Computer hints and tips 10 by Bob Gornal G7DME

Its sometime since I wrote an article for VS, but last week I was having a spring clean of my internet servers and I came across a treasure trove of past articles, I had written and the membership contributed for VS during my time as editor. (Including I hasten to add the very first unofficial website ever put up on the internet for the club it looks a bit amateurish now excuse the pun)

I must admit this was some of the happiest memories I have during my 20 odd years service to the committee some of the articles were incomplete others were fragmented the odd page here and there it would probably take years to put all this stuff in to some sort of order including some of old Stan’s Flashover House articles, but I just might have a dig around and offer some of this stuff to the current editor if nothing else it could bring back memories of a bygone era.

Buried amongst the debris was a series called {computer hints and tips an occasional series for the computer enthusiast} well that was its full titles but I think it was just called computer hints and tips, I can’t remember just how many of the articles were ever published but no doubt some were at some point in time as I never kept a record of what was published in VS and when.

Many of the articles were technical articles relating to the early 8086, 286, 386 and 486 computers that were around in those days others were how to deal with software problems I found about 8 or 9 such article there may have been more but I don’t know hence the reason I have called this 10.

A lot of changes have taken place since those earlier articles not least the explosion of internet use although the internet has brought many advantages to the man in the street it has also brought many problem as well, internet crime is reaching almost pandemic proportions the statistics are frightening and it’s almost impossible to protect yourself from it but you can use damage limitation.

Here are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself:-

If you buy on line set up an account with one of the on line payment specialists like paypal or nochex there are many others out there and use these accounts for you’re on line purchases where ever possible they all offer online payment protection which is a plus in this day and age and there charges are quite reasonable and its worth it for the peace of mind.
Get yourself a debit card specifically for on line shopping and make sure there is only enough money in the account to cover your purchases.
Credit cards are not a good idea unless you ensure that their limit is just enough to cover your on line purchases.

Avoid paying for phone, gas, electricity, water rate bills etc. these are always prime targets for on line crime because everyone needs these services it’s safer to use phone payments.

Never store credit or debit card information on your computer and as a precaution after any online transaction run a disk cleanup as many of the companies who take online credit and debit cards use cookies to hold the information while the transaction is in progress and the servers don’t always clean up after themselves which means the information could be left on your system just waiting to be grabbed by a virus or adware worm.

In fact if you make it a routine to run disk cleanup regally that could go long way to protecting you from internet crime.

Antivirus and Adware software

There are literally hundreds of vendors selling this sort of software but be careful who you deal with this is a prime area for internet crime, antivirus and anti adware software is some of the most sophisticated software available today and because it has to fully integrate into your system to work it’s an ideal tool for internet criminals to use to steal your identity, bank, credit, debit and charge card information.

Always use well established and trustworthy products such as McCaffee, Symentec, Trend, Sophas  to name but a few and make sure it’s from a genuine Source there are criminal organisations out there that specialise in producing fake software that ether don’t  work properly or is specifically designed to steel you personal information.

While on the subject of fake software watch out for scareware many criminal organisations use this as a method of attack the way it works is that when browsing the web a site will do a background redirection to a pop up site (this is not the same as pop up advertising which means your pop up blocker won’t work) which will tell you your machine is infected with x number of worms, viruses or adware and will show you a so called scan of your system then it will launch an alert that tells you, you must download there software immediately to deal with the problem otherwise terrible things will happen to your computer and very often it preloads a file ready to download to your system.

If this happens to you the safest way to deal with it is to hit the reset button on your computer DONT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCIES TRY TO SHUT DOWN YOUR BROWSER OR HIT THE CANCEL BUTTON ON THE ALERT because no matter what action you take the page its designed to interpret it as a download command and it will download the Worm, Trojan or adware program on to your system.

If you do get caught even your virus/adware protection software won’t be able to help you because it’s the first port of call for the Virus, (Confliker is one such virus) Trojan or worm on completion of the download it is designed to launch automatically and attack your antivirus and adware software 1st and there is nothing you can about it.

It will disable all the systems protection then they can install at will what they want this will normally be personal information theft or malware viruses (malware is a category of malicious code that includes viruses, worms, and Trojan horses. Destructive malware will utilize popular communication tools to spread, including worms sent through email and instant messages, Trojan horses dropped from web sites, and virus-infected files downloaded from peer-to-peer connections. Malware will also seek to exploit existing vulnerabilities on systems making their entry quiet and easy.)

Often such scripts will install programmes that will bring up certain websites when you browse the web or they will hijack your browser so it always goes to a specific site usually a porn site or shopping site (in most cases when this happens the only solution is to completely reinstall your operating system) remember all these attacks are carried out by INTERNET CRIMINALS not legitimate companies who are using the web as a marketing tool.

Beware of free antivirus and adware software in fact avoid free software entirely unless it comes from a well established and known safe Source and if you do download something scan it manually with your antivirus/adware program (this wont guarantee its OK but it will catch quite a few nasties).

Avoid free toolbars at all costs they all monitor your activities on the web in one way or another usually designed to track your internet activity and your email information, this information is passed back to the supplier of the product where they compile a dossier on you then sell it on to the highest bidder remember information is money and money is information (I recently found a version of the Yahoo tool bar that turned out to contain malicious code).

One final point don’t waste your time believing in so called privacy statement’s most of them aren’t worth the paper there written they all do it especially the big players on the internet don’t register your software when you purchase it and if you have to don’t give them the correct personal information THEY DONT NEED IT the only reason they want it is to either sell it on or pass it onto their associated companies which will undoubtedly end up with you receiving all sorts of junk mail and emails.

Make sure your software is up to date with the latest virus/adware definitions and if you are using Microsoft products make sure you have the latest security and hot fixes installed on your system as their product security and reliability has always left much to be desired.

Well I think at this point we will close the current discussion.

Next time we will look at other products to avoid and what to do if your system is compromised and the worst happens.

Bob Gornal G7DME- Vital Spark November 2009.

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