Internet Safety Tips

internetsafetyIf you’re not that computer savvy then you could end up falling victim to a number of different threats that propagate on the internet.  There are a lot of different ways that computers can be compromised, and along with it your personal data.  That’s why I’m writing this article: to help you get the basics of computer security so that you’ll have a better chance against these threats.  If you know someone that might benefit from this article, please send it along to them!  You know, grandmas that like to open ALL their emails and attachments, dads that are constantly downloading…well…things.

STEP ONE:  DON’T OPEN WEIRD EMAILS

Spam checks on most email services (such as GMail) are getting very sophisticated these days, however sometimes an email or two will slip through that is rather unsavory to say the least. Some of these are VERY cleverly disguised as “legitimate” emails from companies such as credit cards, insurance, PayPal, and even big box stores such as Home Depot and WalMart.  They come disguised as an official email however they are simply there to trick you into giving hackers your personal information.

If you get an email asking for ANY personal information, then you should be VERY cautious and suspicious.  These companies usually do NOT send these types of emails.

STEP TWO:  INSTALL ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE

This should be number one, but I wanted to make sure everyone knows about these stupid phishing emails that have been going around.  I want to remind everyone to install antivirus software on their computers.  And not only antivirus software, but perhaps spyware software as well.  Spyware can sometimes be different from viruses because they are “actual” programs that antivirus software may not catch.  Sometimes spyware can piggyback with free or sketchy software.  It’s not good.  Anyway, pay some money for good software such as Norton 360 and Spyhunter 4 so you can ensure you’re always up to date.  If you want more information on the latest in antivirus and spyware removal software, check out We Hate Malware.

STEP THREE: DON’T GO TO INTERNET “BAD” NEIGHBORHOODS

Ok, this is a little subjective, however I think it’s very important.  You have a very high risk of getting infected by a virus if you frequent websites such as gambling, adult, and download sites.  These are NOTORIOUS hotbeds of hacking activity and the owners of these sites are not as internet ethical as the rest of the web.  I’ve had many a run-in with bad websites with drive-by downloads from visiting these internet neighborhoods.  I know the instant I go to an adult website I’m probably going to be infected with a panoply of viruses and other stuff.

STEP FOUR: DON’T DOWNLOAD THINGS

I can’t stress this enough.  Try not to download tons of “free” programs like screen savers, music and movies, games, gadgets, and other similar things.  Remember when the internet was new and everyone downloaded everything in sight?  Well those days are OVER.  You’ll get a barrage of viruses and malware on your computer for sure.  I downloaded ONE free program the other day to open .rar files from some “free software” website.  Well, I got my computer overtaken by some Conduit search malware/spyware thing.  Had to use Spyhunter to get rid of it (which worked wonderfully by the way)

 

Security Flaws In Windows Increase Threat Danger

adwareIt’s no secret that Windows is a huge target for hackers and other nefarious internet denizens intent on causing mayhem in unwitting computer users.  Unfortunately Linux and Macs are increasingly targeted these days.  Businesses should be aware of the risks and educate all their staff on the dangers of using particular programs, such as peer to peer networks.  Although it should be “common knowledge” unfortunately some people still do not understand the risks involved.

Another relatively new and growing danger: peer-to-peer networks and instant messaging. Expect virus writers and snoops to start exploiting the popularity of peer-to-peer networks, such as Grokster, Kazaa, and Morpheus, and instant-messaging services offered by America Online and others.

Any company with employees using peer-to-peer file-sharing networks is inviting trouble. Consider the following experiment conducted by Bruce Hughes, director of malicious-code research at TruSecure Corp.’s ICSA Labs. He set up a crawler program on Kazaa and other peer-to-peer networks, scanning for popular file types using keywords such as sex and antivirus. Hughes says 45% of the files he downloaded contained malicious applications. “If you’re downloading files from these networks, you’re going to get infected with something,” he warns.

Almost all the big attacks last year were aimed at Microsoft PC and server software. This year, new threats will appear aimed at emerging operating systems and devices, such as Linux, handheld devices, and smart cell phones. “We’ll see a cell-phone virus. It’s almost a certainty,” says David Perry, global director of education for antivirus and content security firm Trend Micro Inc. “We’ll also probably see a virus designed to spread over wireless LANs. We just don’t know when; it could be this year or it could be five years.”

Linux is more susceptible to attack because it offers increased functionality and more users are using a graphical interface such as Lindows, which makes Linux easier to run, says TruSecure’s Hughes.

Still, most experts agree that Microsoft will remain the target of choice for worm and virus writers, at least for the short term, because of its market dominance. Microsoft and other software vendors have been devoting much time and effort to reducing the number of flaws in their code. But that won’t eliminate the software vulnerabilities that make it easier for hackers and virus writers to attack. CERT says that more than 4,000 software vulnerabilities were reported in 2002 and nearly 3,000 were reported in the first three quarters of 2003. Security experts expect that reported software vulnerabilities will continue to number between 50 and 60 each week.

The real issue isn’t the number of vulnerabilities reported, but the severity of the security flaws. The vulnerabilities discovered last year and expected this year are increasing in severity, says Symantec’s Weafer, who expects that trend to continue. About 80% of all software vulnerabilities are “remotely exploitable,” which means virus and worm writers can write malicious apps that can attack these flaws from anywhere, he says.

“Security Threats Won’t Let Up; Attacks on business networks are expected to grow As use of spyware increases. The good news? As risk increases, companies are paying attention.” InformationWeek 5 Jan. 2004.