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The "Stuff" page is currently being changed to a forum for Security Issues, please be patient while we're updating. In the mean time you can find out what to do if your search engine gets hijacked by clicking on the link below.

Are you trying to get to Google?

Is this what you see whenever you attempt to go to certain search engines?

Are you trying to get to Google?
Your computer is running software that doesn’t allow you to use Google.

You’re seeing this page because your computer is trying to send you to a website that is pretending to be Google. Over the past few weeks, you may have seen a website that looks like Google, but launches pop-up windows and does not work like Google. That page is not affiliated with Google in any way and is intended to deceive you.
Why is this happening?

Most likely a program was installed on your computer automatically and without your knowledge when you downloaded an otherwise harmless piece of software. Or you may have been tricked into clicking on a disguised download button while visiting a website.
What can I do about it?

This problem can be fixed fairly easily, but will require that you make changes in a file that is part of your computer’s operating system. You should always be cautious when making these kinds of adjustments, as they may affect the performance of your computer. If you are not comfortable doing this yourself, you may want to print out this page and show it to someone whose technical knowledge you trust.

This information procurred from the security experts at:

You can also run some tests of your own to see if your computer is vulnerable by going to and using their selection of free scan tools.

What can happen when you click on a link or a button in a spoofed E-Mail?

What happens when you click on a link or a button depends, to a degree, on how up-to-date your Windows Operating System, your browser, and your e-mail programs are ... since all of these can interact with each other.

To check on how current your updates are, go to your Windows Update ... on your Start button ... this will take you to Microsoft. Once there, click on the little "Scan for Updates" link. Once the following page has finally loaded, check in the section titled "Critical Updates". You need ALL of these ... EXCEPT ... if the Windows XP Service Pack 2 is listed ... do NOT download this, immediately. It's a huge file, a lengthy download, and you should do some reading about assorted incompatibilies between this upgrade and any existing software you might have installed on your computer, before you download this.
The other "critical updates" are designed to keep hackers out of your computer. You need these.

Also ... in some of these "spoof" e-mails, a virus isn't downloaded, nor is a trojan or a worm. Sometimes, the clicking action merely leads to the opening of a port or two on your computer thru which the sender can send or receive more "stuff". In some of these e-mails, nothing may be done except to modify your "Hosts" file.

This is the problem with the spoof e-mails: We simply don't know what they may or may not carry, since the techniques used by these can vary so widely, depending on who wrote the techniques or routines. Some writers of code for these are superb programmers ... others are low-grade copycats ... and we simply don't know which type we're dealing with.

Your anti-virus software won't catch the opening of a port and it won't usually catch the modification of your Hosts file, either. The modification of the Hosts file can cause your browser to re-direct you ... say ... when you log in to PayPal ... to a phony PayPal site that's a "dead ringer" for the real site. The user probably would never notice that they were at a fake site.

The opening of a port on your computer allows the sender of the e-mail to download or receive pretty much whatever he might wish. The modification of the Hosts file has been used by assorted "hard-to-get-rid-of" adware, in recent months, and the "spoof" writers are occasionally adopting this into their "spoofing" tactics.

These are two of the dangers of clicking on a link or a button in these e-mails. The best writers of these, despite their often improper usage of the English language, are top-notch programmers, and they're intensely creative with what they're writing, recently. In recent months, there's been a convergence of the techniques used by spammers, virus writers, and hackers in these "spoof" e-mails.

My suggestion: If you're not running a firewall, install one. ZoneLabs makes a good "freebie" called ZoneAlarm. This firewall will block OUTGOING transmissions, from your computer as well as INCOMING transmissions, unless you grant permission. The firewall that is included in Windows XP does a good job of blocking incoming traffic, but it's really lame about blocking outgoing traffic ... and if you haven't installed the Windows XP Service Pack 2, your firewall is turned OFF, by default.
To run a very thorough virus scan, you can also do the following:
• Delete ALL your Temporary Internet files
• Delete ALL your cookies
• Delete ALL your Internet History files
• Make sure that your Anti-Virus software is totally current
• If your computer has a System Restore feature, turn it OFF, for now. Windows XP and ME have this feature ... (don't know about NT5)
• Then ... re-boot your computer into "Safe" Mode ... your screen will look "fat and ugly" -- that's okay.
• Run your virus scan —— be sure to scan EVERYTHING ...
• If your virus scan shows nothing, your can re-boot your computer and turn your "System Restore" feature back on — if your Operating System has this ....
• If your virus scan shows something abnormal, follow your program's instructions for cleansing and removal.
• Booting into "Safe Mode" usually has a tendency to rearrange your icons on your desktop. If you have them laid out in a certain way, you'll probably have to put them back in order, after you've rebooted.

Reason for the above actions: Some malware is written to load, at boot-up, BEFORE your Anti-Virus and/or firewall software can load. Some of this "bad stuff" can totally disable your AV software and your firewall. The "Safe Mode" boot will give your Anti-Virus software the best possible chance of catching "intruders".
The chances of your having installed something on your computer are not all that great ... about 1 in 10 ... but this percentage is on the rise, as newer techniques are being developed and refined, by the scammers.

Also ... remember that, when you click on a link or a button in these, a lot of information about your computer is sent to the receiving server. Included in this information is your IP address, the fact that your e-mail address is valid, the Operating System you're running, the type and version of your browser ... and a whole slug of other "stuff". This information doesn't belong in the hands of scammers ...

In the future, when you receive these e-mails, handle them with extreme caution. Also ... remember that these can appear to be coming from just about any business associate, so be careful.


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