Security Reality Check: Malware, Grayware, and Other Ugly Computer Software

In today’s media and society as a whole, scare tactics run rampant, often causing preemptive reactions and paranoia.  The culture of fear that results can be scarier than the actual threats propagating them but, in the case of computers, there are very real threats to come to terms with.  The face is often obscure and it goes by many names so I’m here to give you a little PC Security & Contingency Planning 101 course.

Malware: A family of critters that can make your day a bad one for computing.

Ewww.. Get it off my puter, plz!

First, let’s get a few things straight: any device that has access to software is at risk.  If such device has Internet access, there’s even greater risk.  You run a risk if you partake in certain activities as well.  What risk?  The risk of compromising your computer’s security.

Security compromises in the computer world manifest themselves in many ways.  There is a wide array of methods for attackers to infiltrate your computers by way of intrusive software programs/applications.  Here are a few symptoms that may hint to possible computer adulteration:

  1. Random performance spikes that cause system unresponsiveness or sporadic slowdown.
  2. Dynamic web content that seems to know a little TOO much about you.
  3. Sudden inaccessibility of known-working web sites.
  4. Overall sluggish system performance, regardless of what you are doing on your computer.
  5. Weird e-mail messages from names that sound foreign or just look like gibberish.
  6. Unexpected pop-ups, desktop icons, and extra stuff appearing.
  7. Your computer does not boot up properly or at all.
  8. Specific programs become unavailable or crash, often including security and diagnostics software.
  9. Memory randomly leaks during long computing sessions, no matter how little you multitask.
  10. Familiar screens suddenly look a bit “off” but you can’t quite pin-point why…

Certainly, there are many other tell-tale signs of foul play but these are amongst some of the most common things I’ve seen first-hand.  The key thing here is to note that malicious software works differently depending what you have.  You can have multiple infections at once or you may just be due for a computer overhaul and/or reformat.  Be wary: some issues are due to lack of ongoing housekeeping and others are caused by unwanted programs.  It’s hard to tell which is which, but that’s why you have tech-savvy friends and tech consultants (hopefully).

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The Last Job Seeker Guide You’ll Ever Need (Sorta)

Recession. It’s the dirty word that everyone is throwing out these days.  Companies are using it as a cop-out for questionable business ethics and employee treatment.   Anything goes wrong, let’s blame the recession.  The truth is that the recession was years in the making.  I’d say that the signs were obvious as early as 1999, when it seemed like everyone was going back to school or at least changing their profession.  Most folks foolishly felt they could jump on the real estate, IT, and other trends to take advantage of what seemed like “guaranteed money”.  The only difference now is that people stopped fooling themselves and realized one thing: this job market SUCKS.

If Dubbya says were not in a recession, then it must be true!

If Dubbya says we're not in a recession, then it must be true!

As one of my colleagues put it, the gravy days of sales and business in general are behind us.  It used to be that all you needed was a good idea or a product that was in a market had high demand.  Customers would come to you and the only issue was making sure you got through to them before all the other sneezers (thank you Seth Godin, Mr. Purple Cow) in your market contaminated them with their preferred solutions and brands.  Retail stores had to staff up heavily and, even so, they barely could handle traffic.  There were only a few providers in every sector so everyone got a big piece of the pie.  Not so anymore.

Nowadays, the competitive landscape is congested and companies are cutting corners.  Training is not as extensive, quality of service has gone down the poop chute, staffing is minimal at best, and customers are far less interested in what you have to say.  Everyone has heard the ‘ol marketing song-and-dance and they’ve learned to tune it out.  This is a boon for the customers because companies will negotiate more but it is a bane for job seekers, especially those that have dreams to find the perfect job and career track.

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Business Opportunity, Scam, or Pyramid Scheme?

If you ever visited my page on MySpace, you may have read my rantings about Corporate America and the many ways people are scammed. Since so many people are out there trying to deceive us, it’s no wonder everyone is paranoid. At this point, someone can offer you the cure to cancer and we’d turn it down in fear of being scammed. Now, more than ever, our society is one based on fear and it’s a real shame.

Fear is what makes people turn away from perfectly-viable opportunities. If you think about the many “business opportunities” we are all offered at some point in our lives, one can’t help but to think “which one of these is actually legit??” Sadly, there is no science to this so it’s always going to be hit or miss. Any opportunity we consider in life, whether it’s the next career move or just the next play in a game of cards, is a constant balancing of risk and reward. If the potential reward outweighs the potential risk, then you can take a measured risk. Timing, of course, is always a factor but that’s not what we are discussing here right now.

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