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Threats & Challenges
Lions and tigers and bears, oh, my! Sometimes, lately, that's how it feels
using your computer. Viruses and worms and phishing attacks: oh, my, indeed.
movie directors know, the scariest thing is the unknown. So let's get all
this bad stuff into
the light, so we can start dealing with it...
Viruses. Like the viruses that sicken human beings, viruses insert
themselves into other
programs (or completely replace those programs). Once they've done so, they
all sorts of symptoms - from 'mild' (displaying annoying messages)
(damaging your data or crashing your computer). Like 'human' viruses,
viruses know how to spread from one computer to another. This typically occurs
the software or document they're attached to is shared between computers.
Worms. These are much like viruses, but they operate on their own: they
can spread even
if nobody deliberately shares the files they're in. Some worms exploit security
the software you're running; others simply trick users into letting them
Trojans. Like the giant horse 'gift' the Greeks gave the
people of Troy, computer 'Trojans' are filled with trouble. But they look harmless: in fact,
they look like software
you'd want to run. Once you do, though, you're in their grasp (or
as some hackers like to
put it, "pwned" powerfully owned.) Trojans might
mess with your Web home page - or
they might steal your social security number and give bad guys a 'back door'
use to explore your computer whenever they feel like it.
Bots. Malicious bots infect your computer, and thousands (or sometimes
even millions of
other computers). Every infected computer is connected to a central connect to
computer, and waits for instructions. What kind? Bots might be instructed to flood
site with more traffic than it can handle, and knock it out of service. Or they
used to send thousands of Spam email messages that can't easily be traced
to their origin.
Or they might capture and send your passwords and personal information.
How do you avoid being attacked by viruses, worms, Trojans, and bots? Get good
anti-virus software which can scan not only your files but also incoming emails. Then,
up to date. And use common sense: never download and run software unless you're
it's coming from a legitimate source.
We're almost done, but there's one more threat you need to pay especially
Phishing. Phishing is fraud. It's someone trying to convince
you to hand over sensitive
information (such as your credit card number or online banking password) by
masquerading as the financial institution or some other 'official'
entity. You might, for
example, receive an email or an instant message that tells you your account's
suspended, but they've provided an easy link to follow to reinstate your
you follow the link, you don't go to the financial institution's official
site: you go to a
cleverly designed fake site that captures your personal information. 'Phishing'
often pretend to come from banks, eBay, or PayPal, though they can come from anyone
large numbers of people do business with. They're getting smarter and more
sophisticated, too, with fewer typos and better grammar.
Here's how to avoid phishing attacks: #1. Never follow a link in
an email that claims to
come from your financial institution. If you think it might be real, close your
software, open your web browser, browse to your financial institution's
site, and log in
the way you normally would. If by some unlikely chance there really
is a problem with
your account, you'll find a message there telling you. #2: Get
anti-phishing software or
new web browsers that display a warning if you visit a site that appears not to
be who it
claims to be. Internet Explorer 7, Mozilla Firefox 2.0, and the latest versions
of Opera all
contain at least some anti-phishing capabilities.