Computer security has everything to do with connections to the internet. We have the ability to go beyond the walls of our office or home and obtain a wealth of information and tools. But it also means that our computer and data are at greater risk. We can become the victims of scams.
There are untold benefits to opening a door to the vast possibilities in the outside world. But browsing the internet, getting and sending e-mail, or simply using an app to play a game, can result in potential and active dangers to your data, your identity, and your money.
Stay Alert for Scams
As digital citizens, we need to foster a street-wise attitude when using our internet-connected devices. E-mail may carry an infected file that could attack your device.
But it’s more likely that your computer security will be “phished.” Phishing is simply attempts to scam you into giving away something valuable. For example: your social security number, bank information (including passwords), or money. Phishing can be in the form of:
• a plea — often supposedly from a family member or friend
• an offer — send a low amount of $$ and you’ll receive much more in return…except that you don’t
• a bogus request for information from your bank or credit card company, the IRS, or Microsoft.
How do you know if someone is trying to trick you into giving something away? If you can step back from the intensity of the moment, then you’ll recognize the importance of common sense and avoid these scams. Let’s put it this way:
• no one is going to give you a load of money in return for a small fee or charge
• a friend or family member would never e-mail an emergency request for money without also calling you
• no financial institution will ever ask for your account information and/or passwords for any reason
• Microsoft has no ability to see inside your computer and identify that you have a virus.
Be Careful What You Open
Everyone has a friend, acquaintance, or family member who regularly sends messages with images, videos, or links to websites. They think these are funny, interesting, or wonderful tidbits, and often they are. But unfortunately this is also how many computers end up with nasty viruses and other malware. That’s because these files and websites can easily be infected. If you open such an attachment or go to that website, the infection downloads to your computer. Sooner or later it will actively impact your machine and data.
Ultimately you can end up with a hijacked internet browser (taking you unwillingly to porn sites, for example). Or, you might be infected with a program that searches your computer for social security numbers, bank account information, credit card information, and so on. Once your private data is found it can be sent back to an identity theft company elsewhere in the world.
Our recommendation is to be very selective about the attachments you open. An image sent from your friend’s cell phone or camera is probably fine. But an image forwarded to your friend from someone else — or grabbed from a website — is not reliable. If it’s a link to a trusted site such as The New York Times you should be okay clicking that link. But if you don’t recognize the link, don’t go there.
Computer Security: Stay Up-To-Date
Keeping your antivirus program up-to-date will reduce the threat of viruses dramatically and improve computer security. So saying, all antivirus programs are not the same. Users of Windows 8, 8.1, and 10, for example, are automatically protected by Windows Defender. But that’s a baseline protection. Antivirus programs such as Norton, McAfee, Kaspersky, Trend Micro, and AVG do a better job of protecting you more aggressively and thoroughly.
Mac users have less to worry about. But they are not immune; their computers can get infected. We recommend that, at a minimum, Sophos Antivirus is installed. This is free and does not interfere with the operation of your Mac.
Even with an antivirus program running, you should also add the protection of antimalware programs such as Malwarebytes and Superantispyware. They catch those infections your antivirus program misses. There are free versions and paid versions of both programs, and they can be equally effective. The paid versions simply add some automation, scheduling and/or real-time protection.
You may be someone who sticks with one internet browser. But even if you’re a dedicated Internet Explorer or Safari user you should have at least one other installed, regardless of whether you use it. Why? If your browser gets corrupted by an infection, you may not be able to access any webpage at all unless you have use of an alternate browser.
So take the precaution of installing Firefox or Chrome, or both, just in case.
Bergen IT is a client-centered, comprehensive tech support and strategy company for businesses, professionals, and homeowners. The company services customers in the NJ and New York City metropolitan area, including northern New Jersey (Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, and Passaic, NJ), Manhattan and the Bronx, Rockland and Westchester, and can remotely assist clients across the USA.
Bergen IT provides computer, mobile device, audio, TV, and home theater services. Our focus is on providing personal attention, reasonable rates and top-notch expertise. For more information, go to: www.bergenit.net.