Your Annual Reminder: Keep Yourself Safe on the Net

Ah, the Ides of March, bad time for Caesar, bad time for your computer… This is the time of year when I see viruses, malware and Internet scams pick up. And it seems, at least for the last couple of years, that it’s the time I take my monthly post and devote it to reminding you about the ways to protect yourself from those nasty bugs – and people – out there trying to compromise you and your personal information or money.

Over the last month I have seen an almost unprecedented increase in the volume of Spam, Viruses and attacks on computers and their networks. Aside from being annoying and frustrating from a Support perspective, the endless amount of time spent diagnosing and resolving the computers found to contain the malware responsible is such a waste of finances and resources. Simply put, you cannot spend too much time on security! So, here we go with my annual reminder. I promise not to harp on about this too long. In fact I am going to let some of my previous posts do some of the talking for me.

Spam Spam Spam

Last year I wrote a post about the sources of Spam and how to protect yourself from it. I pointed out that Spam can contain viruses and other malware that can be used for anything from key logging on your computer (recording your key strokes), to being a part of a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. A DDoS attack brings a large series of (usually) unwitting computers to bear on accessing a single IP address, flooding that IP with so much data the systems attached are overwhelmed and lock up. In most cases the IP being attacked has to be blocked until the attackers go away. Last month brought the largest DDoS attack ever recorded.

Passwords

Another post from last year was about making and keeping your passwords safe and secure. I think it is definitely worth a read. I was listening to one of my favorite tech talk radio programs the other day and heard mention that a good habit to have is to change passwords every couple of months. You should never use the same password for more than one site or service at a time. If you have too many passwords to remember, as I do, you should invest in a good password stoarage system so all you really have to remember is one password.

Beware the Social Trap…

Finally, I now want to talk about a subject I haven’t addressed yet about when writing about security on the Internet: Social Media. Yes, I’m afraid it’s true. The nasty little people that would love to know everything about you and willingly clean out your bank account have infiltrated places like Facebook and Twitter. So…  you now need to keep your guard up there too.

One of the things the bad guys are doing is using social media to get you to look at a picture. You click on it and get whisked away to a website and the website gives your computer a little present. Trust me, you don’t want the present. Once infected, that’s it. They have you (until you clean your computer anyway). Alternatively you may be offered a huge sum of money in return more moving cash out of a foreign country – have we heard that one before? Can you say Spam Scam…

So how do you protect yourself when on social media sites? Short of not using social media, there’s nothing bulletproof out there, but here are a few recommendations…

Use an antivirus program: Most AV programs these days feature services that monitor the web sites you go to and will block sites containing spyware or other malware. Remember to keep your software up to date. The AV software I use comes with a free tool that allows me to scan my (and friend’s) Facebook pages for malware.

Report any issue you come across: While Facebook and Twitter will pretty well allow anything to be posted to their sites, it usually won’t get removed unless someone reports it. Both sites give you the option to easily report anything you find dangerous or offensive and you should take advantage of this feature as it will help keep these social media sites safer for everyone.

Avoid clicking suspicious links: If you are presented with links to people are articles you don’t know or, in the case of Facebook, haven’t “liked”, then you might be exposing yourself to something questionable. Best to just stay away from it. This is as true in your social media as it is in your email.

I’ve been working the Support desk here for just under thirteen years now. With each passing year I see the threats to your safety and privacy increasing. I am not trying to scare you into a panic about all this but, if I can put my head down at night knowing I made a bit of difference to someone’s life by putting this out there, I will sleep a little easier. There are over seven billion people on this sandbox. Until we all learn to get along and play nice together we all have to step up and make it as tough as possible for those who want to take advantage of that which we hold dear.

Got a question or an idea for a topic you would like to see covered in one of my upcoming blogs? Write to support@skywaywest.com and sound off. I’ll do what I can to address your questions or concerns either personally in a reply email or on the blog. Until next month, take care.

–Wes


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