Tips For Safety On The Internet
The Internet is one of the greatest resources in the world today. Some would say the greatest. It can also be a jungle, but if you are careful you can avoid its pitfalls. You need to have a virus scanner, a spyware scanner, and a firewall. You need to keep them updated, and run your scanners routinely. I recommend no less than once per week. You also need to avoid developing a false sense of security, and always be careful. Even with the best protection, there are things you should not do. Here is some information about them.
Music Sharing/ File Trading: It is safe to buy music from legitimate sites like I-tunes and Emusic, but it is not safe to try to get it for free from Kazaa, Limewire or any other source like that. The software they offer is “free” because it is advertiser supported. That means it has spyware in it. This will gather data about you to sell to advertisers, and will compromise your security so that worse things find their way onto your system. Also, some files are not songs but Trojan horses disguised as songs intended to harm your computer. If that weren’t enough, you risk being sued for copyright infringement by the recording industry. Don’t think they can’t catch you. Every computer on the Internet is identified by a set of numbers called an IP address. The record companies can find out for example, that on May 10 2006 somebody with the IP address 22.214.171.124 was downloading copyrighted MP3 music at 2:00 pm. They have the date, time and IP address. When they subpoena your Internet Service Provider, such as Zoomtown, RoadRunner or AOL asking who had that address on that date at that time, the ISP has to tell them. This is how the recording industry finds people to sue.
Warez: There used to be sites on the Internet called “warez sites” set up by hackers to offer pirated copies of popular commercial software, and product key generators to turn trial versions of software into full retail versions. They have been busted and shut down almost entirely. Today, when people go looking for warez they are likely to find only viruses, spyware and destructive trojan horses. My advice is simple: don’t go there.
Chat: A lot of unsavory individuals hang out in chat rooms. Some of them are hackers looking to mess up your computer or steal your identity. They will say something like, “Check this out! It’s Cool! Click here.” Don’t do it. Use chat to talk, but never download any files. That is just asking for trouble. Even worse than hackers are the predators and pedophiles who hang out in chat rooms. Parents also need to know with whom kids are talking at all times. Keeping the computer in a common area where kids can be supervised, not in their bedroom, is a good idea.
Online Casinos: Online casinos are illegal, and are often a scam. They are notorious for always collecting money from the many who lose but not paying the few who win. They also are known to feed spyware to anyone who visits their websites. When Congress outlawed them in the US, they moved off shore. Recently, Congress even passed a law to stop banks and credit card companies from sending them money. The only winning move is not to play.
Popup Ads: Beware of anything advertised in this manner. It is not really free. You will get spyware if you click on pop-ups and take anything they offer. Screen savers, wallpapers, smileys, and just about anything else are too risky. Just close the ads. There is still no such thing as a free lunch.
Fake Error Messages: Some pop-up ads appear to be Windows error messages warning you that you need to download an update, or spyware has been found. Don’t be fooled. Windows Update will take care of itself for critical downloads, or you can go to the Windows Update website under the Start menu to find updates yourself.
Adult Websites: Some may be offended that I even mention this, but people need to know. Many “adult websites” are full of viruses, spyware, trojan horses and data gathering tools criminals use to commit identity theft.
Attachments: Another common way viruses and worms are spread is through e-mail with attached files. Something from a stranger with an attached file is a red flag. Do not open the attached file without scanning it first, if at all. I recommend just deleting it. Even an apparent letter from a friend can be infected. It may have been sent by a virus that takes names from an infected machine's address book, and makes them appear to be the sender. The text of these letters often says nothing more than to open the attached file, or may promise something like a funny joke. You might want to contact your friend and ask him or her if they really sent the letter in question. If they did not send it, do not open any attached files. Also, ask your friends to let you know in advance that they will be sending legitimate attached files such as baby pictures or links to articles at a website, and do the same for them.
If I had to boil this all down to a simple statement, it would be this: "free" is a sucker word. Never trust an advertisement that claims it will give you something free. Placing that ad on a website was not free.
If you follow these guidelines, you can enjoy the Internet without falling into any traps laid in your path by hackers, identity thieves and other unsavory characters. Happy Surfing!
©2012 Matthew G. Brown