Features

You and the Internet: Always practice safe surfing

By Amy Newborn and Todd Pritchett

The Internet is a scary place if you’re worried about viruses, malware, spyware, Trojans, and hackers. You can stay safe and prevent cyber attacks if you follow these simple steps.

Apple computers have always been the safest in terms of internet security. The important thing is to keep software updates current. This is because Apple computers make up a much smaller percentage of the total computers out there so someone who is trying to do harm will not waste time on a platform that has fewer users. Most viruses and malware are written for PCs. This isn’t to say that Macs are inherently safer. As Macs get more ubiquitous, there will be more viruses and malware, and both PC and Mac users will need to be aware of threats out there.

If you use PC computers, Microsoft Security Essentials is a free downloadable program. This will help defend computers running Windows against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

Malwarebytes (one word) is another free program for both Mac and PC. There is a free version as well as a paid version. Go to malwarebytes.org, for features of each version.

Once you have your protection software installed, you will need another level of protection – your clicking fingers! Be very careful what you click on –– whether it be an advertisement (even from a reputable website) or any link that looks like it’s taking you to another website. Never fill out any personal information unless you know exactly where the information is going. These kinds of links are actually advertisements called Click Bait. Reputable websites will have Click Bait ads. Click Bait articles – such as “12 reasons why…” – are mainly made for you to click on their ads so that they can make money. Make sure your pop-up blocker is on. This will help filter out some of the Click Bait ads.

On Mac or PC platforms, the Chrome browser is your safest bet. Chrome is better in terms of its ability to prevent malicious activity. It will alert you when a website is untrustworthy.

Malware is short for malicious software, which is intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems. Malware can steal information or spy on a computer. It’s an umbrella term, which includes viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, and other malicious programs. A popular form of malware is a key logger: it will send information about what you are typing, including usernames, passwords, personal data, and information.

Malware is typically downloaded through an email. It will look like an email from a friend or someone you know – a close friend or family member. It might look innocent. These typically contain links, and when clicked, will automatically send the originator your entire contact list, and this will in turn send out the email to everyone you know. If you get an email like this, it’s best to contact the sender and ask them if it is from them. This kind of Malware is typically referred to as Spam. Steer clear of Spam by clicking smart and not clicking on unfamiliar links. Malware can take many forms, they can replicate inside your computer to slow it down, and even destroy files. If a link is in the form of an image, hover over it and it will appear so that you can see where it goes before you click on it. When you get a Spam email, don’t just reply to see if it’s from the person who supposedly sent it. Start a new email for this.

Change your passwords on a regular basis. Use capital letters, numbers, lower case and symbols with at least 8 characters. Don’t use the same passwords for all your accounts.

Be careful on public computers. There can be a key logger program installed and they can get your passwords. Be especially careful using your email on public computers, if someone gets into your email account, it’s a portal to get into other accounts and gather private information about you.

Use protection – a good browser, security software, and ad-blockers. Don’t click around. Know what you click on, look at links before you click; know where it’s going to take you. If anything auto downloads, delete it immediately.

Before you make your next click – remember these steps and you will surf safely.

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