How to stay safe online – A security overview!

At TechStart, one of the biggest types of repairs is viral and malware infection. Unfortunately malware is prevalent out there on the ‘net’, just waiting for the unwary surfer. Malware and viral infections can cause a machine to slow down, (sometimes drastically), behave in unexpected ways and even crash (frequently resulting in a blue screen (known as a “Blue Screen Of Death” or BSOD).

Another symptom can be unsolicited adverts popping up, including those telling you that your machine has several thousand virus’s (if you get one of these then, whatever you do, do not click on anything or call any numbers on the ad. You could end up costing yourself a fortune!).

Below is a list of safe-surfing tips and precautions that TechStart have put together to help you stay safe online:

EMAIL:

If an email looks too good to be true, it nearly always is

Your email address is precious. Before you give it out, think about who you are giving it to.

Don’t open attachments sent with unsolicited emails. Even if you know who the email is from, exercise a modicum of caution and save and scan the attachment with AV software before opening it.

If an attachment has a pdf.exe or zip.exe extension, (the bit of the filename after the dot), then it is almost certainly malware.

Do not follow links in unsolicited emails, especially if they appear to be from your bank. Most banks will ask you to access your account by your usual means.

If you get an email purporting to be from your bank, don’t follow embedded links, use your normal method of accessing your account. This way you won’t accidentally give away your details.

Never, ever respond to Spam emails. This confirms to the spammer that the email account is active, and so you may well be suddenly inundated with spam and potentially malware and/or adware.

Turn off preview in your email client. Many emails contain viral code that can be executed simply by viewing the email in a preview. It can also be used to send a confirmation back to the spammer that the account is active. How to do this can be found here: Office 2013, Office 2010, Hotmail/Outlook. InThunderbird you can just press F8.

Be careful where you use your email online. Web-bots can be used to ‘harvest’ email addresses from public info and forums.

Keep a second email account. This can be used to register at sites from which you don’t want to receive further info or spam. It can also be used to recover password/username information in the event that your primary email account is compromised.

WEB BROWSING:

When going to a website from an email, type the website address into the browser rather than clicking the link, (unless the email is from a known, trusted source), as links can be falsified. (What you see is not what you get).

Ensure that privacy settings on your browser are on. This helps prevent too much info being passed to the website.

Ensure your pop-up blocker is on. Some websites drop malware onto your machine using a “background pop-up”.

Install ad-blocking software, such as Ad-Block Plus. This helps prevent adverts which can sometimes contain malicious code.

Empty your webcache on a regular basis. Applications such as CCleaner are handy for this.

When browsing a site that claims to be secure, check that the web address starts with “HTTPS://”. There should also be a padlock symbol on the browser’s toolbar at the bottom or to the left of the address bar (if using Firefox or Chrome). If there isn’t then there is a good chance that it is a ‘phishing’ site, designed to harvest your details.

Try to avoid “Download Managers”. These frequently include malware in the downloads and some don’t even download the file you want, giving excuses such as “payment required”, “file unavailable”, “not enough disk space”, all the while downloading malware to your machine.

Avoid using banking or other private websites over public access wifi. Its too easy for an attacker to acquire your information, (known as a “Man-In-The-Middle” attack), as there is rarely any encryption or other security.

If using public machines do not allow the browser to store your passwords.

Download and install a malware scanner such as MalwareBytes, and run it regularly (once a week should be sufficient), or when you suspect that your computer is running strangely.

Keep any Anti-Virus software up-to-date.

If you have any doubts about the performance of your machine, you suspect that you have a viral or malware infection or you think you may be a victim of a scam, then you can always visit TechStart who can provide advice as to what to do, what may have happened and, if needs be, they can effect repairs and clean up any infections that your machine may have.

Guest Blog by Christine, from the team at TechStart

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