From the February 2014 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Computer Viruses—They Happen to Me, Too!

Don’t let your guard down. Technology issues can happen to the best of us

Recently, I was reminded that if I don’t follow my own advice and best practices, computer issues will happen to me, too. However, what was a little surprising is how fast it happened. I let my guard down for only two days, and within that time a virus infected my computer. I hope this month’s article will help you learn from my mistake and provide some guidance on how I solved the problem, in case you also have a lapse in judgment like I clearly did.

My computer issues started when I let my anti-virus software expire. I knew that it had expired on my laptop, but I didn’t renew right away because I was considering using another program—a fairly innocent move, and I was overconfident that waiting a day or two wasn’t that big of a risk. I was wrong. A simple act of researching some information using Google led me to click on various links, one of which appeared to deliver the Trojan virus. I knew immediately that it was a bad link, and if my anti-virus program had been up to date, it would have blocked it. The damage was done, though.

My next step was a no-brainer: I needed to get my anti-virus software working again. I renewed the license and immediately ran a scan of my laptop in order to locate the virus. It did find it, but was unable to remove it. I began to try other ways to remove the virus, including running my laptop in Windows safe mode and re-running the anti-virus scan. I also attempted to do a system restore from a previous date. Unfortunately, neither of these options worked. This was a nasty virus that had more than nine lives!

Now, some of you might be thinking, “Dan, just call your IT firm and let them deal with it.” I certainly could, but then I thought, there are a lot of people in this world (advisors included) who don’t have access to IT resources specifically for their needs. Therefore, I had to figure it out. I conducted research using several technology websites including Cnet.com, Answers.Microsoft.com and the anti-virus software company websites. On each of these websites there were a number of great suggestions on how to remove the virus. However, it was also clear that there wasn’t a single process or solution that worked for everyone. Again, this type of virus doesn’t give up easily.

While I was doing my research on the McAfee website, I was reminded of their virus removal services. For $89.95, a McAfee expert will connect remotely to your computer and work with you on removing the virus. I decided to give it a try. Within just a couple of minutes of calling their toll-free number, I received support from their security expert who quickly understood the type of virus and was ready to remotely connect to my laptop. He was very good at explaining everything he was doing on my laptop, and was also quick to point out exactly where the virus was located and how it had imbedded itself successfully in several processes. After about 45 minutes, the virus was removed and my laptop was back to its normal state. In order to ensure that everything was in good order, I tested a couple of processes and programs that I regularly use. We ended the call, and he closed by sharing a link of McAfee’s top security tips. Overall, I was very impressed with the service and thorough approach to removing the virus on my laptop. Furthermore, at no point did I feel like he was trying to rush the call or was not interested in my detailed questions. Remember, you pay a flat rate for the service; you’re not charged by the minute or hour.

Overall, this was a very humbling experience: not that I was overconfident in my technology abilities—trust me, I’m humbled every day—but more related to how quickly my laptop was infected by a virus. It is not like the anti-virus software was not working for weeks or months. Bottom line, it wouldn’t have happened in the first place if I remained true to following the best practices for protecting my computer. That is the most important message.

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