Protecting Yourself from Common Internet Attacks
They’re more common then you think
By Glenn Reid
The Internet can be a frightening place. Without knowing what dangers to look for, every web page is a potential minefield for your computer. Systems are in place to protect you from these dangers, and there are more things you can do to guard against common Internet attacks.
Phishing is an attempt to gain information from you. This information can be used to steal your identity, get into your bank account, or find you in person. Phishing commonly comes from emails, with criminals pretending to be representatives of a company like Visa or Microsoft. The emails will take you to fake versions of a website, where your information is stolen.
How Others Protect You: Most modern email systems will put emails that resemble phishing schemes into a folder for junk mail or spam. Others will completely remove phishing emails.
How You Can Protect Yourself: Question the email. Call or go into the business in question and ask them if the problems the email is telling you about are true. You can Google the email to find out if anybody else knows whether it is legitimate.
Computer viruses have been around for decades. The first one was created in 1986. Viruses attack your computer by automatically changing information, or sometimes destroying it. Like a biological virus sickens a living organism, a computer virus attacks in a variety of ways, such as making certain components run too quickly, thus causing the computer to break.
How Others Protect You: Antivirus programs have been created to help your computer fight viruses. These programs are fairly cheap, and most stores that sell computers can help you find someone to install one for you.
How You Can Protect Yourself: Make sure your antivirus software is up to date. If an email or pop-up message tells you that you have a virus, and it doesn’t look like the antivirus program you use, it’s probably not real.
In Greek legend, the Trojan horse was presented as a prize for winning a war, but the horse had enemy soldiers hidden inside of it. The modern Trojan horse is a malicious file hidden inside a normal file. Most Trojan horse files allow people to gain access to your computer without your consent or even take control of it. Trojans have been used to sabotage governments.
How Others Protect You: Modern computers will ask for your consent prior to opening most new programs, meaning Trojan horses can’t activate unless you let them. Anti-virus software is able to detect some Trojan horse files, but not all of them.
How You Can Protect Yourself: Don’t open attachments from emails you don’t recognize or emails you were not expecting. If you think you have a Trojan horse, contact a computer repair shop; they’ll know how to fix the problem.
The most dangerous intruders are computer worms, malicious files that can self-replicate and spread from device to device without anyone knowing. They can also change their code on their own, making them harder to detect. A computer worm called “agent.btz” has been invading the United States government’s computers since 2008.
How Others Protect You: Software manufacturers such as Microsoft make updates to their code to stop worms from spreading. They have also created firewalls to stop worms from coming from shared Internet connections. The news media reports on influential worms, so you’ll know if you are in danger.
How You Can Protect Yourself: Ask someone at a store that sells or repairs computers if they can install a firewall for you. Install software updates when they are available. Don’t open links or attachments from people you don’t recognize.
If you take this advice, you can protect yourself from these common Internet attacks. Other people are working hard to protect your computer, but you are the first line of defense. If you are ever concerned about your computer, contact a computer repair shop and ask. They should be able to help you.
Glenn Reid, VP | General Manager