October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month

Sep 30, 2015   //   by nick   //   Blog  //  No Comments

October is the season of Halloween and Fall Foliage but did you know it’s also National Cyber Security Awareness month too? Throughout the month of October Mr Computer will be reminding users to stay alert when surfing online. We will educate you on ways to minimize your exposure to online threats while surfing and help you Understand, identify and avoid malicious programs such as computer Viruses, Malware, Spyware, Adware, Botnets and other known threats.

Viruses: Are harmful computer programs that can be transmitted in a number of ways. Although they differ in many ways, all are designed to spread themselves from one computer to another through the Internet and cause havoc. Most commonly they are designed to give the criminals who create them some sort of access to those infected computers. Computer viruses currently cause billions of dollars worth of economic damage each year by causing business downtime, lost or corrupt files, system failures and crashes and increased maintenance costs.

Spyware: “spyware” and “adware” apply to several different technologies. The two most important things to know about them is:

  • They can download themselves onto your computer without your permission (typically when you visit an unsafe website or via an attachment)
  • They can make your computer do things you don’t want it to do. That might be as simple as opening an advertisement you didn’t want to see. In the worst cases, spyware can track your online movements, steal your passwords and compromise your accounts.

Botnets: Botnets are networks of computers infected by malware (computer virus, key loggers and other malicious software) and controlled remotely by criminals, usually for financial gain or to launch attacks on website or networks.

If your computer is infected with botnet malware, it communicates and receives instructions about what it’s supposed to do from “command and control” computers located anywhere around the globe. What your computer does depends on what the cybercriminals are trying to accomplish.

Many botnets are designed to harvest data, such as passwords, social security numbers, credit card numbers, addresses, telephone numbers, and other personal information.  The data is then used for nefarious purposes, such as identity theft, credit card fraud, spamming (sending junk email), website attacks, and malware distribution.

Being vigilant about what you open is paramount. “When in doubt throw it out”  For instance let’s say a relative forwards via email to you a funny joke that they found online. They have opened the attachment in an email that a friend had sent to them and then forwarded it to you. Because it was forwarded from a family member to you it must be safe. However the family member that forwarded it to you didn’t realize that the attachment also included malware and internet tracking software. This is a case of the sender not not knowing that they are sending malware infected emails. We see this often and  offer the this advice to users. Hit the delete key and get rid of any email that contains an attachment of unknown origin. You may miss out on a joke or two but you will have a clean machine and minimize threats just by being vigilant about things.

In addition to being vigilant you must keep your operating system updated with all Microsoft Security Patches as well as purchase and maintain an Internet Security Software Suite like Norton, or something similar. Be sure that your firewall is turned on and working correctly. Free programs like Malwarebytes and Superantispyware are also nice supplements to your overall internet security package but we do recommend using the paid versions if you plan to keep them installed on your system.

 

 

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