My Computer’s Infected! How Come?

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You practice safe computing, but your computer is infected. How did that happen and what can you do about it?

You don’t open unsolicited email. You don’t visit websites with illegal, indecent, or questionable content. So how did your computer get infected?  The answer involves bundling and brokering.

It Began With An Update
It started with a bit of routine maintenance. A program, say Oracle’s Java, prompted you to download and install the latest update. You agree and click through the steps while talking on the phone.

Virus!It Included a Bonus
One of the steps prompted you to include a free bonus — a toolbar, an antivirus tool, a weather app, a game, a search or shopping engine. Click. Why not? Harmless enough. In fact, the free program bundled with the routine update is often a welcome bonus.

The Bonus Shows Ads
Still the techie who wrote the bonus program paid Oracle to bundle it with Java, and now he needs to recoup his costs. What better way than to get paid to show ads for goods and services you might want to buy? The techie signs up with an ad broker and gets back to writing programs.

Some of the Ads are Malicious
The ad broker serves up the ads in his inventory but needs more. He reaches out to other brokers who follow suit. Of course, most ad brokers are trustworthy netizens. But a few are black hat brokers who distribute malicious ads and apps.  A click on the wrong advertisement or program spells trouble. It could jeopardize your computer, your privacy, even your bank account.

Watch Where You Click
Your computer’s infected because you updated a trusted application. It came with a worthwhile bonus program which paid the rent by leasing space to some bad guys. The bums put your PC, your privacy, and your finances at risk. Who’s at fault? The bad guys, of course. But they’re off shore and under cover.

What can you do? Watch out for bundled apps, and always watch where you click.

This article was written by PC Consultant Louis J. Bruno.  For more about Lou, please visit the Bryant Hills Group.

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