The Internet is a wonderful place. Anyone with an Internet connection can stay in touch with family and friends via email. Starting an Internet business is easier than ever and can even lead to the lifestyle of your dreams. And, thanks to eBay, you can even hold a “virtual garage sale” without worrying about the weather or bothering the neighbors.
But the Internet is also a DANGEROUS place to be. In fact, YOU are at RISK right now.
Computer security is the most important issue of being on the Internet. Just consider the following statement – startling I know, but VERY true.
“If you are connected to the Internet and you don’t have current anti-virus software, ALL security updates to your Operating system and browser, as well as a firewall properly configured, you have a virus or adware on your computer RIGHT NOW!”
That is what I’ve been telling clients of my computer repair business recently. Some of them listened and took action. Others didn’t and had to learn this important lesson the very hard way.
Let’s look at the problem first, then I’m going to give you FIVE ways you can solve that problem today!
First: the facts.
Fact 1. There are three types of programs that are attacking your computer right now: Spyware, Malware, and Adware. All three are programs that get downloaded to your computer as part of a legitimate download, then hang around sending data like your credit card numbers to the villains who write them.
While this article is too short to define each, all three types are a threat. For now let’s call them all adware.
Fact 2. In the last 12-18 months I have not seen ONE unprotected computer that doesn’t have a virus or adware.
Doing computer repair on a daily basis for a living I see a LOT of computers. Some units have OVER 50 pieces of adware on them. Please understand; these people are just like you and me, not some 14 year old gamer who will download anything. They THOUGHT they were being careful enough, and were shocked when they discovered that they had a problem.
Some of these machines even had anti-virus software, but weren’t updated with the latest security patches.
Fact 3. While onsite or phone support service calls used to involve bad hard drives, equipment failure, or adding new devices, about 80% of all service calls now involve virus and adware removal.
Fact 4. It’s getting worse. The adware and virus creators are getting smarter, and the software is getting much harder to remove.
Here is what you can do TODAY to solve the problem, a problem you might not have even been aware existed, yet could cost you untold hours of frustration as well as put your financial life at risk.
Step 1. Be aware! Does your computer run slower now than when you bought it? Do some software programs no longer work or “hang up”? Does your browser go to some strange home page? If so, the odds are 99.9% that you ARE infected.
Step 2. Install anti-virus software that automatically updates. There are several good choices out there that fit that criteria, Norton, MacAfee, AVG, PC-cillin are the top brands. The important thing is to make sure that the software is setup to update the virus signatures automatically.
Step 3. Install all security patches for your operating system. Go to the Microsoft site and run a test of your computer and software. It will tell you what updates you need to install and even install them for you.
There is no cost and it is extremely effective against many of the virus and adware out there. Go here to check your system: www.microsoft.com and look on the menu on the left for Windows Update and click on that. Depending on what operating system you have, it will take you to the appropriate update page. Also turn on auto-update if your operating system allows that feature.
Step 4. Install a firewall. A firewall looks at network traffic coming into or going out of your computer. Viruses or adware that may try and infect you is scrutinized and rejected. Windows XP has an included firewall (automatically turned on in the SP2 update) that can help but you may find a 3rd party program like Zone Alert (www.zonelabs.com) to be a better choice.
Step 5. Now that you know the danger, use a generous amount of common sense in reading email and surfing the web. If you get an email attachment from anyone you don’t know, don’t open it, ever!
If you know the person sending the attachment but it looks questionable, don’t open it. You may also want to set your email to open only in text mode, that keeps any html (that can run a program) from doing any harm.
Never, and I mean never, click on a hyperlink in an email to fill out any financial, password, or login data. No legitimate vendor will ever ask you to do this under any circumstances.
When you are surfing the web and a window pops up and asks you to install a program, just say no. If you don’t recognize the company or publisher, don’t do it. You can go into your browser security section and make changes so that no outside source can make any installations or changes with out prompting you to approve.
Keep current backups of all your important data. We all know to do this, but so few actually do it. No matter the method – just do it!!!! If disaster strikes, your critical data will be safe.
By following these five tips you will have peace of mind knowing that your online experiences, be they playing games or making money or something totally different, are safe as well as enjoyable.