You’re browsing away on the Internet and you decide to click on a link for a recipe you’re interested in. Next think you see is a popup warning you that Microsoft detected a security error and giving you a phone number to call to speak with a Microsoft “Certified” tech. What’s the title of this message? That’s right, don’t call that number.

First of all, the idea that Microsoft may be monitoring your computer is actually not so far fetched in this day and age, but believe me they’re not. In fact, if you have a problem with Windows, just try and get them on the phone. Go ahead, just try. Yeah, not going to happen.

Another message you might see will tell you that all the information on your computer will be wiped out or encrypted if you don’t call that number and pay the ransom before you turn off or restart the computer. This threat is also likely to be bogus, but must be taken more seriously. If you have at least two really good backups, you probably don’t have to worry about this one either. You do have two backups, don’t you? No, of course you don’t. So for the elventy millionth time, get an external drive and do a backup; Windows Backup and Restore for Windows and Time Machine for the Mac. If you can’t find Windows Backup and Restore, check the external drive you bought. Sometimes the manufacturer will provide backup software.

As for your second backup, use an online service like Carbonite(, Mozy(, Crashplan( or my personal favorite iDrive( But I digress.
Is what happened to you your fault. Nope! Can you prevent it from happening again? Probably not. So what can you do?

Well, the first thing to do if it happens is call your favorite computer person; a professional who’s in the business, not your nephew. Please! I’ll give you my number at the end of this message.

As for prevention:

  1. Backup (it’s #1 for a reason)
  2. Update your operating system(Windows or OSX)
  3. Update your antivirus and scan often. For Windows you can use the baked in Windows Defender. There is no need to spend your hard earned money on antivirus programs.
  4. Get Ccleaner( Clean up that Windows machine.
  5. Get MalwareBytes( Install it, update it and run it. Run it about once a week or if the machine starts acting up or if one of those popups comes up.

So safe travels on the information super highway and keep in touch. I’m here to help.

Mark Madison

"Mark is a wonderful collaborator... He is my go-to guy for help building Joomla sites. He approaches each new project with cheerfulness and persistence... both highly desirable qualities when working with mercurial content management systems. His computer troubleshooting experience serves him well with coding issues... he is not deterred by snags along the way and, in fact, usually finds a creative solution to any problem. I consider him a true partner and would not hesitate to recommend him to anyone seeking a reliable web developer. And if I could hire him full time, I would do it in a heartbeat!"

Lynn Nichols
Webmaster/Digital Content Producer at Country Dance and Song Society

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