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How to prevent malware moving from an old computer to new one

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How to prevent malware moving from an old computer to new one

When it’s time to upgrade to a new computer, the excitement can be overshadowed by the concern of transferring existing data without bringing along any unwanted viruses or malware. Philip from Troy, Michigan, shares this concern and asks for the best way to ensure a clean transition.

“When buying a new computer, what is the best way to prevent transferring any viruses or malware from the old computer to the new computer?”

Transferring data from an old computer to a new one can be daunting, especially when you want to ensure a clean and secure transition. Fortunately, there are several effective methods to safeguard your data and prevent the spread of malicious software during the upgrade process.

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A woman who appears stressed looking at her laptop screen (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

6 ways to safeguard data during a computer upgrade

1) Scan your files

Before transferring any data from your old computer to the new one, it’s crucial to perform a thorough scan of your files using a reputable antivirus program. This step is essential to identify and remove any potential viruses, malware, or other malicious software that may be present on your old system. Antivirus programs are designed to detect and eliminate various types of threats, including viruses, worms, trojans, spyware and adware.

By running a full system scan, you can ensure that your files are thoroughly checked for any known threats and that any detected malware can be quarantined or removed. It’s important to keep your antivirus software up to date, as new threats are constantly emerging, and outdated definitions may not be able to detect the latest malware variants. Most antivirus programs offer automatic updates to ensure that you have the latest virus definitions and protection features.

How to prevent malware moving from an old computer to new one

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2) Back up and scan again

After performing the initial scan and removing any detected threats, it’s recommended to create a backup of your important files and data on an external storage device, such as an external hard drive or a USB flash drive. This backup serves as a precautionary measure in case any issues arise during the transfer process or if additional threats are discovered later. Once you have created a backup, it’s advisable to perform another scan on the backed-up files.

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This redundancy ensures that any potential threats that may have been missed during the initial scan are detected and removed before transferring the data to your new computer. By scanning your files twice, you significantly reduce the risk of inadvertently transferring any viruses or malware to your new system, providing an additional layer of protection for your data.

How to prevent malware moving from an old computer to new one

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3) Use Windows Backup or Time Machine

If you’re a Windows user, you can take advantage of the built-in Windows Backup feature to create a comprehensive backup of your files, folders, settings, and preferences. This backup can be stored on an external hard drive or a network location, making it easier to restore your data and settings on the new computer.

For Mac users, the Time Machine feature serves a similar purpose. Time Machine automatically creates backups of your files, applications, and system settings, allowing you to restore your data to a previous state or transfer it to a new Mac. Using these built-in backup solutions can simplify the process of transferring your data and settings to a new computer while also providing an additional layer of protection against potential data loss or corruption.

How to prevent malware moving from an old computer to new one

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4) Avoid booting the infected system

If you suspect that your old computer may be infected with malware, it’s crucial to avoid booting from the old system’s operating system during the transfer process. Booting from an infected system can potentially spread the malware to any connected devices or storage media, including your new computer. Instead, consider using a clean, bootable USB thumb drive or a live operating system environment, such as a Linux live CD or USB, to access and transfer your data.

These bootable media are designed to run independently from your computer’s hard drive, providing a safe and isolated environment for data transfer. By avoiding booting from the potentially infected system, you can significantly reduce the risk of transferring any malware or viruses to your new computer during the data migration process.

How to prevent malware moving from an old computer to new one

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5) Protect sensitive data with encryption

While encryption alone does not prevent malware transfer, it can add an extra layer of security for your sensitive information during the data migration process. Consider encrypting files containing confidential or personal data, such as financial documents, personal records, or business-critical information.

  • Windows Users: You can enable BitLocker Drive Encryption or use third-party encryption tools. BitLocker is accessible under Settings > About in Windows.
  • Mac Users: Utilize FileVault, Apple’s built-in encryption feature for macOS.

Encryption converts your data into a coded format that can only be accessed with a specific key or password, making it unreadable to unauthorized parties. This measure helps protect your sensitive information from potential data breaches or unauthorized access, even if your files are accidentally transferred with any malware.

However, it’s important to note that encryption alone does not prevent malware from being transferred along with the encrypted files. Malware can infect encrypted files, and when those files are decrypted on the new computer, the malware can spread. Therefore, encryption should be used in conjunction with other security measures, such as thorough scanning, cleaning and safe file transfer methods, to minimize the risk of malware transfer during the computer upgrade process.

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How to prevent malware moving from an old computer to new one

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6) Update your antivirus software

Keeping your antivirus software up-to-date is crucial for maintaining effective protection against the latest threats. Antivirus companies regularly release updates that include new virus definitions, improved scanning engines, and enhanced security features to combat emerging malware and cyberthreats.

Before transferring your data to the new computer, ensure that your antivirus software is fully updated on both the old and new systems. This step ensures that you have the most recent protection against known threats, reducing the risk of transferring any undetected malware during the migration process.

Additionally, it’s recommended to schedule regular updates and scans on your new computer to maintain ongoing protection against potential threats. Many antivirus programs offer automatic updates and scanning features, making it easier to keep your system secure without manual intervention. Get my picks for the best 2024 antivirus protection winners for your Windows, Mac, Android & iOS devices.

By following these steps, you can significantly reduce the risk of transferring viruses or malware from your old computer to your new system, ensuring a smooth and secure transition for your data and files.

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How to prevent malware moving from an old computer to new one

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Kurt’s key takeaways

Transferring data to a new computer doesn’t have to be a risky endeavor. By following these steps, you can significantly reduce the chances of carrying over any viruses or malware. It’s important to remember that while no method is entirely foolproof, diligence and the use of reliable antivirus software can provide substantial protection. If at any point the process seems overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from a professional. With these precautions in place, you can enjoy your new computer with peace of mind, knowing that your data is as secure as possible.

Have you ever dealt with data loss or corruption during a computer transition? What lessons did you learn from that experience? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips and security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

Ask Kurt a question or let us know what stories you’d like us to cover.

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Twitch banned Dr Disrespect after viewing messages sent to a minor, say former employees

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Twitch banned Dr Disrespect after viewing messages sent to a minor, say former employees

Twitch abruptly banned one of its biggest stars — Herschel “Guy” Beahm, better known by his persona Dr Disrespect — in 2020 without a word of explanation. Now, four years after Beahm’s permanent ban, two former Twitch employees have come forward to describe events they say contributed to his removal from the platform.

One former Twitch employee, who asked to remain anonymous citing the potential risk to their career, told The Verge that Beahm had used Whispers, Twitch’s now-defunct messaging system, to exchange messages with a minor and initiate a conversation about meeting up at TwitchCon. The employee worked on Twitch’s trust and safety team at the time of the ban in 2020.

Their comments corroborate a post from Cody Conners, a former Twitch employee who worked on the company’s strategic partnerships team. Late Friday, Conners posted on X, “He got banned because got caught sexting a minor in the then existing Twitch whispers product. He was trying to meet up with her at TwitchCon. The powers that be could read in plain text.”

Though Conners did not explicitly name Beahm, it was understood the streamer was the subject of the post. Beahm’s ban came shortly after Twitch updated its sexual harassment policy to punish offenders with permanent suspensions.

Beahm denied Connors’ allegations. “This has been settled, no wrongdoing was acknowledged, and they paid out the whole contract,” he posted on X. Beahm published an additional post reiterating that no wrongdoing was found. “I didn’t do anything wrong, all this has been probed and settled, nothing illegal, no wrongdoing was found, and I was paid,” he wrote.

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The news of Beahm’s ban, which came down four years ago this week, was shocking. Beahm was one of Twitch’s most popular stars at the time, with around 4 million followers, and he had just signed a seven-figure, two-year exclusivity contract with the platform. Neither Twitch nor Beahm would say why the streamer had been banned. In an interview with The Washington Post shortly after the ban, Beahm said that Twitch wouldn’t even tell him the reason why his account had been removed.

The former employee who spoke with The Verge also shared more insight into the order of events that led to the ban. They said there was a significant amount of time between when the messages between Beahm and the alleged victim were sent and when the moderation report about those messages was filed, but they weren’t able to recall how much time. When Twitch received the report in 2020, they said that Twitch investigated the claims and ultimately banned Beahm’s channel.

A year after being banned, Beahm said he was suing Twitch for monetary damages and disclosed that he finally knew why the platform issued the ban. However, Beahm declined to say what that was. A year later, the dispute was resolved with Beahm saying, “I have resolved my legal dispute with Twitch. No party admits to any wrongdoing.”

Beahm and Twitch did not respond to The Verge’s requests for comment.

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Your car is a target — don’t get hacked or duped

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Your car is a target — don’t get hacked or duped

Ever heard of wrapping your key fob in aluminum foil? It sounds out there, but it’s a smart move.

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Your key fob’s signal is surprisingly easy for criminals to intercept. That lets them open your car without setting off any alarms. If you have a true keyless car model, they might be able to just drive away. Wrapping it in foil blocks the signals. 

It’s no surprise your car is a target. It’s probably one of the most valuable things you own. Let’s look at a few scams right now targeting car owners and those shopping for a new ride.

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Cloned VIN scam

A Boston woman paid around $40,000 for an SUV on Facebook Marketplace. The Carfax report looked legit, and Maril Bauter received a clean title from the licensing agency. It was smooth sailing for almost three years … until the police seized the vehicle. 

When she bought the 2019 Toyota 4Runner, it was stolen. Bauter was the victim of a VIN cloning scam.

It all starts with a stolen car or perhaps one totaled out by an insurance company. The scammer finds the same make, model and year and takes the VIN from that car. It’s as easy as snapping a picture through the windshield.

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The scammer then changes the VIN plate on the stolen or totaled vehicle to match the one on the clean vehicle. Now, the scammer can create fake documents and complete the sale.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to spot these scams. If you’re in the market and buying from a private seller:

  • Use a site like Carfax or AutoCheck to look for anything strange with the VIN.
  • Compare the VIN on the car (near the windshield and in the door) with the title and all the other documents the seller provides.
  • Look for signs the VIN plate has been switched out. Run your finger over that area.
  • Consider paying a mechanic or car inspection service to look for major issues or red flags.

Bauter’s story had a happy ending: Her insurance company paid out her claim on the stolen vehicle. That said, not every victim is this lucky so be sure to do your due diligence if you’re in the market for a new vehicle.

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Check out a recent Kim Komando Podcast episode: Insurance companies use drones to look at your home

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Not the only car scam on Facebook Marketplace

An 18-year-old was arrested in Fort Lauderdale for posting his neighbors’ cars for rent on FB Marketplace. The scammer collected deposits and then sent renters to the car owners’ real addresses. 

One neighbor said eight people showed up at her house over three weeks. Another got his car smashed by an angry would-be renter. 

  • Never, ever pay ahead for a rental through a community sales platform. Really, it’s best to stick with a legitimate rental company.

A throwback attack

Cybercriminals can also employ old-school denial-of-service attacks to overwhelm your vehicle and potentially shut down critical functions like airbags, anti-lock brakes and door locks.

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(ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images)

This attack is feasible since some connected cars have built-in Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities. As with regular home Wi-Fi networks, they can even steal your data if they infiltrate your car’s local network.

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Also, it’s a matter of physical safety. Remember, multiple computers and Engine Control Modules run modern cars. If hackers can shut these systems down, they can put you in grave danger.

  • Regularly changing your car’s onboard Wi-Fi network password is a must. Turning off your car’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi is also a good idea when not in use, too.

The built-in monitoring is a security risk, too

Every newer car has an on-board diagnostics port. This interface allows mechanics to access your car’s data, read error codes and statistics and even program new keys.

Anyone can buy exploit kits that can utilize this port to replicate keys and program new ones to use them for stealing vehicles.

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  • Always go to a reputable mechanic. A physical steering wheel lock can also give you extra peace of mind.

Mobile malware

Another old-school internet hack reaches connected cars, specifically models with internet connectivity and built-in web browsers.

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How to prevent malware moving from an old computer to new one

A woman working on her laptop (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Crooks can send you emails and messages with malicious links and attachments that can install malware on your car’s system. Anything is possible once the malware is installed. Car systems don’t have built-in malware protections (yet), so this can be hard to spot.

  • Practice good computer and internet safety even when connected to your car. Never open emails and messages nor follow links from unknown sources.

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Today is your last chance to sign up for a seven-day Max trial

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Today is your last chance to sign up for a seven-day Max trial

There’s no denying that streaming services just keep getting more expensive, with Peacock and Max being the latest streamers to raise prices across their ad-free plans. We’re also seeing a number of services — including Max — dropping support for free trials, ensuring no one other than paying subscribers can access their trove of content. Fortunately, if you haven’t previously subscribed to Max, you can sign up for a rare weeklong trial through the end of today, June 23rd.

Admittedly, a week isn’t enough time to burn through Max’s extensive back catalog of original programming, which includes newer shows like Hacks, the animated sci-fi epic Scavenger’s Reign, True Detective: Night Country, and last year’s excellent adaptation of The Last of Us. It is enough time to revisit Dune: Part Two and your favorite Studio Ghibli film, though, as well as the first couple of episodes of the new season of House of the Dragon.

Max’s current seven-day trial extends to all three subscription tiers, all of which are set to auto-renew at the end of the trial period if you don’t cancel your subscription beforehand. The annual ad-supported plan starts at $9.99 a month or $99 a year, while the ad-free plans — both of which allow for offline downloads — start at $16.99 a month or $169.99 annually. Max doesn’t typically offer free trials, so if you’re unsure as to which plan is right for you, now is a good opportunity to find out.

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