What file did you click on?!?

When did you last download a file from the internet? A month ago? Last week? Today?

What was it? Are you sure it was EXACTLY what you wanted?

Honestly, if it came from the internet, for free, chances are 50/50 it may not have been entirely what you wanted or expected, depending on where it came from of course. Even then, data can be compromised.

But I have an ANTIVIRUS! That’s a great first step, however… an antivirus potentially only detects what it KNOWS exists! Idiots and geniuses alike are creating new code everyday! Your antivirus can’t possibly know about a program that was written after it was written. That’d involve some time travel or something.

How can you protect yourself from letting someone or something into your PC? To be honestly honest*, you can’t! [* It’s my blog, I can use these terms together if I want to!] However you can REDUCE your contact with problem files, if you know what they are.

The way Windows works is that almost every file on your computer ends with a DOT and some specific letters. Commonly 3 letters are used, but that’s if you stick with traditions. Any number of letters are possible in a file extension, that’s what the dot and letters are called. example “SomeCoolMusic.MP3” the .MP3 (see the dot in front of the M?) is the extension.

This type of file is well known, it’s a music file. When you open it, usually music (sound/noise) plays. This works because your PC running Windows, sees the file, ending in MP3 and knows to open your program to play the music. The MP3 file itself is not a program (usually) and cannot run by itself, it requires a program to use it. This makes MP3 files generally safe(ish) to download.

Now if you download or obtain another type of file, the results can be different. The program that Windows runs to play the MP3 is another type of file. These files, programs make the computer do things directly. Even things you didn’t intend for it to do. You should only download files from safe places on the internet.. that said, it’s the internet…. no sugar coating it, safe can be VERY much meaningless.

So here is a list of extensions for programs and scripts than can do anything with or to your PC. DANGEROUS files for a PC (Windows) are below:

  • EXE, COM – programs
  • PIF, LNK, INF – can be used like a program
  • MSI – install program
  • SCR – screensaver program
  • HTA – HTML program
  • CPL – control panel program
  • MSC – Managment program
  • JAR – requires JAVA, program
  • GADGET – program
  • APPLICATION – installer

Some more DANGEROUS file types:

  • BAT, CMD, SCF – List of programs to run
  • VB, VBS, VBE – visual basic script
  • JS, JSE – javascript (not related to java)
  • WS, WSF, WSC, WSH – windows script
  • PS1 PS1XML, PS2, PS2XML, PSC1, PSC2, MSH, MSH1, MSH2, MSHXML, MSH1XML, MSH2XML – power shell script
  • REG – registry changing
  • DOC, XLS, PPT, DOCM, DOTM, XLSM, XLTM, XLAM, PPTM, POTM, PPAM, PPSM, SLDM – potential Microsoft word scripts
  • PDF – potentially vulnerable too

Phew, that’s a long list… I will also point out that you should NOT go poking around on your hard drive all willy nilly deleting these! Windows requires many of the above file types (programs and script) to work! I will also say that this is not EVERY extension that can harm your PC, it’s just a list of common ones and some less common ones. if you don’t know what you are running, just don’t run it!

Stay safe!

Email scams part 1

Those emails we get are getting that try and trick us to giving away our money or passwords are trickier to spot the fakes from the scams. Just as someone writes code to try and block the bastards, they are on the hunt to get around it.

These idiots are spending so much time and effort, that could be actually used elsewhere, it’s embarrassing to call them coders or programmers. Which is why we don’t, we usually call them script kiddies. These rodents usually have an IQ slightly higher than the average lab mouse. Oh wow, everyone is so impressed you can cut and paste a program together!

Ok, I’m done with the rant, for now. On to the important stuff.

Do you know how to tell CRAP emails from real ones? Over 50% of you might say yes. However, over 50% of you might be wrong.

How does one figure out the difference from an idiot that wants your info and something real? I have a 3 step method for this.

#1. Never click on a link in an email, unless you are EXPECTING something from someone. Clicking a link from a kid with too much time on their hands usually subscribes you to more crap. Under most circumstances, visit the website directly and login through their HTTPS webpage.

#2 Rarely will your accounts be deleted, especially if it’s a paid account. Deleting your account means actual businesses no longer get your money. This is a last resort, most legitimate businesses will contact you first. You can always call them or use their contact form if you are unsure. Your account can very well be locked, but if you visit the site manually and you can login, clearly it’s a bluff.

#3 Check the email the message came from! This email address below does not have anything to do with Apple:

AppleID (8dd4b6cb6e1192bb0db94358654e954826@activitydepan.com

#4 Check the link, the ACTUAL link, not the text. On a phone, long tap links, touch the screen and keep your finger there until you see a menu. Careful not to actually tap it like you usually would. Long or hold tapping will show you where the link actually goes, with spam, the actual links will not be the same as the text in the email. On a PC, you can hover the mouse cursor over the link (without clicking), the status bar at the bottom of the window will show you where the link will lead.

#5 Look at the links in the email:


This link has a ?idtrack= in it. This is a dead give away that it’s sending something the server. Scammers (and legitimate businesses) use links that look like this to send information back to themselves. That ID, while it does not contain your email address, will refer back to program that stored that ID and your email address when it sent you the email. This will verify your email exists and boom you are subscribed to more junk.

#6 That unsubscribe button.. might not be what you think either. It’s just another link with a label. Essentially, you could be verifying that you check your email, more free junk mail! Yay!

#7 Attachments. Generally, no, avoid them, unless you KNOW what the file actually is! Pay ATTENTION to the NAME! “SomeCoolMusic.MP3.bat” is not music! It’s a batch file or in simple terms, a program (or a list of programs to run) that can do things to your device.

Those last three letters in the file name can mean the difference in you having a bad day or not. It might not even happen the same day! Some scripts or programs set themselves up and wait for the right moment, keypress, holiday, anything. Basically, think of it like this, if someone sends you a file, would you give them the keys to your house when you are away?

That’s it for now, I’ll add more on this on another post. Cheers!