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Protecting Yourself From Viruses, Scams, And Other Nasty Internet Things

by Jake MacLaren

While computers are an amazing invention that has truly pushed humanity to create some incredible inventions and innovations, they are still vulnerable to nasty bits of coding that can not only put your information in danger, but can make it incredibly difficult (or impossible in some cases) to get back. Below are a few things to watch out for while online and how to avoid them:

  1. E-mail Scams

What They Are:

Probably one of the most recognizable of items on this list, scam or spam e-mails have been around since 1978. Some of the most common e-mails are those you have likely encountered yourself where a random e-mail is sent to you (usually with poor grammar and spelling) claiming you are the winner of a large sum on money, can help a Nigerian prince, or claiming if you invest a large sum on money to make back huge profits. Wikipedia has a list of e-mail scams that can help you identify what to watch for in particular.

How To Avoid Them:

Don’t click on any links given in the e-mail. It’s that simple. If you receive an e-mail that you’re not sure is legitimate , no matter the rewards that are associated with it. If you see one from your bank or a provider, call them, ask them if the e-mail was sent by them and get the truth. They will be more than happy to tell you. This is your information after all and once you give it away there’s no telling how far it will go before you can get it back.

2. Computer Viruses

What They Are:

Like people, computers can also get sick, computer viruses being one of the most common “diseases” if you will. A computer virus is “a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data” (Google). Like real-life diseases they come in many forms, some have been stopped entirely from developments in technology, some have been around for a long time and are still a very real threat. Depending on the virus, your computer may be able to get rid of it using anti-virus software, but sometimes a virus can caus irreparable damage to your computer.

How To Avoid Them:

There are multiple ways to avoid getting computer viruses. First and foremost when browsing the web: . In other words, don’t click on everything you see pop up while browsing. Some pop-ups on the Internet try to trick you into thinking there’s a problem with your computer mimicking antivirus-like windows. Don’t fall for them. If you’re concerned about your computer’s safety close the browsing tab associated with the “computer infection risk” and run an anti-virus scan using your installed anti-virus on your computer.

A good idea is to clear your browsing history every month as well, as some pop-ups rely on stored data while you browsed. Another good idea is to use more secure web browsers than the default installed one on your computer (i.e. Internet Explorer and Safari). Browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, and Opera all have customizable security interfaces to ensure your safety browsing the web.

Be wary of what you download as well, just because it’s a free program doesn’t mean it’s safe. Most anti-virus software will give you the option to scan a file before you install it. This is a good practice to get into.

Another good habit to get into is keeping your computer up-to-date. If a software update is available it’s a good idea to download it, especially if it mentions that it’s a security update.

3. Computer Worms and Trojans

What They Are:

Another “disease” your computer can get is computer worms. Like viruses, they rely on many of the same ways to get onto your computer, but unlike viruses they attempt to use a computer network to spread and copy itself. Worms will almost always damage the computer network more so than the computer itself, and will tend to exploit security failures. “Probably the most common payload for worms is to install a backdoor. This allows the computer to be remotely controlled by the worm author as a "zombie."” (Wikipedia).

Trojans, on the other hand (named after the ancient Greek wooden Trojan horse used to deceive and attack the people of Troy) are meant to deceive the user into thinking they have some other purpose than their malicious intent. Often the are used to make backdoors into the computer to siphon a user’s information like their banking info or personal identity. Unlike worms or viruses though these don’t try to spread themselves, but can spread with the help of a computer worm. One of the most common uses of Trojans are ransomware attacks. These attacks will attempt to ransom your data threating to either release it online or block access to it until a ransom is paid.

How To Avoid Them:

In both cases be wary of e-mail attachments or links that seem illegitmate, worms tend to go through social platforms where Trojans usually require downloads. Like viruses, keeping your computer up-to-date and having viruses can help, but in the case of Trojans backing up your data on an external hard drive may be the only way to save your data if it gets infected with ransomware (although there are decryption programs that can potentially help you decrypt your encrypted data). Also like viruses, be especially wary of what you download can help in dealing with Trojans.

Did my list help? What have you done to protect your computer and data? Let me know in the comments below. Want more tech news and help in your life? Follow our page on Facebook for more top-quality content.

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