Thursday, 16 April 2009

ON VIRUSES & STAYING SAFE ONLINE

I'm sure everyone updates their antivirus software regularly. At least twice a week - every day if there's a virus warning going around.

Copyright-free image from Tack-o-Rama

If you don't regularly update your antivirus checker regularly, then you should. And your firewall if you have one.

Don't do what I did when I first got a computer: assume that just because antivirus software is installed on your machine, that that's IT. It'll come as no surprise to you that I got a bad virus (which not only damaged the machine, but locked down my CD drawer). So I couldn't make any backups - another thing I didn't know I was supposed to do. I lost over 2 years of artwork and magazine articles I had written.

Don't let this happen to you!

Backups

You need to regularly do backups, either onto CDs or DVDs or an external hard drive (you just plug it into a USB port - any salesman will explain this).

Security updates

Always check Microsoft for any security updates: you should have Automatic Updates turned on on your machine.

Check now:
  • Go to Start > Control Panel > Security Centre
You'll see three options:
  • Firewall
  • Automatic Updates
  • Virus Protection
These should all be turned ON.

Windows Scanner

Here is the Microsoft link to install the Windows Live OneCare scanner (free) which scans for any viruses - but is also a good tool to run anyway, as it also checks the general condition of your machine and will delete any unnecessary dll and registry items, which can sometimes clog up your system. Even when you delete an unwanted programme, there can still be traces dotted around inside the works, making things run more slowly. You need to download this via Internet Explorer (not Firefox) and then run it - it will take several hours to do a full scan, so allow yourself enough time.

Passwords

If you have just one password for all of your stuff (your bank, PayPal & eBay etc) please change it so you have separate passwords - a mix of letters and numbers is best.

Just think of something off the top of your head, the sillier the better. And don't forget to write them down - this means NOT typing a list on your computer and saving it, by the way. Keep a little book by your computer and hand write this stuff in.

If you get a trojan or the Conficker virus, they will go through your entire system and rip any passwords you may have thought you hid there. Also any banking details.

A great antivirus link

Malware Bytes is a great freeware antivirus to download and keep on your desktop. This antivirus picks up some viruses (masked antivirus tools especially) that your normal antivirus programme may not recognise.

At the beginning of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, the scam was an "antivirus" tool that masked itself as coming from Microsoft and kept prompting you to buy more software. I immediately clicked the black X at the top corner to get rid - and it still downloaded anyway, right into my bottom toolbar (where you have your clock, sound and other icons).

As soon as I went online, this programme started a nag screen telling me to update my security etc. Immediately suspicious, I went into my computer to check (as above): Start > Control Panel > Security Centre and all three options: Firewall, Automatic Updates & Virus Protection were turned ON - although the bogus programme was telling me they weren't.

My own virus checker (updated that same evening) had missed it. So had my Firewall. But Malware Bytes found it and eradicated it immediately! And got rid of the icon.

So I recommend this as a good one to download - and to run it every time there's a big buzz about the latest virus going round. Always update it before you run it, and always run a full sytstem scan.

Yahoo toolbar

A lot of people thing toolbars are a waste of time - but the Yahoo one has a nice little AntiSpy programme added (free of course). This takes less than a minute, and is a good one to run every time you've been doing a lot of web hopping. It will pick up all those adware and spyware sites, and get rid of the cookies for you.

Phishing

The usual common-sense stuff: don't open any weird-looking emails or attachments (run a scan first if you think you need to see them) and if you get emails from any banking groups, insurance companies etc - or eBay or PayPal, but the name is slightly different (eg: your account name is Annette, but you are addressed as Annie, like your friends do) - don't click on any links in the email.

Go to the company's main website and then go into your account to see any messages.

There are a lot of clever spoofs out there, and the web pages LOOK genuine, but aren't (I got caught that way by answering an email sent several months before). They didn't try to hit my bank account straight away! Luckily I was in overdraft when they tried to take out £2,000 - so it was refused (or I really would have been in trouble!)

If you suspect a scam, forward the entire email without opening it to PayPal or eBay or whatever the company is - they'll have a link in their Security section. Let them deal with it.

And if you think you have been scammed or phished - put a stop on all your cards immediately (get hold of the banks etc) and call the Fraud Squad. Don't mess around - better to have to wait for cards to be reissued than find someone several continents away just bought a Mercedes with your Visa account.

Better to be paranoid and safe, than oblivious and very sorry.

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1 comment:

  1. You have a lot of good info, but my problem isn't there. I seem to have a virus on my main blog page. Advertisers are trying to get in. The page comes up, but immediately starts downloading all these advertisers and the page goes blank, I can go to my dashboard, new posts, etc. But I cannot get on my main page. I will gladly pay you a fee is you can help me. Please email me as I can not read my comments. juliemays@sbcglobal.net Thank you so much. julie

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