sighted some .rtf documents which are spreading the infection, but are password protected, so it’s harder for security software to detect it. JavaScript and Windows Script are also used to initiate a download of the payload file, which is, in most cases, a DLL file.

Different methods for spreading the newest infection could be using social media services and file sharing networks. Be careful when surfing the Internet and avoid suspicious e-mails, links, and files. Check downloaded files for their signatures and size, and scan them with antivirus software before thinking of using them.

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Why Is My Computer Running so SLOWLY?

1) Too many programs are running at the same time.
It is common for users to download utilities, applications, and other programs that run in the background. The more programs that are running – whether you see them or not – the less memory your computer has to do other things you are asking it to do.

Avoid downloading web browser-helpers, more than one anti-malware program, or applications that claim to “speed up” your internet or your computer, as each one added will slow down your performance.

 2) There’s not enough free RAM.
Random-access memory (RAM) is what your computer uses for temporary working and thinking space. The more programs running at a time, the more RAM is used. If your computer is running slowly, it could be because too many programs are running, and you don’t have enough RAM. To make your computer run faster, run fewer programs at a time or increase your RAM.

3) You have a virus/malware infection.
Internet slowdowns and slow computer operation can be a symptom of an infection. To find out if you have a malware problem, use an anti-virus and anti-spyware application to find it.

4) Dust in the cooling fans
Dust accumulates over time. As your computer draws air in to cool the various components, it draws in other things, like dust, hair, rug fibers, etc. We have seen it packed in the cooling fans so tightly that the fans couldn’t turn and burned out. Dust can also short between contacts on circuit boards, clog optical drives, and reduce the cooling effectiveness of CPU heat sinks. Heat not only shortens the life of your components, it also triggers a significant reduction in CPU speeds.

5) You have low hard drive space.
Lack of hard drive space often affects older computers, or computers that do a lot of video editing or design work. Hard drives, which store all of your computer’s information, have a finite amount of space. Once they’re filled up, the computer no longer has the ability to manipulate files. The computer will slow down, eventually becoming unusable.

Generally, Windows will alert you to “low disk space” if this is the case. Moving some of your less-used files — such as pictures, music, and movies — to an external hard drive would free up some of your computer’s hard drive space and make it run faster. Deleting temporary files and performing a disk cleanup are also good ways to reclaim wasted space. Another solution? Install a bigger hard drive.

6) Sharing a wireless network.
If your internet is running slowly, but your computer is running quickly, you could have a lot of activity on your wireless network. Check to see if anyone else on your network is doing something that uses a lot of bandwidth (like streaming video or playing online games), as this can make your computer run slowly. You should also make sure your wireless network is secure so someone else isn’t using your Internet bandwidth. If your wireless network is not secure, we recommend you create a password to secure your data and ensure strangers don’t join your network.

7)  Too many “bells and whistles.”
Animated pointers and hi-resolution images of your favorite vacation spot may look nice, but they can also slow your computer down. Since animations and images load into memory every time you start your PC, there is less processing power available for more important tasks.

8) You have a scanning program running.
When a scanning program such as an anti-virus, anti-spyware, or automatic backup is running, your computer may respond slowly. We don’t recommend disabling these, as they are an important part of your computers safety. These programs should be run at least once a week, but don’t plan on using your machine while they are running.

9) Your computer barely meets your software’s minimum requirements.
Software usually has a list of requirements for things like processor speed, operating system, memory (RAM) and hard drive space. These specifications are the absolute minimum levels needed to make the software run. If your computer just meets the requirements, the software will run, but it might not run well. Try to meet or surpass the system “recommendations” of your software, rather than just meeting the bare requirements.

10) You have a fragmented hard drive.
It’s important to defragment your hard drive to help the computer organize itself better and make sure it runs smoothly.

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