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CryptoLocker and more

For many years, viruses and other malicious software have not deleted your files, maybe hidden them but not actually deleted them. A new piece of ransomware, CryptoLocker, will actually encrypt your data files, images, documents, videos, etc. on your computer and files that you have on any attached external and/or networked drives. You have to pay up within 72 hours of infection to get a key to decrypt your files and you have to use Bitcoins or MoneyPak. If you don’t pay up, that key is thrown away, effectively “deleting” those files. Recent news indicates that the people behind this are extending the payment time but upping the price from $200 to about ten times that.

There are various ways to avoid CryptoLocker. For the most part it seems to come as part of carefully crafted email attachments trying to look like email from a bank or delivery service so the first rule would be to avoid opening email attachments that you don’t expect. If it is from something like UPS or Amazon, you can always go online to their website and see if there are alerts in your account, same with your bank or credit card company. Second, since you probably do back up to an external hard drive, you should turn it off when it is not being used for a backup. Third, you can “inoculate” your PC with CryptoPrevent from Foolish IT, FoolishIT.com under his More Tech Software section down the left side of the site. Fourth, if you use an online backup service that keeps different versions of your files, then you can get back the older unencrypted versions of your stuff. And, so far, this does not affect Macs.

iGoogle replacements for those who are mourning the passing of iGoogle November 1st include My Yahoo, igHome, uStart, Protopage, or you could just start up with a blank page and use bookmarks or start up tabs loading your needed pages. Only start up those that you really need when you open your browser, otherwise you slow things down.

Google Apps, especially Gmail used with Windows XP and Internet Explorer 8 or even 9, will start see notices about needing to either upgrade IE or switch to something like Google Chrome or the latest Firefox if you want to use the gee-whiz features of a particular Google product. By the way, there is nothing wrong with using two or more browsers, you might even want to dedicate one to just Facebook.

And, don’t forget that when you are installing free software, most of them will try to install other software. Pay attention to pre-checked boxes, license agreements for products other that what you want, and buttons like advanced or options. You can always go into the Programs control panel, sort it by date and see what else installed with the program you thought you were only getting. Then, uninstall those others if you don’t want them.