malware

What is a proxy?

Jay from Providence, NC

Episode 1322

Jay noticed in OS X El Capitan that there's something called "proxies." What is that? Leo says that unless he's using a proxy server, he should ignore it. If it has been set and he didn't know it, it could be a security software thing. Or perhaps a VPN. Proxies are used so that he can link another computer to get online, or use a different service. If it bothers him, he should just turn it off and see if it affects anything else. It could also be malware.

Why do I get a popup to open a file?

Tim from LaHabra, CA

Episode 1319

Tim has a message popping up that asks which app to open a file with. It happens automatically and he doesn't know what file it is. Leo says that's disconcerting. Leo suspects AdWare or worse! There's something on his system that is running in the background and the antivirus can't kill it. He'll have to figure out what the app is that's starting up. He'll have to expect that his system has been compromised, though, and the only real way to be sure he's gotten rid of the malware is to backup his data, wipe his hard drive, and reinstall Windows.

New Exploit Gives Governments the ability to hack into iPhone

Episode 1317

Remember the legal battle that Apple fought against the US Government to prevent unlocking of the iPhone's encryption? The US Gov't ended up going to a third party company who had created a hack to do it. Now that hack is being used to unlock and peer into the mobile phones of dissidents and other undesirable elements that the government wants to keep tabs on. Even reporters. Leo says that Apple has pushed out a fix to block it, and everyone should install iOS 9.5.3 to stop it. Otherwise, you're vulnerable.

How can I tell if a USB key I found is safe to use?

Lex from Virginia

Episode 1310

Lex uses Windows Defender, but he came across a thumb drive and wants to check it to see if it's safe to use. Leo says he really can't. If he plugs it in, and it's infected, it will compromise his system. Firmware can be modified on a thumb drive to contain malware as a payload, and it's undetectable. The worse part is not one USB drive manufacturer has done anything to correct the bug. Wired has a story on it.

How can I get rid of a virus on my website?

Jim from Malibu, CA

Episode 1309

Jim has a friend who's website has received a message that their website has been hacked. Is this warning legitimate? Leo says it probably is. Most managed providers offer that feature, but there's also independent monitoring services like Site Lock. They'll monitor his website, but they won't patch it. He'd need to have a service that goes through all of his code to make sure it's patched and nothing remains of the virus that may have infected it. Jim should check out Qualys. They monitor and repair the site should it get infected.

Is there a third party option to Dell's Click to Fix?

Brett from Woodbridge, NJ

Episode 1296

Brett has a Dell computer and wants to know if there's an open source program that can speed up his computer like Dell does with Click to Fix? Leo says that Dell doesn't share their secrets and Leo doesn't think that it's safe to use a third party open source option for this. Dell's Click to Fix knows its own hardware and as such, can do a targeted fix. Open source stuff can't do that and can be overly aggressive and cause more problems than it fixes.

Why can't I visit links I get in email?

Al from Chino, CA

Episode 1292

Al recently upgraded to Windows 10 and Chrome has been giving him error messages preventing him to go to certain sites. Leo says to trust that. It's likely that the site has some malware code in it that will cause issues down the line. It could be a generic warning though. To be safe, Al shouldn't click on any links. Instead he should hover over it to see what the actual link is. It's possible to spoof a link with HTML code. In fact, Leo suggests turning off HTML in his email client. Leo suggests also using Thunderbird. It will give him the option of text only.

Why does my system tray have an EXE file in it?

Nicki from Los Angeles, CA

Episode 1291

Nicki saw an .exe file she didn't recognize in her system tray. Leo says that system trays hold icons of programs that are running and if she hovers over them, she should get some information. It could also be an error. It's causing security issues and Windows won't load her antivirus. It could be an infection, so she should update her antivirus or use Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool.