The Internet can be a pretty dangerous place with nasties lurking round every corner. While you are enjoying the benefits of Internet shopping, subscription websites, free downloads and Internet banking, there are unscrupulous people out there just waiting to pounce.
Hackers, fraudsters, identity thieves and many others would love to get hold of your personal details or take hold of your computer. What stands between you them and certain disaster?
A little knowledge!
Here’s a few tips to keep relatively safe, remember, most of these people are looking for easy targets so don’t make yourself one..
Avoid the obvious and never use dictionary words, these can be brute forced in minutes. Names, DOB or any other forms of personal information can be easily guessed so avoid them too. A secure password is one which is over 8 chars long, contains UPPER and lower case letters and has non alphabetical characters such as $ ^ – ” etc. A good example would be F$a4%Cm*–d32. Now this may seem difficult to remember and you are right, it is, you could devise a formula in your mind to remember yours. In the long run it may save you a whole lot of trouble. You may want to use a secure password storage facility if you have many passwords like this.
Secure your PC
1. Make sure you have a firewall installed. Many hackers scan IP addresses for ports that host known access points into your PC, a firewall can hide these and the hackers won’t even know you are there. If you are invisible to them then what can they do to harm you?
2. Have an Anti-Virus application running at all times and make sure it is scheduled to update itself daily. These cannot protect you from unknown viruses but a virus that has been doing the rounds for a day or more will be detected by “most” AV applications. Some run on what is called heuristics and can detect new Viruses of similar designs..
3. Keep your Operating System up to date. Hackers are always finding new ways of breaking into an O/S. When they do, the O/S manufacturers release a patch to make sure the hackers cannot get in, always update your O/S and make sure you are fully patched against any new holes into your system.
Be wary of email
If you receive an email from someone you don’t know, asking you to download a greetings card, a PDF file or visit a site, then beware. Check it over carefully, do you know this person, were you expecting something like this?
If the website address they are asking you to visit looks like this [http://188.8.131.522] then it is more than likely to be a site hosting malware, just itching to exploit your computer and fill it full of nastys. Sometimes they will try to fool you be using a dynamic redirect or simply by making the link as text, Click here to see my photos hover the mouse over the link and see where it leads. If it looks suspicious then do not click on it.
Check over all files sent to you, if what looks like a PDF/Word/Excel file lands in your inbox and it ends in .exe .com .scr .pif (there are many more but these are some of the most common) then avoid it like the plague, these are executable files and more than likely to contain a virus/worm/Trojan just waiting for you to launch it.
You may even receive email from a colleague which contains a virus, someone may have hjacked/spoofed their email address and sent you a very plausible message, laden with viruses. Always have a think. Were you expecting it? Is the attachment an executable one? Does the link look dubious in any way?
Watch what you download
Peer 2 Peer (P2P) applications such as Limewire, Kazza and eMule are FULL of viruses, if you use these programs then always check the following.
1. If you are downloading music, say an mp3, make sure it has the mp3 extension (nirvana.mp3). Never download a music file that has .exe .zip .com .pif .scr etc. Nirvana.exe = BAD NEWS.
2. Movies, the same goes. I will include a list of extensions to watch out for.
3. Applications. NEVER download an application using Peer 2 Peer, hackers regularly update their viruses and launch them on P2P and many of them will easily avoid your Anti Virus, 90% of applications on P2P are laden with viruses.
If you follow these tips, and are always on the lookout, aware of what you are doing, downloading, browsing etc then you should be relatively safe. These things should come to you naturally after time and just be a daily part of your safe Internet experience.
List of dubious executable extensions.
ADE – Microsoft Access Project Extension
ADP – Microsoft Access Project
BAS – Visual Basic Class Module
BAT – Batch File
CHM – Compiled HTML Help File
CMD – Windows NT Command Script
COM – MS-DOS Application
CPL – Control Panel Extension
CRT – Security Certificate
DLL – Dynamic Link Library
DO* – Word Documents and Templates
EXE – Application
HLP – Windows Help File
HTA – HTML Applications
INF – Setup Information File
INS – Internet Communication Settings
ISP – Internet Communication Settings
JS – JScript File
JSE – JScript Encoded Script File
LNK – Shortcut
MDB – Microsoft Access Application
MDE – Microsoft Access MDE Database
MSC – Microsoft Common Console Document
MSI – Windows Installer Package
MSP – Windows Installer Patch
MST – Visual Test Source File
OCX – ActiveX Objects
PCD – Photo CD Image
PIF – Shortcut to MS-DOS Program
POT – PowerPoint Templates
PPT – PowerPoint Files
REG – Registration Entries
SCR – Screen Saver
SCT – Windows Script Component
SHB – Document Shortcut File
SHS – Shell Scrap Object
SYS – System Config/Driver
URL – Internet Shortcut (Uniform Resource Locator)
VB – VBScript File
VBE – VBScript Encoded Script File
VBS – VBScript Script File
WSC – Windows Script Component
WSF – Windows Script File
WSH – Windows Scripting Host Settings File
XL* – Excel Files and Templates