FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Viruses, Worms and Trojans Go To Top

What is a Trojan?

The term Trojan comes from the Greek legend about the fall of the city of Troy. The story goes that, during the seige of the city by the Greeks (not Geeks), a huge, hollow wooden horse was left in front of the gates. The inhabitants thought that it was a peace offering from the Greek army and dragged it into the city. Unknown to them, it was being used to conceal Greek soldiers, who were thus able to use this Trojan horse to enter the city and open the gates for the rest of their army.

The Trojan program uses the same tactics to infiltrate a host computer. It purports to be a legitimate program, but in the background it is doing something else. It may be opening a ‘back door’ for a hacker to gain entry, or deleting files, or using a mail program to pass itself on to other computers.

For example, the Happy99 Trojan was very active at the end of 1999 and in 2000-2001. In fact, it is still seen occasionally.

Happy99 (which is sometimes called Win95/Happy99.Worm, SKA or Win32.SKA.A) arrives as an attachment to an email message. When the recipient opens the file the message ‘Happy New Year 1999!!' and a fireworks graphic are displayed.

All this sounds quite harmless, but the Trojan is also doing things that the user can't see. It modifies your computer's network software so that Happy99 is attached to all outgoing email messages.

What is the difference between a worm and a virus?

Unlike a virus, a worm does not infect files on a host computer. Instead it adds a file to the computer that is malicious code, and runs it ‘in the background’. A computer has many programs running in this way in order for its system to operate. For instance, when you create a document you can see the text editor, such as Microsoft Word, Notepad or Star Office, but in the background the spell checker or the printer program are working even though you do not see them on the screen.

Worms can spread through any medium that is being used to connect to the Internet, whether it be a modem, broadband, wireless connection, or a local area network at work.

The website of the antivirus software vendor Sophos describes W32/Netsky-R, a worm that was first seen in March 2003. This worm is part of a ‘turf war’ that was being waged at the time of writing between the writers of Netsky and another worm called Bagle. You don't need to worry about the technical details included in the description.

What is a virus?

A virus is a piece of computer code – a program – that has been written to gain access to files or programs on your computer. The virus may enter your computer via floppy disk, by email or by your Internet connection. It will look at the files on your computer and infect some of them if it can.

What do we mean by 'infect'?

A virus will attach itself in various ways to a file that already exists on a ‘host’ computer, and when that file is run, the virus activates as well. A computer virus works in a similar way to a biological virus.

Biological virus: an infectious agent of small size and simple composition that can multiply only in living cells of animals, plants or bacteria.

Computer virus: an infectious program of small size that can only multiply in other programs.
(Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2000)

When the virus is triggered it releases its payload. The payload part of the virus code can be either destructive or intrusive, or possibly both. Some viruses may just display a message, but others corrupt data and delete files.

Most viruses are programmed to hide on the host computer for a period of time before releasing the payload. If the virus shows itself too quickly, alerting the user to the fact that their computer is infected, it is more likely to be detected and hence less likely to be spread to other computers.

How to protect yourself against viruses, Worms and Trojans

Three of the ways in which you can protect yourself from viruses, Worms and Trojans are:

• Ensure that your computer has the latest patches from Microsoft or your operating system vendor.
• Install antivirus software that will protect you from these problems, and ensure that you keep it up to date.
• Install a firewall

What do we mean by patches?

Microsoft Windows is an example of an operating system (OS). These operating systems contain millions of lines of code, and inevitably there will be some errors in that code. Some malware writers set out to find these errors, or holes, in the code and exploit them to their own benefit. Whenever holes are found (by IT security people or groups, malware writers or the software developer) the operating system manufacturer will issue a fix for the particular problem. These fixes are referred to as patches.

To ensure that your computer is safe you need to obtain patches regularly for the software that you use. You can do this by accessing the software company's website, for example Microsoft's Windows Update.

You will find that companies like Microsoft classify their patches as ‘critical updates’, ‘service packs’ or driver updates.

The driver updates are upgrades to the hardware drivers that are installed on your computer. This type of software is used to run your hardware (monitors, modems, sound cards etc).

The ‘critical updates’ and ‘service packs’ are the ones that affect the operating system (e.g. Windows XP) installed on your computer. The service packs normally contain a lot of programs, covering many problems that have been found and corrected. These fixes are supplied as a group rather than individually. Critical updates normally consist of only one program, or a small group of programs, specific to a particular problem.

Another option is to look out for monthly magazines, which quite often include the latest patches or service packs on CD-ROMs. Obtaining them in this way avoids long downloads. (Some of these programs or patches can be quite large, and take a long time to download on a 56K modem).

Obtaining patches and updates

Start Internet Explorer.

Choose Tools > Windows update from the drop-down menu at the top of the browser screen.

(Note: if you are using a computer at work that is controlled by an IT group this option may be missing, as it can be disabled in a corporate environment.)

If you are unable to find the ‘Windows Update’ option, you could try the Microsoft Update.

Follow the on-screen option to scan your computer and see the number of updates that are available to you.

We suggest that you do not install all of the updates at present, as they would take a long time to download. In addition, some updates have to be installed separately, and this would increase the download time even more. But you should consider getting the critical updates as soon as possible.

Alternatively you can read about security issues, and what you can do to improve your security, at the Microsoft Security at home web site.

Spyware Go To Top

What are the symptoms of spyware?

If you use the Internet, it's very likely some form of spyware threats are already at work on your PC. Your computer may be infected if you recognize any of these symptoms:

• Sluggish PC performance
• An increase in pop-up ads
• Mysterious new toolbars you can't delete
• Unexplained changes to homepage settings
• Puzzling search results
• Frequent computer crashes

What is Spyware?

“Spyware is more like someone planting hidden cameras and microphones around your house and office, and even in the bathrooms. It's just about the sleaziest online activity there is.” --Computer World

Anyone who uses a computer is susceptible to spyware infection. In fact, 9 out of 10 Internet-connected PCs are infected with spyware that can:

• Open your PC to identity theft
• Expose your personal information and private accounts
• Corrupt your hard drive
• Share your passwords and user names

Spyware threats can be any application that may track your online or offline PC activity. It may save or transmit those findings to third parties. These unwanted programs are stealthy and often attach to your computer without your knowledge – or appropriate consent. Many nefarious spyware threats can record keystrokes to steal your social security number, bank account information and credit card numbers, or hijack your modem to dial expensive, pornographic phone numbers.

Adware is a different type of program that lets companies track your online activities and tailor pop-up ads based on your choices.

Spyware arrives bundled with freeware or shareware, through e-mail or instant messenger, as an ActiveX installation, or by someone with access to your computer. Unlike traditional personalization or session cookies, spyware is difficult to detect, and spyware removal is difficult (if not impossible) for the average user.

Anyone who uses a computer is susceptible to spyware infection. Your online actions, whether you're surfing the Internet or checking e-mail, can attract spyware. These programs find their way onto your system and install themselves in several possible places on your PC, including your registry, start up menu, files and folders. Many spyware programs ensure their survival by sprinkling traces of the program throughout your PC to make full removal more difficult (and sometimes nearly impossible). Once installed, spyware operates silently in the background.

File-sharing programs and swapping music, photos or other files are also well-known avenues for spyware infection. Sometimes spyware is bundled with a desired program, and is disclosed in buried text as part of the end-user-license agreement (EULA). These days, spyware may hop onto your system when you visit certain Web sites.

Spyware comes in many forms including adware, keyloggers, Trojans, system monitors, browser hijackers, and dialers. It ranges from benign - adware tracking cookies, which let online companies track your activities on a Web site and tailor pop-up ads based on your choices - to more nefarious spyware programs like Trojans, keyloggers and system monitors, which are capable of capturing keystrokes, online screenshots, and personally identifiable information like your social security number, bank account numbers, logins and passwords, or credit card numbers.

Ultimately, your identity and private information can be compromised by these malicious programs. On a corporate level, spyware can compromise network and data security, corporate assets and trade secrets.

Aside from potential identity theft, many spyware programs steal from you by cluttering your computer's memory resources and eating bandwidth as it "talks" to the spyware's home base using your Internet connection. This could lead to your computer suffering system crashes and/or slower performance.

Today, anti-spyware software is just as important as having a good anti-virus program and a firewall.

How do spyware threats find me?

Through seemingly harmless tasks spyware threats may attach itself to your computer. These unwanted programs may start watching your actions right away or the programs may wait, triggering covert activities later. Even if you’re careful you can pick up these dangerous, unwanted programs through normal Web activities like:

• Sharing music, files or photos with other users
• Visiting a media-supported Web site
• Opening spam e-mail or an e-mail attachment
• Downloading free games, toolbars, media players and other system utilities
• Installing mainstream software applications without fully reading license agreements

Cookies: What are they?

When you visit a website the chances are that it will deposit a cookie on your computer. A cookie is a plain text file that cannot pose any threat to your computer and cannot pass on viruses. Therefore, cookies are harmless. Or are they?

The cookie protocol was developed to enhance the experience of using the Web. The cookie that a website deposits on your computer contains information about that website. When you revisit the site it recognizes you, or more accurately your computer, and customizes its service to you. For example, these websites might greet you with ‘Welcome { your name }’ when you revisit them.

The way in which some websites implement cookies has caused privacy problems. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), formed in 1996, set out to change the way that browsers handled cookies. Initially users were not aware that cookies were being added to their computers, but the IETF advocated that the standard implementation of web browsers should at least warn the user, by default, before accepting a cookie.

How to protect yourself against adware and spyware

Some steps you can take to protect yourself against this intrusive software:

• If a window appears suddenly, close it using the ‘X’ at the top right of the window.
• Never use the ‘close window’ option which is sometimes offered in a pop-up window – you never know what is written in the code ‘behind’ the button or text.
• Even clicking on the ‘No’ option to install can have hidden ramifications so the ‘X’ is the safest option.

General Go To Top

Does GEEK911 support and work on Apple Macs? How about Linux or Unix?

Our techs are experts on Apple Macs and Microsoft Windows, of course. We are firm believers in playing to our strengths to deliver the best possible value to our customers. With that in mind we do not service Linux or Unix-based systems at this time.

What is a geek?

Originally, a geek was a carnival performer who bit the heads off chickens. (In early 20th-century Scotland a ‘geek’ was an immature coley, a type of fish.) Before about 1990 usage of this term was rather negative. Earlier versions of this lexicon defined a computer geek as one who eats (computer) bugs for a living — an asocial, malodorous, pasty-faced monomaniac with all the personality of a cheese grater. This is often still the way geeks are regarded by non-geeks, but as the mainstream culture becomes more dependent on technology and technical skill mainstream attitudes have tended to shift towards grudging respect. Correspondingly, there are now ‘geek pride’ festivals.

"But just what is a geek?" you ask. Well, we'll tell you. At least, we'll tell you our jocular definition... which may be different from "general usage" of the term,
webster's definition, and even the definition used by other geeks.

A geek is someone who spends time being "social" on a computer. This could mean chatting on irc or icb, playing multi-user games, posting to alt.particle.physics, or even writing shareware. Someone who just uses their computer for work, but doesn't spend their free time "on line" is not a geek. Most geeks are technically adept and have a great love of computers, but not all geeks are programming wizards. Some just know enough Unix to read mail and telnet out to their favorite MUD.

The ranks of geekdom are swelled with gamers, ravers, science fictions fans, programmers, nerds, and trekkies. These are people who did not go to their high school proms, and many would be offended by the suggestion that they should have even wanted to. Geeks prefer to socialize with other geeks.

Geeks are their own society: a literate, hyperinformed underground. The community accepts people from all walks of life, assuming they have access to the Net and the skill to use it. Geeks are rather openminded with regards to nonstandard lifestyles. You can't tell if someone is a geek just by looking at them, there is no dress code. Some dress casual, some prefer silk - but few pay attention to current fashion.

The unwritten geek credo states that originality and strangeness are good, and that blind conformity and stupidity are unforgivable.

Take care not to confuse the terms geek and nerd. A nerd is a person with no social skills, usually obsessed with science or technology (geek is more computer specific). Nerds are known for their pocket protectors, taped glasses, and plaid shirts. Many nerds are also geeks, using the net as a safe screen to hide behind while practicing their social skills. However they rarely come out to be seen in person at live geek events, so there is little reason to be concerned.

The term hacker tends to refer to the more programming intense set of the geek crowd. However the term is overused in the popular media, and therefore is no longer much used among "real geeks". Hacker also has negative connotations related to cracking, or illegally obtaining access to computers and accounts.

Geek can also be used as a verb. "To geek" is to sit online and read mail, news, chat, and otherwise waste time in front of a keyboard. This "geeking" often consumes many hours, even if the intention was to "just log in and check my mail." Some would say this time would be better spent being social in person or even just being curled up in a sunbeam.

There was once a special breed of geeks known as b-geeks after the computer ucscb.ucsc.edu, where they gathered. However, many of these b-geeks graduated, more failed out, and ucscb has waned in importance in the ucsc computer system. Now spread to the winds of computer access, they still gather in electronic forums and do lots of fun stuff. The group is now known as scruz-geeks, and you can find out more about them on the
santa cruz geek social scene page.

What if my problem only takes 30 minutes or less to resolve? Am I still charged the same price?

Yes. However, if your service call is completed quickly you can ask the technician to look at other potential problems or answer any questions you might have about your system. Our technicians are alloted a minimum of 30 minutes for each service call. Remember, you are paying us for our knowledge and not our time. Many of our technicians have spent many lonely and dateless Saturday nights reading technical manuals and computer journals. They can't help it if they're smart and quick. [grin!]

Is GEEK911 Hiring at this time?

Yes. We are looking for a few, err, one good geek. Check out our job description page for complete details.

For consideration, send an e-mail with your résumé, salary requirements and references to: career@geek911.com

How long have you been in business?

GEEK911 was established in 2005. And incorporated in 2006 as GEEK911, INC.

Who's the World's oldest living Geek?

Believe it or not, the World's oldest living geek also affectionately known as "Mother Geek" or "Momma Geek" is a 97 year old woman who now lives in the city of San Francisco.

Click on the link below to see a recent photo of this remarkable lady who is revered by geeks worldwide as "the mother for the rest of us".

Why should I choose GEEK911 versus one of your other competitors? What makes you guys so special?

Most of our competitors are highly competent professionals. Every business chooses a particular method to service and sell their customers. Some companies choose to focus on low prices , some choose to establish themselves as providers of vendor specific solutions and some may focus on large projects. At GEEK911, we specialize in homes and small business. We focus on our customers. It is their satisfaction and loyalty that makes our company successful. We believe in delivering the service that our customers desire at a price they can afford. It doesn't matter if the computer is working properly if the user thinks that it is broken. Our job is to make sure our customers get the maximum benefit from their computer and IT investment. We spend our time focused on solutions that work for homes and small business. This gives us the ability to have a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by our clients.

About Discount Coupons, "Geek Bucks", and promotional advertising discounts

Geek911 may from time to time publish discount coupons and promotional discounts in various advertising programs and media as well as offer "Geek Bucks" coupons to customers. Unless specifically stated otherwise, all promotional discounts and coupons offered by Geek911 are discounts against the service call (labor) only. Under no circumstances may multiple coupons, discounts or offers be combined against a single service call or billing.

Why am I signing a release of liability?

The release of liability is necessary because we come to you not knowing the state of your equipment and even a system which seems to be operating normally when we arrive, could be operating in a compromised state or even coincidentally fail during or after our visit. As such, we must protect ourselves from these possibilities.

My computer is three years old. Is it better to just replace it?

That depends entirely on the computer and what you use it for. We will gladly evaluate your computer and help you make an informed decision.. You are the expert on your situation; we will explain the costs of an upgrade and the pricing of replacement. With this information you will be able to let us know how you would like to proceed.

My brother-in-law thinks my computer has been taken over by some covert intelligence agency.

While we cannot totally rule out that possibility, we would be happy to send one of our technicians "the good guys" out to assess the situation. We have found that behaviors others attribute to secret agents of the government, Al-Qada terrorists, the tides, or bad mojo, always turn out to be problems that our trained technicians can track down and repair. Now you have someone on your side to fight "the bad guys".

What if you can't fix my problem?

Although we're miracle workers, we can't fix everything. On rare occasions we will recommend replacing computers or servers, but only if there is no other affordable solution. Sometimes replacing a machine is a better value than the cost of repair. If this is the case, our technician will explain the situation and help you explore your alternatives.

Do you charge for "travel time"?

We do not charge for travel to and from locations within our service area which includes the greater San Jose/Silicon Valley area. Check out our service area map for more details.

My company is looking to hire a computer service provider, do you offer monthly contracts?

Yes. Please call 1-866-433-5411 and tell our operators you wish to have someone contact you with regards to service contracts. Alternatively, you may send in your request via email to info@geek911.com

Is your service guaranteed?

Yes. We stand behind our service and repair 100%. If the technician is unable to remedy your computer issue, we'll come back at no extra charge. If we still cannot fix your problem there is no charge to you.

* Special order parts are warrantied by their respective manufacturers.

I have a conflicting obligation, can I cancel or reschedule my appointment?

Yes. We ask that you give us at least 4 hours notice so as not to incur a $35 rescheduling fee. Cancellations require a 4 to 8 hours notice or a $55 trip charge will be billed. Appointments scheduled the day after a national holiday will require 8 hours notice of cancellation. To reschedule or cancel your appointment, simply call us toll free at 1-866-433-5411.

How long will my service call take?

Shortest calls: Simple single-computer, problem-free installation, configuration, and upgrade calls are our shortest calls usually averaging between 1 to 2 hours.

Mid-length calls: General cleanups, spyware/malware removal, wireless network installs, and problematic installation or troubleshooting calls average about 2-4 hours and can go longer or shorter depending on the complexity of the problem and the number of computers involved.

Longest calls: Virus recovery, system transfers, operating system reinstallation or upgrades, and network wiring tend to run the longest at 4-6 hours on average.

What if the call turns out to be really really short? Yes, it happens to the best of us, the power cord jiggles loose, a piece of equipment just needs to be reset, or a device is plugged into the wrong port. These situations can make you feel a little embarassed, but don't be. It really does happen all the time and to a lot of people! But more importantly, you're about to pay a full-hour service charge for that 2-minute fix, and we understand, for some people that doesn't matter, but if it does matter to you, prepare yourself before the call by collecting up a list of additional questions or issues for your on-site technician. Your technician isn't just a troubleshooter and fixer, he or she knows an awful lot about how things work and loves the opportunity to help you learn some of the tricks and shortcuts that can make using the computer more productive, less frustrating, and more fun!

Reality Check: Although we would like to tell you in advance exactly how long your service call will take, the reality of the PC environment is that this timing is very unpredictable. If you're not comfortable with an open-ended appointment, let us know and we can set an initial time limit after which time your technician will stop working and review progress with you. This allows you to limit initial costs and then make an informed decision whether to proceed further or not.

When and how do I pay?

All payments are due at the time of service. Please make arrangements to settle up with your geek via cash, check, or credit card (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover) even if you will not be personally present at the conclusion of service call.

Why does the GEEK911 Pricing terms and Agreement form have so much fine print?

The language in our agreement is designed to cover all situations and possibilities even if they are not what you have called on us for (for example, if you call us for tutoring in Microsoft Excel, the language regarding moving furniture and drilling holes in walls is not relevant, however if you call us for installation of Network wiring, it is very relevant).

Can I drop off my computer for a faster repair or discount?

No. All of our repairs and services are provided to you on-site. In some rare instances it may be necessary to remove the computer or equipment for an off-site repair.

What is your rate?

We charge a fixed flat rate depending on what the issue/problem is. Most service calls range from $59 to $399. Click the "fixed flat rate" link above or contact us for more specific pricing.

Do you only service businesses?

No. We are happy to work with individuals also. No client or job is too small.

I know absolutely nothing about computers, can your technicians speak "Non Geek" to me?

Yes. We are well versed in the English language and don't expect you to know anything about your system. That's what we're here for.

What are your pricing terms and customer agreement?

Below is a full online copy of our Pricing Terms and Agreement for your review:

Payment Terms:
Client agrees to pay Geek911 for services provided.

Geek911 does not provide billing services to clients. Client agrees to pay Geek911 for all charges at the time of service.

Geek911 reserves the right to refuse service as well as to change fees and rates at any time without notice.

Release of Liability:
Client agrees to release and hold harmless Geek911 from any and all liability associated with the performance of service or the provision of parts, and acknowledges also that Geek911 offers no explicit or implied warranty or guarantee on services performed or parts provided, other than the manufacturer’s warranty. Further:

1. Client acknowledges that due to the nature of the services being performed, there is potential risk of damage or loss including, but not limited to, damage to client's home, office, computer hardware, cabling, hubs, routers, switches, peripherals, accessories, and furniture, as well as potential risk of damage, corruption, or loss of computer software, applications, data, and data storage media.

2. Client agrees to release and hold harmless Geek911 from all liability for damage or loss as well as any incidental or consequential material or financial damage or loss that may result from the actions of Geek911, its agents or service representatives.

3. Client grants Geek911, its agents and service representatives, access and permission to physically disassemble any and all computer systems, components, networks, cabling, hubs, routers, switches, peripherals, and accessories.

4. Client grants Geek911, its agents and service representatives, access, security rights, and permission to open, view, modify, edit, delete, or otherwise manipulate client's computer software, applications, data, and data storage media including, but not limited to, the computer Operating System, word processing, spreadsheets, databases, workflow, graphics, audio, video, system drivers and libraries, and any other type of software or data that may be contained on client's computer system or network.

5. Client grants Geek911, its agents and service representatives, permission to physically access client's home or office property where client's computer system and/or network resides.

6. Client grants Geek911, its agents and service representatives, permission to perform modification to client's home or office property for the purpose of installing or troubleshooting computer and/or networking hardware, cabling, hubs, routers, switches or peripherals. Modification may include such practices as drilling through or disassembling furniture, walls, floors, carpet or trim, laying and removing cabling and devices including affixing cabling and devices to furniture, walls, floors, or trim, using nails, screws, staples, hangers, or plastic ties.

7. Client grants Geek911, its agents and service representatives, permission to download and/or install software on client's computer and/or network, including but not limited to, virus scanners, diagnosis and repair utilities, drivers, libraries, and software requested to be installed by client.

8. Client grants Geek911, its agents and service representatives, permission to install hardware in client's computer and/or network, including but not limited to, memory chips, processor chips, cooling fans, batteries, hard drives, tape drives, storage devices, modem and communication devices, audio and video cards, network interface cards, hubs, routers, switches, printers, scanners, cables, and any other hardware requested to be installed by client.

9. Geek911 strongly recommends that client safeguard critical data by backing up said data prior to any services performed by Geek911. Unless specifically requested and provided as a paid service by Geek911, client is responsible for any backup, archiving, or protective storage as well as restoration if required, of client's data.

Geek911 is a provider of billable on-site services and does not offer or provide free telephone technical support. Neither the signing of this agreement nor the performance of services by Geek911 implies availability of telephone technical support. This document constitutes the entire agreement between client and Geek911. No other agreement, whether verbal or written shall be in effect except if agreed to and authorized in writing.

Okay, I've made my appointment. How do I best prepare for my service call?

To make best use of the technicians time we recommend you make a list of all the problems you are experiencing with your system, and have all manuals, software CD's and any other information about the computer readily available. If possible, it is best that you have or make a backup of your data since we cannot guarantee you will not lose all or part of your data as we work on your system. It is rare but why take the chance. Although most service calls typically take 1 to 2 hours, we recommend you set aside about 4 hours just to be on the safe side.

I purchased my computer used and I don't have any of the original software or drivers available. Can you still help me?

In the majority of cases the answer is Yes. Typically a technician will be able to restore your original applications, data and serial numbers without having the original software CD's or manuals.

HELP DESK HELP DESK