Photo by chrisjohnbeckett
At the start of the year, many people often think about getting things in shape: their homes, their bodies, but they don’t stop to think about getting their computers in shape. While online safety and virus protection should be thought about year round, this is a great time to take a quick refresher course on some of the common online threats that you may (or may not) encounter while surfing the net.
Online and within the news you’ve likely heard of some of the most common terms (malware, spam, viruses, and Trojans), but may not have known what they are, or, how to protect yourself or your computer from them. We’ve pulled together a quick resource guide outlining the who’s who, and where to go for more information. But when online, some of the most important things to remember are:
Don’t trust pop-ups; things pretending to be virus checkers may actually be viruses (more on that later)
You don’t have to understand a lot about online security to protect against the most common online threats. Keep your computer up to date and be suspicious about the sites you visit- employ the same skills you do in real life as you do online: don’t give out your personal information to strangers, and don’t trust something because it “sort of” looks official. And remember to trust your instincts: if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Malware is software that does something you don’t want done, usually installed without your permission. It includes viruses, worms and Trojans.
What is spam?
Spam is/can be: the repeated postings of the same content; off topic banter/answers/comments; links to commercial sites or merchandise; in general, unsolicited, unwanted or irrelevant messages, links or postings. You may run into it in your inbox, on message boards, in comments sections, etc. Basically, anywhere that someone can enter or submit text is susceptible to spam.
What is phishing?
This is any attempt to steal your account information. Phishers set up fake web sites that look like those of trusted companies to trick you into disclosing your account information. These pages can look nearly identical to the real thing, so it can be hard to tell that you are on a phony site.
Most commonly, you’ll see these as emails asking for the password to your bank account, your Yahoo! email account (urging you to send your account information or else your account will be terminated), or your credit card information. If you run into a phishing email on Yahoo!, please do report it to us!
Remember to never click on links in emails, no matter how official they look. Use bookmarks or physically type the site name in.
To protect yourself further, set a sign-in seal and don’t give out your Yahoo! password on your computer unless you see your sign-in seal (for more information on this, go here. This helps you know when you’re on a phishing page, or when you’re on a legitimate Yahoo! login page.
Yahoo! Security Center
At http://security.yahoo.com/ you can assess your PC’s exposure to online threats, including malware, viruses, and an assortment of other online risks. Additionally, you can also learn about:
Protecting your PC
Protecting your online privacy
Protecting your children online at Yahoo! Safely
Getting rid of pop-ups, viruses, adware, or spyware
And much more!
How to help protect your machine
Be sure that your computer has antivirus software installed and that its virus definitions are up-to-date- many computers do not, and this leaves them open to many malware attacks. Programs like Norton Anti-Virus or http://www.malwarebytes.org/ will help protect and prevent future attacks.
If you see a pop-up, close it promptly, without clicking on anything inside the window (buttons inside the window may download software, no matter what the label on them says, even if it’s “No”, or “Cancel”). Click the close button on the window frame (the “x” in the upper right on a Windows machine, the red button in the upper left on a Mac).
If that doesn’t work use “Ctrl + F4″ on Windows or “Shift + Cmd + W” on an Apple machine to close the window. Worst case, kill the browser with the Task Manager on Windows or Force Quit on a Mac, and if you can’t do that, reboot the machine. (Be sure to save your work in other programs!)
Then run a virus-scan using an anti-virus program to check for any malware remnants.
At the end of the day, it’s up to YOU to help keep your online experience safe—keep your software up-to-date and be cautious about giving out information, including passwords.