Copyright © 2012
Macon Computer Repair
Malware (a blanket term for malicious programs) and identity theft are a major concern for computer owners, and a growing problem that will never go away. It’s too attractive and lucrative for criminals.
It’s impossible to completely avoid malware, computer fraud and identity theft attempts, but there are a few things you can do to help cut down on the chances that you will be a victim:
Avoid file sharing applications. If Limewire, Bearshare, or Kazaa is installed on a PC, there's a better than average chance that the system is infected. The owners of file sharing services do not monitor what is shared on their networks. It's part of their legal defense. So there is no way to be sure that the file you are about to download is not malware. Never, ever open downloaded files without scanning them with your antivirus software. Paid music services such as the iTunes store are safe because the service owners are the only ones who post music for downloading.
If you get pop-ups when opening a web page, don't click inside the pop-up to close it. Always click the red "x" in the upper right corner. The "cancel" or "close" button in the pop-up might have unintended effects, as they can be rigged as traps.
If you get a message on your computer warning you that it is infected and you need to pay for software to remove the virus, don't do it. You are already infected, since the program telling you to buy it is an infection itself. Obeying the fake antivirus program will only make it worse. No legitimate antivirus software ever uses this tactic, and when you “buy” the fake one, you’ve given the criminals access to your credit or bank account. They will use it to get as much money as they can.
Avoid free downloads unless you are absolutely sure you can trust the source. Never download programs from pornographic sites or sites that offer licensed programs for “free”. Often these freebies are infected, and even the legitimate free software may contain hidden adware and spyware.
Seriously consider using an alternative web browser such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. Microsoft Internet Explorer has numerous vulnerabilities that criminals routinely take advantage of. Even then, there are methods for spreading malware that all browsers are vulnerable to, so additional security add-ons can be helpful. Firefox has a large library of add-ons, and two I recommend are Ad-Block Plus and NoScript. Google Chrome has a feature where plug-in programs are “sandboxed” to keep them under control.
Always install the latest Microsoft Updates. The majority of the updates are meant to correct vulnerabilities in Windows and Microsoft Office, and failure to install them leaves you open to infections through those vulnerabilities. The same applies to web browsers and Adobe Flash Player and Acrobat Reader. Always accept when updates are offered for those programs, because the software designers are trying to keep you safe from the ways criminals are using those programs to slip malware into your computer.
Beware of pornographic or warez web sites. Many times they are used as traps for people who think they can get movies or software at no cost. They often contain malicious scripts or links that serve up malware.
Don't assume you're safe because you or your friend use an Apple Macintosh. Mac users are targeted less than Windows users, but they are not immune despite what the commercials say. There are a couple of hundred known trojans that specifically target Macs, and there may be many more. Researchers are unable to identify all of them because most Mac users don't run antivirus software, which is how the data is collected. A particular family of trojans known as "DNS Changers" are the most common ones used to attack Mac machines. The only way to really be sure that you're protected against these malicious programs is to run anti-malware software on your Mac. In addition, even if a Mac is not infected by a given type of malware, they can and do spread the infections to their friends who use PCs. Additionally, Macs that run Windows virtual machines are every bit as vulnerable to all types of malware as PC owners.
Be cautious with email. Any email attachment is suspect unless you were expecting it from a specific person. Since spammers routinely use fake “sender” addresses, you cannot trust that a message is really from the person who the message claims it’s from. Some malware programs, if they get on your computer, raid your address book and send out copies of themselves to everyone in it without you even knowing. Unsolicited email (spam) is usually a scam. No reputable company sends email spam, so advertisements and warnings sent by senders claiming to be your bank, eBay, PayPal, or any other institution are virtually guaranteed to be fraudulent. If you didn’t sign up to receive it, don’t trust it.
Be cautious when using social networking sites. Links in Twitter Tweets and Facebook walls are also commonly used to spread malware, and sender addresses are often faked to trick you into believing that a message containing a link to malware is from a friend. When in doubt, ask your friend if they really sent or posted the message.