Now that you have discovered the ease of internet publicity, internet sales, and computer record keeping, it is time to discuss some of the pitfalls of being a member of the Internet generation. The world wide web is the wild west and your neighborhood sheriffs are rare, so you need to do what first generation settlers did: learn to protect yourself and your computer from the bad guys.
The holiday shopping season is about to pounce on us, and with it, a rash of computer malware and virus invasions. Why are there more of these foul assaults during the holiday seasons? Ever hear of Cyber Monday? The number of Internet users doing their holiday gift shopping is much higher this time of year because it is so much faster and easier to simply order your gifts with the click of a mouse, have it gift wrapped and shipped to your family and friends, than it is to brave the crowded shopping malls and holiday traffic, bring home presents and then gift-wrap them yourself.
Many holiday shoppers are also infrequent users of cyberspace and depend heavily on their internet provider to guard them from Malware or Virus invasions, and a great many of users don’t perform computer Maintence on a regular basis. If you are using one of the Internet Browsers such as Firefox or Explorer they do provide some measure of protection because they use free virus prevention programs to help foil these attacks, so do many of the Internet Providers such as Xfinity, Yahoo, Google, U-verse and such. You can also purchase virus prevention programs in hard copy and load them from a disc. Many times this is simply not enough. Why is it not enough? Because those nasty little gremlins who create these attacks are constantly working to tunnel through whatever protections are on your computer. The war started the second the internet was created, and if you don’t want to become a casualty, you need to protect your computer. Most of these insidious Malware and Virus invasions can be stopped short if they are caught early enough. At our house, we run two types of anti-Malware/anti-virus scans weekly.
What is Malware? According to Wikipedia, “Malware, short for malicious software, is any software used to interrupt computer operation, collect sensitive information, or gain access to your computer. It can appear in the form of executable code, scripts, hidden e-mail attachments, etc. It also shows up when you are careless about what web sites you visit. Malware is a general term used to denote to a variety of forms of hostile or invasive software.” Malware masquerades under a variety of terms: computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, scareware, and other malevolent names. Home users and organizations to try to safeguard against malware “attacks” by using anti-virus, anti-malware, and firewalls programs many of which can be bought at your local office supply store. They can also be downloaded directly into your computer from the Internet.
How do you give your computer a flu shot? Well the first step is to make sure your computer security settings on your Control panel are set to make the most of your computer’s built in security. Below are five basic steps you can take. If you are using Windows, 1) turn on your windows firewall. A Firewall is software that either checks information coming from your network or internet and blocks or allows access to your computer. 2) Set up a list of approved programs and require that you be asked before new programs download. 3) Set up to be notified if the firewall blocks a program. 4) Make sure the programs you use have the latest updates because updates may contain additional protections against Malware that attacks through legit programs. 5) Keep your ant-malware/virus programs updated! To do this make sure your software is set to automatically update new protections. Usually this can be done in the background.
Anti-Malware programs or scans need to be run frequently. I would recommend at least once per month, and during the holidays every week. There are three basic types of scans designed to catch malware: A Quick scan which is fast and superficial, a Full scan which goes through every file on your computer and a Boot Scan. The Boot scan is a very powerful tool because it begins scanning during your computer’s most vulnerable time when it first starts up because until it is fully loaded, your protection software isn’t fully functional.
Even with all these precautions, you might still be successfully invaded by one of these nasty critters. One year we experienced a powerful malware that went through our firewalls like grain through a goose. It locked us out of all our programs. Well if this happens to you, then it is time to call in an expert to scrub and disinfect your computer. Your first step is to turn off your computer and leave it off, Don’t keep turning it back on in the hopes that the problem will have disappeared! Since you probably won’t be able to access the internet from the infected computer, it is a good idea to have the name and contact information of a computer cleaner on tap. If you don’t have time to do this before you are infected, try phoning the store where you purchased your computer or a store that sells them, and ask if they can recommend a company.
There are software programs out there you can buy which are supposed to be able to disinfect your computer, however if you aren’t computer savvy to begin with, you may not be able to use them successfully.
If this sounds overwhelming, it really isn’t. Keeping your computer safe is no more difficult than learning to drive a car. It’s just a new and different technology. And really, do we have a choice?
Good Luck! Gail