Last month, the social-media team at Russia's Kaspersky Lab decided to run a contest leading up to Halloween.
It asked Kaspersky's Facebook friends to share their scariest stories about computer crashes caused by malware. The prize was a year's free subscription to a Kaspersky Lab security product.
Seventy-four people participated, and five were declared winners (or losers, depending on how you look at it) and awarded their prizes.
Kaspersky Lab shared three of the winning stories, as well as tips and lessons learned, to educate the public on ways to prevent these scenarios from happening again.
Trying to keep up with two pre-teen children during the 1990s, Jean quickly needed to learn the basics of the computer in order to know what her kids were getting into online.
As part of her getting up to speed, her boys thoughtfully bought her a "Civilization"-type game.
As she was building her Egyptian empire, her screen suddenly went blue. Not knowing anything about the infamous Windows " blue screen of death," Jean popped the game out of the CD drive and rebooted the computer, thinking the game had some kind of glitch.
Not so much. Unfortunately, Jean was then informed that she had contracted the Bugbear email worm and in less than a minute her computer was going to shut down.
Tips & Lessons Learned
The Bugbear worm (also known as Tanatos) is still active today in different variations. It infects computers through malicious email attachments, which is how Jean got infected, according to Kaspersky.
You can protect yourself from the Bugbear worm by never opening any suspicious emails, either as previews or by opening the whole message, according to Kaspersky researchers.
Instead, install and run a strong Internet security suite that includes anti-virus software and anti-spam and exploit-prevention capabilities.
Pam got her first computer in the mid-1990s, but, unfortunately, she didn't do all her due diligence before she bought it.
Without any anti-virus software or spyware downloaded, and without any files backed up, Pam was totally out of luck when her computer crashed. With money from a tax refund, she bought a brand-new computer.
But despite Pam's past experiences, her new computer eventually crashed as well, resulting in more lost files. Pam next bought a laptop, and then another new desktop, and then another.
Several computers later, Pam claims she's finally learned her lesson.
Tips & Lessons Learned
Pam should have made sure that all her software, including browsers, plug-ins and operating system, was updated with the latest security settings to stop malicious websites from exploiting vulnerabilities.
A trusted anti-virus software suite with a two-way firewall, which screens incoming and outgoing network traffic, will also help protect the user by blocking certain malicious subdomains. Anti-virus software can also issue warnings to the user before he or she points a browser to a malicious website.
Every user should back up all his or her files. That's another piece of good advice that most people ignore, according to Kaspersky researchers.
But if the day comes when your computer is hacked into, lost or destroyed, you will jump for joy when you realize a that lifetime's worth of photos, music, resumes and Web bookmarks aren't lost forever.
There are plenty of online backup options available. Alternately, you can buy an external hard drive that's a bit bigger than your computer's hard drive, and "clone" your computer's drive to the external drive once a month.
Larry was doing the usual stuff on eBay, browsing items and doing some shopping.
But this time, things seemed different. While he was looking at an item, he was whacked with a fake security scan. In a fraction of a second, his PC went black and he couldn't do a thing with it.
Tips & Lessons Learned
Don't be fooled by rogue or fake anti-virus pop-ups that claim your system is infected. These fraudulent notifications can come from multiple sources on the Internet.
Generally, fake anti-virus programs will try to scare you, which is why they're also called "scareware."
Usually a pop-up will appear, notifying you that your system is infected with a virus and inviting you to click and remove it.
But when you click on the pop-up, you in fact download malware. Bingo — your computer is infected and you've been scammed into giving your credit-card information to continue with the fake "removal process."
The number of rogue anti-virus programs is huge. Kaspersky Lab detects hundreds of thousands of them every month.
Here are some tips to help you protect you against malicious pop-ups:
— Don't click on pop-up windows, even if they haven't been blocked by the browser security or other security solutions. Only your legitimate, installed anti-virus software should be giving you security warning messages. As for infection warning messages that appear randomly while you're browsing the Internet, ignore them.
— Legitimate programs designed to combat malware will never first scan a computer and then demand money for activation. You should never pay for a product that does this, according to Kaspersky researchers. Rather, install a genuine anti-virus solution developed by a well-known anti-virus company and use it to scan and clean your computer.