Monitor Your Computer’s Safety
Computers are a nearly ubiquitous tool in the United States and many other parts of the world. Their ever-increasing processing power enables people to be more productive, and in many cases their use can help the environment by wasting less paper. The migration of modern society to cyberspace, however, presents a number of dangers. These risks manifest in the form of hackers, computer viruses, and more.
Computer hackers are like hijackers who take control of a computer to do their bidding, often at the expense of the owner. Computer viruses are automated digital pathogens that hackers create in order to cause harm to computer users. Examples of the potential damage that can be caused by cyber criminals include unwanted accessing of computer files, essential files being deleted, identity theft, and the stealing of money from one’s bank account. Viruses are also popular among cyber criminals and, as with a biological infection; the best solution is to prevent intrusions and infections from happening in the first place. To do this, every computer user must become familiar with the concepts of computer security.
There are a number of basic security strategies and tactics that users can follow, that will reduce their computer’s odds of becoming infected. The first thing that a user must do when a new computer arrives is install an anti-virus program and a software firewall. Check to make sure that both the anti-virus and software firewall automatically update themselves, before installing them. The next step is to update the computer’s operating system with all of the latest security patches. In the case of any Internet-based accounts, it is necessary to use strong and complex passwords. There are also infected websites that send viruses to computers as soon as a user browses one of the site’s pages. Installing a website reputation service in one’s browser is not a foolproof defense against this threat, but it is an added measure of protection and awareness.
When reading email, users should never open email from untrusted sources, nor should they set email reading software to open attachments automatically. Email software should be set to view all emails in text-only format. This will prevent pictures from displaying, but it will also prevent the automatic running of virus code in infected emails. They should also beware of emails that ask for personal information. Users should never respond via email to any request for Social Security numbers, passwords or credit card numbers. Instead, they should call their bank or other service that allegedly requested this information, and talk to them directly over the phone. Installing email spam filters are also another way to block potentially dangerous email. Under no circumstances should anyone volunteer any passwords or personal information on chat rooms or Internet forums.
Virus hoaxes are another threat that lurks in cyberspace. They involve webpages or emails that warn a user that their computer may be infected. Invariably they seek to redirect the user to a webpage where they can download anti-virus software. The problem is that the anti-virus software in question is actually a virus that will do the damage that the user is trying to avoid. The best action to take is to avoid clicking any links on a website that alerts a user to a virus infection, but rather close the page and never return. In the case of emails, it is never safe to click a link from an email from an untrusted source. Legitimate anti-virus software will not send alerts via email or on a web page.
What Is A Computer Virus?
- University of California, Santa Cruz: Computer Virus and Malware Information
- California State University Northridge: What Is a Computer Virus?
- Ohio Literacy Resource Center: Computer Viruses
- University of Washington: What is a Computer Virus?
- Institute For Advanced Study: What Is A Computer Virus?
- Oregon State University: Computer Viruses
- University of Delaware: Introduction to Computer Viruses
How Can I Protect My Computer?
- OnGuardOnline: Computer Security
- FTC: Computer Security
- US Computer Emergency Readiness Team: Why Should I Care About Computer Security? (PDF)
- University Of Hawaii: Protect Your System From Computer Viruses!
- University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill: How Do I Protect My Computer From Viruses?
- Goucher College: How Can You Protect Your Computer?
- University of Wisconsin: How to Protect against Computer Viruses
- Fort Hays State University: Computing and Telecommunications Center
- Washington University in St. Louis: Protect Myself Against Computer Viruses
- FBI: Virus Warning: E-Mail from ‘FBI Alert’ Not Really from FBI
- Rhode Island State Police: Malware, Spyware, Adware
- Princeton: Honor System Virus
- Indiana University: How Can I Tell If A Computer Virus Alert Is A Hoax?
- Southern Methodist University: Trends in Viruses and Worms (PDF)
- Lehigh University: New Virus Type: Scareware
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