Internet Security

PROTECTING YOUR COMPUTER ONLINE


VIRUS PROTECTION: As you use the internet and receive emails it is mportant you have a good anti-virus system in place. Norton and Mcafee are perhaps the best known, but there are also some very good ones that you can download for free. Avast is one such. You can down-
load it free here:   http://www.avast.com/eng/download-avast-home.html

A FIREWALL: You also need a good firewall. If you have a Windows operating system there is one in the package, all you need to do is make sure it is turned on. If you have an early version of Windows or some other operating system with no incorporated firewall then ZoneAlarm is a good free one. You can download it here:   http://www.zonealarm.com/

SPYWARE/MALWARE  PROTECTION: It is a good idea to also have spyware detection and eradication. Malwarebytes is a good ones, and is a free download. Click here to download Malwarebytes

Once the firewall is up and running it needs no maintenance, but Anti-virus software like Avast and also Malwarebytes must be updated regularly so they are current to identify and destroy all the latest nasties that may be out there. Avast can be set to do this automatically. Malwarebytes must be done manually, once a month at least.

BOGUS VIRUS WARNINGS:
There are a number of fake sites that result in a bogus "Virus Found" message. If you receive one of these, and it isn’t from the virus protection package you have, it may panic you into taking action without sufficient thought, which can lead to unfortunate consequences. To be able to recognise these as bogus warnings you need to be aware what a real warning from your legitimate Anti-Virus programme looks like. This is quick and easy to do. Go to http://www.eicar.org/anti_virus_test_file.htm then scroll down to a line on its own beginning "X50!P%" and containing the words "EICAR-STANDARD-ANTIVIRUS-TEST-FILE!" Copy/paste this line, (all 68 characters), into an email and send it to yourself.

THIS SIMULATES A VIRUS, BUT IT ISN'T ONE.

It will both confirm your anti-virus program is effective and also show you what you can expect a real warning to look like. A genuine virus alert will always be from the Anti-Virus programme you have installed, never from another, even if it claims it is from Microsoft or Windows. DO NOT be panicked into taking hasty action. If not from your normal anti-Virus programme get your installed programme to do a full virus check. If it comes up clean then ignore the the suspect message.

 

PROTECTING YOUR PERSONAL SECURITY ONLINE…

Emails are an area through which scammers can gain access to your computer, but a few common sense rules will minimise the risks:

1. If you receive an email that appears to come from your bank, or other financial
institution, from Yahoo, Paypal, eBay, or indeed from anyone else asking for personal details such as account numbers, passwords, login names etc DON'T DO IT! No institution will ask for this information in an email, they just won't; it is a scam. The layout may look identical to the institution's website but don't get drawn in. If you are uncertain about such an email contact the organisation from your own records, (email address, phone number or web address), never via a link or information in the email.  The term covering this type of scam is “phishing”. It was reported in March 2013 that 65% of users in UK have received a phishing email and half of them thought it was genuine and became victims. So be alert to phishing emails, They are the most common type of scam mail..

2. Unsolicited emails containing nothing, (or very little), except a linkThese may even appear to be from a person you know. NEVER open an attachment or click on a link in such an email. 
If you know the apparent sender contact them separately, (not by replying to the email), and ask if they sent it. Odds are they are totally unaware of it. Their email address and probably the email addresses of people to whom they receive or send emails have fallen into the hands of scammers and their own address is being used as a mask for the scammer’s activities. (This is called “spoofing”). Advise them to immediately change their email password and also email their contacts and warn them they may receive the fake email.

3. Emails that say you have won a lottery, been left money by an unknown relative, been selected by a wealthy foreigner to receive a fortune on their behalf for which you will receive a generous commission or offering loans at very low rates are all scams. There can be variations on all of these. Dump it every time; you simply haven't been that lucky! All of these if genuine would contact you by regular mail… how would they know your email address?

4. Websites that suddenly pop up on your screen saying you are the lucky millionth visitor and offering prizes fall into a similar category. Just ignore them.

5. Job Offers. Emails offering you a job receiving payment from their “customers” which you are to transfer from your bank account to them via Western Union. Those who receive these ads should delete them immediately as the companies are actually laundering money, and use innocent people as their means to do it. Money through Western Union is untraceable so the banks will contact the owner of the account and may choose to take legal action against them. Worst of all these seemingly legitimate companies often ask for a resume with all of the person’s details in them. This information is later on-sold and used for identity theft. Identity theft is a devastating thing to have happen as someone steals your identity, racks up large amounts of debt, opens accounts in your name and creates havoc, and you don't know it has happened in many cases until you get a summons from the court, or creditors start harassing you to pay your bills. It is going on in Australia as well as overseas, and people should be very wary of any such emails.

6. It is worth remembering that there are scams similar to some of the above mentioned that are being carried out by telephone. I've had several telling me they are Microsoft and there is a fault with my computer. (If there was how did they know about it and how did they know my phone number?). Best to just hang up, but my approach is to ask them to wait while I boot up the computer and then just leave the phone off the hook and carry on with whatever I was doing before they rang. While they are waiting for me they aren't ringing anyone else!  Be wary of people saying they are from charities seeking donations. They very well could be genuine, but never give money or credit card details over the phone. If you wish to donate tell then you will donate via internet or post, and do so separately.

 

PASSWORDS

Never use words that can be found in a dictionary, or obvious ones like 1234 or qwerty. These can literally be broken in seconds.

Use a mix of upper case and lower case letters plus some numbers, or better still shifted numbers, (instead of 4 use $ for example).

Avoid short passwords. The longer it is the harder it is to break.

Have a different password for each important site, (like your bank), and change it fairly often.


As with PINs, don’t keep passwords written down. Use a system that is consistent. For example, friends' street addresses, (if you wish with the street number shifted so it records the symbol above the number on the key). Then all you need is a list of the friends' first names to remind you of the password.
Here is a website that will tell you how secure your passwords are. I find it quite useful:  http://howsecureismypassword.net/

 

PROTECTING WIRELESS CONNECTED NETWORKS 

If you have two or more computers in your home and they are wireless connected then it is important they are protected from others simply tapping into your system. (Also if your computer has a WiFi connection.) Your router (modem) has a password. the default password is probably "password". (Can you believe that?), so you need to change it to something more secure. To get help doing this ring you internet provider's Help desk or get in a technical support person.

 

HOW TO CHECK WHETHER AN EMAIL IS GENUINE 

This is usually surprisingly easy to do. Please contact me if you would like me to check out a suspect email for you. This can involve identifying the source country and city, whether it is scam mail and if so even the identity of the scammer in some cases. I can also report it to the appropriate authority world wide. On request I will show you how to do most of the above yourself if you wish.

 

DISCLAIMER

Please note the information contained on this page is advice for you to consider. Whether you act on that advice or ignore it is your responsibility. In doing so you agree not to hold the Denmark Probus Club, its officers or the author responsible for any subsequent eventuality.  


   Photo credits: Banners - by Kelly Jones, i4design.com.au