Fundamentals of Online Protection

There are new cyberscams coming out all of the time, and if you use a computer, you should definitely look into the options available to protect yourself from cybercriminals. For those who work in the internet security field, there is never a shortage of news and information concerning online protection.

The internet is a dangerous place, and there are potential hazards around each and every corner.

It is up to you, however, to take responsibility for the safety of yourself, your company, your family, and your computer. It is highly probable that you will become the victim of a cybercrime if you don’t start protecting yourself, now.

How Does Antivirus Software Help?

It is likely that you have an antivirus program on your computer. Each of these programs are quite different in how they work and what they offer, but the purpose of these programs are the same.

Antivirus programs will scan the drives of a computer and seek out virus definitions that are known to be problematic. You can schedule the scan to be done automatically or you can perform the scan manually.

It is important that you also set up the virus software to automate its definitions each day, so that when a virus is released to the world, your software can update, recognize, and ultimately remove it.

Keep in mind that malware is smarter than ever before, so these programs must be updated daily.

Can I Use Free Downloadable Antivirus Software?

You can easily find basic antivirus software for free online, but the question is, should you use these? Though it is attractive to use this type of software, they only use basic protection, and they rely on virus databases that may updated regularly, but you’d be missing the protections of anti-phishing, and a firewall.

Though they will protect your computer from most viruses, no antivirus will protect from all viruses, especially those that are brand new called “zero day”.

You should buy an antivirus program that is cloud-based, and one that offers protection in real time with antispyware, antiphishing and a firewall, among other bells and whistles. Antivirus providers are always proactively searching for new threats, and they also protect users from those that have been released. Once it has been determined that there is suspicious activity on the machine, this software will identify it, research it, investigate it, and then take care of the problem immediately. In addition to this, you should also have a firewall, website safety advisor, and anti-phishing software.

Almost all of the free software suites that offer antivirus protection will include a link to purchase “full” or “premium” protection for the user, which means they are admitting that their free product is not up to snuff.

Protecting Yourself From Malware

In addition to protecting yourself from viruses that might be downloaded via an attachment, you must also protect yourself from malware when visiting websites, too. Programs such as SiteAdvisor work well to do this.

In this case, the program gives a warning of a potentially malicious site by showing a green, yellow, or red mark next to the name of the site in the search results. The green sites are safe, of course, but you should use caution with the yellow sites. The red sites should be avoided.

You can further prevent unauthorized software by using a password on the devices administrator account, and you should only download files that come from a trusted website. Also, don’t download any software cracks or torrents, as they often carry spyware along with them.

Using caution with pop-up windows is also imperative. Do not click any pop-up at all. Instead, on a Windows machine, click the “X” or shut down the browser completely. If you have a Mac, choose the Command-Option-Escape command, choose the application causing issues, and then click the “Force Quit” option.

Alternatively, you can click the Apple logo found at the top left of the screen, select the “Force Quit” option, choose the application and close it out.

Make sure to keep your OS security patches and updates current, and always use the newest version of your chosen internet browser.

Do You Have a RAT?

A “remote access Trojan,” sometimes known as a “remote administration tool,” or a RAT is a tool that when paired with spyware can track your keystrokes, take screen shots or even record a video of the computer screen. It also has full access to files. On top of this, if you have a password manager, it has access to all of your login credentials.

A RAT will monitor your computer without your knowledge. One of the most common RATs is called “Backdoor Orifice.” This is a tool that allows a hacker to gain access to your administrator information, and thus, he or she has full administrator privileges.

A RAT can be installed manually, or it can be installed via an attachment, a clicked link, or downloaded software. It is also possible for RATs to be installed when a victim places an infected thumb drive into their computer. Even products such as external hard drives or digital photo frames can be infected before leaving the factory. A cybercriminal is also likely to trick someone into downloading a RAT when playing games online.

How Risky Is Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Sharing?

If you play games or like music, the odds are good that you are aware of peer-to-peer, or P2P, file sharing. This is an amazing technology that allows people to share data from person-to-person. However, it is also an amazing way for hackers and cybercriminals to steal identities.

If you don’t install and use P2P software correctly, anyone, including cybercriminals, can access the data on your computer. This can result in credit card fraud, data breaches, and identity theft. There are many reports of corporations and government entities finding P2P software on their data, too, so even this isn’t safe. Even President Obama has been a victim of P2P cybercrimes, and his security detail, helicopter plans, and even Congressional depositions were leaked.

Those who innocently download music or games are also putting themselves at risk, too, and if you have teenagers, you will need to be extra cautious of this.

There are millions of people who have computers that have P2P software, and those who have it are often clueless that their data is exposed. Criminals know that this software also gives them an easy way to get into a victim’s computer. If you have this type of software installed on your computer, make sure that you are being extremely careful.

Protecting Yourself From Spyware and Key-Catchers

You also must protect yourself from spyware and key-catchers when browsing online. Using anti-malware software, not clicking strange links, or downloading rogue software can help to protect you from spyware or malware. Key-catchers, however, are a different story.

To protect your computer from a key-catcher, you should check all of the ports on your computer for any mysterious devices. Though your antivirus software will catch malicious programs, it might not recognize when a key-catcher is attached since it is attached to your computer externally.

Key-catchers are made to imitate a piece of hardware that would typically be plugged into the computer. Because of this, you should physically inspect your machine to find out if there is a key-catcher on it. There are some browsers and operating systems, which have an on-screen keyboard that can be used to bypass a key-catcher, which can help to keep you safer.

Do I Need a Firewall?

You might want to consider a firewall. This is a type of software, or sometimes hardware, that is designed to either block or allow a transmission between the internet and a computer. A firewall generally accepts or denies transitions based on specific rules.

Most OS come with a firewall installed, and this firewall will perform simple functions, and it determines whether it should allow or deny a program based on its settings. More advanced 3rd party firewalls will alert you to any data threat, and it will block the threat until you choose to allow or deny it. Typically, when you have security software installed, you do not need to manually configure the firewall, which makes them easy to use. Additionally, if any activity or threat occurs that might be attempting to breach the firewall, the software will spring into action to prevent it.

Using “Windows Update”

You might also want to protect yourself by using Windows Update, though if you have a Mac, this doesn’t apply to you. This program will scan your computer on a regular schedule, and then update it with any necessary software. You can find Windows Update under the Control Panel, and make sure that you set it to download and update your patches automatically.

Windows Service Pack and Protecting Your Computer

Cybercrimes and technology are evolving at a rapid pace. When a security breach occurs as a result of a virus, it impacts the programs and operating systems on the computer. You must install all of the updates that are suggested by your operating system and software to keep your machine secure and safe.

Just as you can use Windows Update to patch up holes and secure the software within your system, the Service Pack is a full bundle of added upgrades and enhancements, which allows the OS to run more quickly and smoothly. This also helps to protect you against potential threats.

Even if you don’t realize it, your computer could be the biggest threat to your security, and the Obama administration once said something equating to our personal computers could also be one of the most prolific threats to security of the nation.

The bottom line is this: Stop and think before you start clicking. Only then, should you connect. Take the time to learn who is on the other end of your IM, torrent, or email, and remember, that anything you do online will remain online for anyone to steal.