Your Fall Online Security Guide
Scammers continue to update their old malicious tricks, and develop new ones to get past your defenses. This coming season is no different. Stay safe this fall and beyond with a quick overview of autumn’s best security advice.
Don’t let ‘scareware’ frighten you into giving up your cash.
When it comes to security software, thanks to the persistence of scammers, it’s getting harder and harder to tell rogue software (also known as “scareware”) from the real thing, especially with the use of sneaky social engineering tactics. For example, in September, an “authorized advertisement” was spotted causing problems on the New York Times website, issuing pop-ups, warning users of a non-existent virus infection, and prompting them to download rogue security software. It’s all the more reason to stay alert to these rogue anti-malware programs, even when browsing on legitimate sites. A few quick pointers to avoid rogues: follow the Lavasoft Malware Labs blog for updates on the latest rogue techniques, install a reliable anti-malware solution like Ad-Aware (which finds and detects rogues), and always do your research before buying or installing new software.
Shore up your online defense.
Know that malicious threats will be coming in from a variety of angles – websites, e-mail, and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, included. Preparing your PC with anti-virus, anti-spyware and a firewall (and making sure the software is always up-to-date) is critical in keeping safe. But, even with the best protection, you need to stay aware and cautious of the threats you may encounter online. Be suspicious when browsing the Web, clicking links, and responding to messages on networking sites and in email. Always think before you click!
Talk to your kids about online security and privacy.
Back in the swing of the school season, children of all ages are now using PCs more than ever to socialize, learn and play games. While you may already teach your kids about the importance of being safe online, make sure they know that it’s not just about clicking the wrong link or downloading the wrong file. Have conversations and set boundaries for how much private information is okay to give out or make available online. Stress the fact that what’s on the Web, including what they post to blogs and social networking sites, is permanent. As U.S. president Barack Obama said in a speech to the nation’s classrooms this fall, “Be careful what you post on Facebook, because in the YouTube age, whatever you do, it will be pulled up later in your life.” It’s good advice – for those with political aspirations and otherwise!
Keep an eye out for scams taking advantage of the down economy.
Cyber criminals, just like their counterparts in the real world, have been seen taking advantage of global economic confusion and fears to profit from the unwitting, using techniques aimed at the unemployed and those trying to make or save extra money. Online traps being set have included bogus or misleading job ads and offers, and ploys targeting banks, financial institutions and money lenders. Remember, the old adage applies online: if it looks too good to be true, it probably.
Get your news from a reliable source.
For many of us, our first reaction to hearing a breaking news story is to go online and get the scoop. Playing off of breaking news and events continues to be a popular way for online scammers to locate their next victim. One example seen in the past month: malware writers, according to reports, piggybacked on news of the anniversary of the September 11 tragedy to setup websites pushing rogue security software, and used search engine manipulation techniques to boost the scope of the scams. Another similar case occurred when the death of actor Patrick Swayze started making headlines in mid September; industry experts began to see the news being exploited online, only hours after the first legitimate reports came in. Scammers swiftly created fake news reports serving malware, attempting to con users searching for more news on Swayze’s death. Be aware that you may stumble across these types of misleading and opportunistic “news reports” simply through a search for a hot topic in your favorite search engine. To avoid the scams, get your news directly from a trusted online source.