This is in response to many requests I've had over the past two years from posters on the User Submitted Poetry forum and here.
Many of us surf the net downloading mp3's, movies, and who knows what. We also give out our credit card numbers, social security numbers and other private information that unscrupulous people could use to access bank accounts and other important information.
So how can we protect ourselves from spammers, phishers and con artists?
1. It sounds simple, but one sure way is not to download anything. Most viruses are downloaded, either through e-mail or videos.
2. Do not give out personal information to any company that you're not completely familiar with.
3. Use programs, such as Norton and others to help screen your computer for possible spy programs.
4. Be aware that broadband users are susceptible, via that little number which our host has so graciously supplied to God and everyone, to spyware programs which can access all of the files on your computer while you are working, or at home surfing the net.
5. Beginning tomorrow 5/4 I will list some of the more popular methods you can use to protect yourself from internet piracy. Be safe and take care.
First of all it's important before thinking of doing anything different with your computer to ask yourself a very important question:
What have I got to lose?
b. Important documents
c. Irreplaceable correspondence
d. Passwords known only to myself and this computer
e. Valuable account information
If any of the categories above are answers to the question, then you should definitely think about protecting your computer software.
In practically all instances of computer viruses and tampering, software is vulnerable, not the machinery itself. So Desi's suggestion above is very valid.
The problem here in the U.S. is that a high percentage of the home computers come with at least one microsoft program installed and most use the microsoft operating system. There are ways around that, but most of them cost money and are not compatible with much of the software we like.
1. Probably the easiest and safest way to protect your documents is to have a backup disk. That means that at least once a month you check your documents and run a back up disk to save important files.
2. If you have files that are "word" only, they can be saved on an old computer that has grown too slow for everyday use. One that is not connected to the internet. This is also a safe place to store passwords and
important correspondence. Practically everyone has an old computer in their attic, or garage. Or you can buy one at a flea market cheap. (P.S. don't let your kids, or grandkids use this machine. )
3. For serious computer users, have a technician install a partition in your computer. This can be done for a hundred dollars and it provides a backup on your own computer. In essence you have two computers on the same machine.
4. Don't download anything! I said this above, but it is crucial if you want to protect your machine from most viruses. Unfortunately for most of us it's not so easy to avoid.
If you must run Windows, and you must download, or let your kids and grandkids download information from a variety of sources, there are still some things you can do:
5. Know the source of ALL e-mails and WAV and JPEG files that you download. If you don't know what I'm talking about here, then find out from a technician and have him/her explain why it's possible to get a virus from a download.
6. If you have information which you would NOT like shared with some interested third party, in Georgia, or Leeds, then there are ways to help protect yourself while on the internet.
a. The most effective of these is to work behind a firewall. This is like a spamblocker which prevents hackers from entering your domain space. These are available through your internet provider.
b. If you feel that there have been people tampering with your information, there are programs available on the web to detect these. Zone Alarm, and Spywareblaster are two which come to mind. You can find more here: [www.thefreecountry.com] />
c. Use message encrytion services. These are expensive and are usually applicable only to companies which MUST have safe transmission of materials.
If anyone else has other ways one can protect themselves on the web, let me know. Post your suggestions here.
"3. For serious computer users, have a technician install a partition in your computer. This can be done for a few hundred dollars and it provides a backup on your own computer. In essence you have two computers on the same machine."
a few hundred dollars???? I'll do the job!!! Seriously, you shouldn't pay more than 20 dollar for this. It's five minutes work for a technician.
You can do so yourself too with e.g. partition magic: [www.soft32.com] />
However, keep in mind that if your harddrive fails, you'll loose all your partitions. So, always keep your most important files on several disks or a cdrom. If you make regular backups, do so on different cd's or disks, and keep a couple of older versions. Sometimes you notice a problem too late, and if it exists also in your backup you'll be sorry.
Seriously, you shouldn't pay more than 20 dollar for this
Ok, but first I have to fly you to Turlock. Honestly Desi, I don't think many technicians here in the U.S. would come to your home for less than $100.
They get paid for what they know, not for what they do.
I can help you do it over the phone if you have the right software to do so :-)
I used to help people over the phone reinstall windows, install drivers, install sofware, and troubleshoot problems.
It is always cheaper to find a nice little computer shop and bring your computer there than to have them come home, because, yes, that is expensive. But a little computershop here in europe wouldn't charge more than 15 euro to make a new partition, or even do it for free if you're a client.
These may exist in larger American and Canadian cities also, and in university towns, though not in small towns. What is more likely here in the states is to know someone like yourself who will do the work for practically nothing. Most of us know someone who could reinstall any program on our computer for the price of a free meal.
The idea of this post is to not have to re-install anything at all.
" Norton, Microsoft, etc. NEVER send emails around warning you for the latest VERY DANGEROUS VIRUS WHICH WILL MAKE YOUR COMPUTER EXPLODE. These emails are the problem in itself, a hoax."
Same goes for PayPal and eBay. They NEVER send you an email saying there's a problem with your account. (If there is a problem with your account, they will let you know when you log on.) Any message that says "You must renew your (whatever)" is a hoax.
True, Marian, the very sad fact about the internet today is that we don't know who to believe. For instance, AOL had a hacker who was using their own AOL messages, and a phony 1-800 number which connected the unsuspecting victim to the hackers.
Spyware blaster also works very well to prevent viruses from initiating as opposed to removing them AFTER the fact, since they do not always completely leave the system. Spyware blaster is free and runs in direct corrospondence with the mozilla/firefox browser. Start it up after each computer "restart" ie. via desktop icon and then close it. It does not have to be currently running to protect your system, only initially started/run.
Here are some suggestions from AOL, of course a few of them apply only to AOL members:
How to Help Avoid Phishing Scams
1. Be suspicious of any e-mail or other message containing an urgent request for your personal information.
Phishing scams typically include upsetting or exciting (but false) statements to encourage victims to act immediately. They typically ask for information like AOL screen names or other usernames and passwords, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and more. Remember, AOL employees will never ask you for your password.
2. Even if you think a request for information may be legitimate, don't click the links in the e-mail to visit a Web site.
Sometimes links can be disguised to look like they're taking you to a real site, when they're actually taking you to a scam site. Instead of clicking a link, type the Web site's address by hand to ensure that you go to the company or organization's real site.
If the request for information is coming from a company or organization with whom you have a relationship, call them directly to confirm whether they actually need the information and, if so, whether you can provide it over the telephone.
3. Be extremely careful if you share personal or financial information online.
AOL recommends that you never provide sensitive information via e-mail or instant message. Providing this information via Web site is acceptable only if you are certain that the site is legitimate, and the site is secured (see below for additional info).
4. If you submit information to a Web site, make sure the site is secure.
Look for the "lock" icon on the status bar at the bottom of your browser window. The lock icon typically appears in the lower right-hand corner of the browser window. In addition, check the beginning of the URL or Web address - if it starts with "https://," rather than just "http://," you're on a secure server.
5. Review credit card and other account statements regularly.
If you see anything suspicious, contact your banks and all your credit card issuers immediately. If your statement is late by more than two or three days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.
6. Keep your operating system and Web browser up to date.
To update your Windows® operating system and your Internet Explorer® browser, go to windowsupdate.microsoft.com. Follow the instructions there to check for updates, then download and install any critical updates.
7. Install and run anti-virus software and update it frequently.
AOL offers anti-virus software to members who use AOL 9.0 Security Edition and other versions of the AOL 9.0 client. Upgrade now, or use any one of many commercially available anti-virus programs.
The AOL-provided anti-virus software, McAfee VirusScan Online brought to you by AOL, will update automatically when you sign on to AOL.
No matter which anti-virus program you use, make sure you keep it up-to-date, or it will provide less and less protection over time. Instructions for updating your software should be included in your program's manual or help area. You can also check the program manufacturer's Web site for instructions.
8. Run AOL® Spyware Protection software regularly.
AOL offers AOL Spyware Protection to all members for no additional charge. Visit AOL Keyword: Spyware for more information.
9. Run firewall software on your computer.
A firewall is your computer's first line of defense against harmful attacks from the Internet. If you have a broadband connection, use firewall software to hide your computer from hackers and help protect it from destructive computer trojans and worms. AOL for Broadband users may download and install a firewall for no additional charge by visiting AOL Keyword: Firewall Express.
10. Report any phishing scams you receive to the following organizations.
· Report e-mail phishing scams to AOL by clicking the "Report Spam" button at the bottom of the AOL mailbox or use the Report Spam icon at the right when you are reading the message.
· Forward the scam e-mail to the company featured in the e-mail if it is a legitimate company.
· Forward the entire e-mail to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is another kudo for SpywareBlaster. I use both Spybot and Adaware to knock out the accumulated ads (each gets some the other misses), but Blaster kills them before they build up. Yeah, I still get a couple for some reason (likely I do not update the blaster often enough), but less than a handful every few months. Good program!
Apparently, we're not the only ones concerned about spyware: