Better safe than sorry

Where would we be without computers these days? Our entire lives are stored on computers, from pictures to music, to recipes, to school work, to documents. Just about anything you can imagine is stored on a computer somewhere, and you’re lucky if it’s only your computer that keeps information about you on its hard drive.

Many PC users seem to ignore the idea they should protect their data. They do so at their peril.

You CAN protect yourself against hacking, viruses, phishing and spyware.

Against what?

  • Viruses and worms: Viruses are small programs or scripts designed to damage or take advantage of your computer. There are many different variations of viruses. Once upon a time their main objective was to damage your computer or make it unusable. These days many viruses install spam-sending programs or programs that attack other computers on the Internet on command. Worms are autonomous viruses that travel across the Internet without human intervention.

  • Spyware and adware: Spyware, like viruses, are small programs and scripts that hide in background of your system and spy on you. They seek e-mail addresses, phone numbers, even bank and credit card information. Adware snoops on you and shows you customized ads, based on your shopping habits.

  • Hackers and other intruders: Hackers are essentially snooper or hijackers of your computer. They attempt to gain access to your computer across the Internet in an attempt to either steal information or do unscrupulous tasks using your computer.

  • Phishing: When a person, claiming to be from a company you are familiar with, sends you an e-mail asking you to login to your account to verify your account information, that’s called phishing. The link you got in the e-mails never links to the company’s site but rather to a site that has been set up by the phisher to collect your personal information as you type it in. This is currently the fastest growing crime online.

Dangerous progress

Broadband (high-speed) Internet connections are fast and always on-line. Convenient, right? But also dangerous: you become more vulnerable to attacks because your connection to the Internet is always on. That leaves a door open for hackers or automated programs like viruses and spyware to hijack your computer and use it for nefarious purposes

So let’s look at a few strategies that will protect your computer.

  • Viruses: These days, it’s e-mail attachments pretending to be from someone you know that spread most of the viruses. Anti-virus programs can detect incoming viruses and quarantine them (stop them and put them in an electronic jail cell) before they can damage your computer. The most popular free anti-virus on the Internet today is called AVG Anti-Virus. Another free program, avast! Home Edition, although not as well known, also provides good protection. Alas, it’s a little harder on your system resources and can slow a system down.

  • Spyware: A recent report suggested that over 80 per cent of all PCs are infested with some sort of spyware. The best free spyware protection programs on the market today are Spybot Search & Destroy and Ad-Aware SE Personal. Unlike anti-virus programs and firewalls, you can use multiple spyware sweepers on a single machine at once. Spybot does a great job of locating and quarantining spyware. Ad-Aware SE Personal, is also free and is a good secondary anti-spyware scanner. You should also install Windows Defender, a free spyware program from Microsoft. It works seamlessly in the background, and does a good job of stopping most malicious content. (At TechnologyTips, we recommend a combination of Spybot, Windows Defender and the payware PestPatrol or Spyware Doctor). No one anti-spyware protection offers complete protection. In the lab, founder Andy Walker discovered that a combination of Spybot, Windows Defender and PestPatrol caught almost all infections.

  • Hackers: Adding a firewall to your computer prevents most intrusions and unwanted connection requests from outsiders on the Internet. The easiest firewall for a beginner is the one built right into Windows XP and Windows Vista. Several good third-party firewall solutions include Outpost Free Firewall by Agnitum and Comodo’s Personal Free Firewall. Each provides real-time monitoring for incoming and outgoing Internet connections. Make sure you use a firewall, which will protect you against hacking and unwanted Internet requests from outside your network.

Please see Use common sense to stay safe