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By 4 July 2008 | Categories: netsmart

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I often talk about protecting your computer in this column. The fact is that in a connected world, we need to protect our computers from “the bad hacker dudes”. Unfortunately, as awesome as the Internet is, using any connection to the Internet will expose our computers. There are a number of threats that our computers face, and you often see these mentioned on websites or in articles. These can be confusing, so this month I ’m going to explain these threats so you can make more sense of them and understand them.

Spyware:

Spyware, sometimes also known as Adware, is software that is installed on your computer without your permission. Spyware can undertake various activities on your PC, and this ranges from the very annoying, such as popping up of unwanted advertisements on your PC, to the very dangerous ,which includes gathering personal information, including banking information, and transmitting this information back to the people who wrote the spyware. Spyware infections often come from unsafe websites.

Phishing:

Phishing is a fraudulent method of sending an email to a user falsely claiming to be a legitimate organisation in an attempt to scam the user into giving over their private information. Usually the email directs the user to visit a website where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit cards, identity numbers, and bank account numbers that the supposed legitimate organisation already has. The website, however, is bogus and set up only to steal the user’s personal information, and account details. A successful phishing attack will always result in identity theft.

Spam:

Spam, or junkmail, is generally described as any unsolicited email. Real spam is generally email advertising for some product (very often its for Viagra or pornography, and no, I ’m not kidding) sent to you without your permission. In addition to wasting your time with unwanted email, spam also wastes a lot of bandwidth. Another major problem with spam is that responding to a spam email will result in your getting even more spam, and these types of emails are often linked to spyware.

Viruses and worms:

These have plagued computer users for at least two decades and are the largest source of financial damage related to computer crime. A virus is a program that is loaded onto your computer without your knowledge and runs without your permission. Viruses will generally replicate themselves and spread to other computers over flash memory, writeable CDs and email. Some viruses can be extremely malicious and can destroy your hard drive contents. The only way to prevent being caught out by one of these threats is to follow the important basic security rules of only

using trusted websites, opening email only from known senders, and of course using the right essential set of decent protection tools:

Keep Windows up to date and enable your firewall

http://tinyurl.com/2emr7

Install a reliable, free anti-virus program

http://tinyurl.com/4xb33n

Install a reliable, free anti-spyware program

http://www.threatfire.com

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