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Security (Part 2): Anti Virus and Internet Security

Security (Part 2): Anti Virus and Internet Security

Last month I was telling you how to keep yourself safe and avoid scammers by setting strong passwords and ignoring scam telephone calls. This month is more of the same, only how to avoid getting your computer infected with viruses and other undesirable stuff.

So what is a virus? Today this is really a generic term to cover the traditional virus, malware, spyware, trojans and PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs). Historically the virus was a bit of malicious software that could damage your files and your operating system, written by geeks to prove their skills – “Oh! Look at me, how clever I am!!”. Things have moved on a tad since then … These bright sparks have discovered money! Why destroy files when you can use your skills to bleed your victim’s dry of cash.

A modern virus is a very sophisticated bit of software that sits quietly on you computer and reports back to its maker via the internet, all about you: Your browsing habits (they can sell this information to marketing companies), your personal data stored on your computer and everything you type into internet forms (usernames, passwords, names, addresses, credit card numbers etc.). So how do you catch one? Two main methods: by email or by internet browsing. The email route is ever so simple, they get you email address from other infected computers, and send you an email pretending to be something enticing, often with an attachment or a web link to follow. If you open the attachment you get infected! If you follow the web link you’ll be invited to click a button to continue (or some such flannel) and then you get infected. Don’t open the attachment or follow the web link in any email you don’t recognise or trust … just delete it!

Getting infected by browsing the internet is just as simple: You visit a web page and a little box pops up and says something like “your computer is infected, click here to fix”, or “you’ve won a holiday, click here to claim”. Don’t click the button, just close your browser and start again!

I always recommend some sort of paid-for antivirus or internet security product to help protect you as these should warn you and may automatically remove access to attachments they don’t trust. There are many on the market and they are all as good, or as bad, as each other. They all claim to keep you safe, and 99% of the time they do. However two things stand in their way; keeping up-to-date & you! Unfortunately, somebody has to catch a new virus before the security companies can update their software to protect you against it, so you should always allow your internet security to update itself when you start up for the day. In this way it can check any new emails as they arrive and it can spot internet threats as you browse. What internet security programs cannot do yet is protect you against yourself. They can make recommendations, but they cannot stop you clicking the button that invites in the virus. If in doubt, don’t!

If you’re worried or think you may have a virus, or you’re getting annoying pop-ups or your internet browsing is taking you to pages you didn’t expect, get your PC checked out! If you’ve got a Mac then you paid a lot of money in the first place for a machine that is virtually uninfectable, but you still need to take care!

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Added: 1st February 2016

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