Q. Some of the sites I visit ask for Adobe Flash Player in order to run any videos, etc. I have gone to the link as well as Adobe and downloaded the player, but it doesn’t seem to be found by the Web sites when I try to run a video. What am I doing wrong? — Kathy
A. What you likely have done wrong is fall for one of the most common ploys by hackers these days to infect your computer with a worm.
Sometime ago, we started seeing various ploys tricking people into installing malicious software by convincing them they need an updated Adobe Flash Player.
These clever “social engineering” scams generally use salacious or provocative headlines in e-mails, Web sites, social media sites or instant messages to get folks to click on the links.
Often times, especially in the case of the “KoobFace” worm commonly transmitted via social media sites, the message will suggest that the subject of the video is you, so you will be highly interested in viewing it. An example: “I can’t believe they caught you on camera doing this!”
If they can get you overly concerned about seeing the video, you’ll likely be too distracted to realize that it’s a scam.
For instance, if you were to look closely at a video that claims to be on Facebook or YouTube, generally speaking you will see a slightly stretched logo or a funny Web address.
The message that tries to hook you will often have misspellings or bad grammar or even broken English. To make things look more realistic, the hackers generally steal the official Adobe Flash button from the Adobe Web site, so it looks legit when you’re told you need the new version of the Flash Player.
And if you assume that it must be coming from Adobe because it’s their button, they once again got you to let your guard down.
The fact that you went through the download and still can’t see the video is a further indication that you have probably been had.
These infections are called worms because once they make their way into your computer, they can “worm” through the Internet without any help from humans.
Once you’ve been tricked, the possibilities for what the hacker can do with your system are endless. We have seen everything from key loggers to spam engines to botnet agents installed as a result of these scams, and none of them are benign.
Make sure you have a technically savvy person examine and clean your system, especially if you use this computer for online banking or other highly sensitive tasks. If so, immediately change your pass codes from a different computer that you know is clean as a precaution against ID theft.
In the future, if any site tells you that you need an updated program for ANYTHING, don’t take the site’s word for it. And don’t accept the sites’ offerings unless you absolutely trust the source. Remember, creating fake YouTube, Facebook or CNN pages is very easy. So don’t let your eyes fool you!
Instead, manually go to the site to download your updates. In this case, you should have gone to Adobe.com to download the latest Flash Player yourself. That way, you know exactly what is being installed. If, after you manually update your player, the same site still says you need an update, you’ll know it’s a scam.
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the “Computer Corner” radio show, which can be heard at noon Saturdays on KTAR (92.3 FM) or at www.datadoctors.com.radio. Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.