Tips to Keep You Safe Online

By Marc-Anthony Arena 

Computer users nowadays face all sorts of challenges, including spyware, fake cleaners and all sorts of scams.

Here are some tips to in mind.

• Only those using Internet Explorer (from 1995) should worry about online banking. Firefox or Chrome are light-years ahead in terms of security.

• Anyone telling you to fear cookies doesn’t understand what they do. They know you are an existing customer and not an unknown person.

• Anyone trying to sell you a firewall doesn’t understand that every computer and router in use today already has one built in.

• Anyone telling you to fear public Wi-Fi doesn’t understand you’re already protected by something called HTTPS.

Around 2008, bad guys stopped writing traditional viruses and now use other methods. So, no antivirus program in the world can protect you from the latest threats.

The Four New Threats

• Corporate Spyware: Software that sneaks into your computer and ruins it, legally. Examples include:

– Stowaways: The CDs that come with printers are no longer needed. They just spy on your printing behavior.

– Fake Cleaners: Convince you that you have “errors,” then beg you for money.

– Toolbars: Promise to help you find maps, PDFs, packages or recipes, but instead hijack your online searches and sell them.

• Update Attacks: Usually come from the manufacturer, but do more harm than good. They slow your device massively, rearrange it, or even wipe it completely.

• Cryptolocker/Hostageware/Ransomware: They scramble your documents and photos, and then beg for ransom money. Do not pay them.

• Support Scams: Scary messages claim you have viruses and trojans, and beg you to call a phone number (or they call you directly). They claim they’re Microsoft and read a list of scary words (cookies, firewalls, trojans, foreign bank hackers). Ironically, the only time they can break into your computer is if you let them in.

In summary, these new threats try to scare you into thinking you need something. Remember, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Marc-Anthony Arena is an honors grad of McQuaid and RIT, and president of Teknosophy, LLC, a business specializing in in-home computer services. He hosts WYSL’s “Computer Exorcist Show” and is the author of “How to Protect Yourself from Your Computer.”

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