Ask Rick Maybury 2014

  

 

Ask Rick 313 14/06/14

 

Risky Routers

For the last week my laptop has started behaving very strangely. I can send and receive emails and visit most websites normally but if I try to use Google search, or access my Gmail it goes straight to a page that, says Internet Explorer is out of date and needs updating or it asks to install the latest version of Flash Player. I use Firefox, and as far as I know my Flash and Internet Explorer are both current. My grandson checked my Internet on his Hudl tablet and the same Internet Explorer update message came up. What does it mean, why is Google being blocked and what can I do about it?

Peter Bushman, by email

 

The clue to solving this puzzle lies with your grandson’s Hudl. Its Android operating system does not support Internet Explorer, and Flash updates are handled by the system so those messages are fakes. They are being generated by a DNS (Dynamic Name Sever) redirection virus, which has infected your router and is most likely made by TPLink or Linksys. The virus changes settings in the router and sends web searches to rogue sites displaying those update messages, which will almost certainly install malware on your computer if you click on them. At the moment this recent and worrying development only affects a small number of makes of router, which have a vulnerable HNAP (Home Network Administration Protocol) interface. This allows ISPs to remotely manage these devices, and hackers to implant malicious code. Router manufacturers know about this threat but so far it appears that little effort has been made taken to alert users or suggest ways to fix the problem.

 

So far these viruses only attack routers and do not directly infect PCs; that happens when you install the fake update, but you should still run a full scan with a malware cleaner (try Malwarebytes, free from www.malwarebytes.org/), and make sure your own security software is fully up to date.

 

There are two things you can do. Option one, toss the router in the bin, call your ISP’s support and insist that that they replace with another make as this one is unsafe and vulnerable to attack. Option two is disinfect it yourself by returning it to its factory defaults, though until this security flaw is patched there is no guarantee it will not happen again. A reset is the easy part, on most routers press and hold the recessed button on the back or underside of the router for 5 seconds. The tricky bit is reconfiguring it and you need to know how to access the setup menu, your account details (broadband username and password etc.), and how to setup wireless security. Your ISP should be able to talk you through it but if you feel that is beyond you seek expert assistance, or go for option one.

 

 

Nexus Not Charging

I have a two-year old Nexus 7 Android tablet. Recharging has become erratic; sometimes it recharges, at other times it needs several connection attempts before it will charge. A new charger seemed to improve things for a few months. It now refuses to recharge and just shows a message saying that it has to be connected to the charger. I’ve tried all of the tips on the Internet for getting into the safe mode and restarting, but these do not help.

Alex Koscica, by email

 

This sounds a lot like a failing battery but that would be unusual given that it is only two years old, and it should have at least another 2 – 3 years of life left in it. However, even if the battery has lost the ability to hold a charge the tablet should still power up on the charger. That suggests that there may be a problem with the socket or the USB lead, or possibly your new charger, so the first thing to do is get a new lead and plug the Nexus into a PC or laptop. If the lead and socket and okay the PC will recognise the tablet and it should begin to charge normally. Normally if there is a fault with a tablet PC’s USB socket or battery, and it is out of warranty, it costs more that it is worth to have it repaired. Tablet PCs are usually sealed up tight and taking them apart is a risky business. However, the Nexus 7 opens easily and batteries are readily available and simple to replace. The IFixit website shows you how to do it at: http://goo.gl/spnuIx. A new USB socket can also be fitted though this is a fiddly job and best left to an expert.

 

 

Getting Rid Of A PUP

For some weeks my XP PC has been running slowly. Recently I was advised to increase the security with Malwarebytes, which I downloaded. It immediately detected six possible threats, all identified as PUP.Opti, what does that mean? These were quarantined by Malwarebytes and the PC has reverted to running at the expected speed. Should I now delete the six quarantined items or allow them to remain? Up until now I have relied on Microsoft Security Essentials, what would you recommend I replace it with?

Adrian Barlow, by email

 

A PUP is a potentially unwanted program, which in this case is most probably a browser home page hijacker called Opti Page Search. Although it has been removed and quarantined by Malwarebytes you really do not want it anywhere on your PC, so click the History button then Delete. There will be no more security updates for XP so technically it is unprotected, however, Microsoft will continue to issue signature file updates for Security Essentials until at least July 2015, (though the program it is no longer available for new XP installations). MSE provides a minimum level of protection but you would be well advised to switch to another program. Of the free offerings the most popular and effective alternatives are Avast!, AVG, Avira, BitDefender and Comodo, and the best known paid-for antivirus from the likes of Kaspersky, McAfee and Norton have pledged to support XP for the foreseeable future.

 

 

 

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© R. Maybury 2014 2605

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