Are You Safe Online?

From a cyber-security standpoint, the year 2014 has been interesting. 2014 was a hotbed of malware attacks, cyber-attacks and cyber activism.  From the hacking of social media accounts, to the defacing of company and city websites, to the enormous security breach of Sony.  The increases and sophistication of threats is a growing concern for everyone that uses the internet. So what are you to do? The internet can be a scary place, but you can protect yourself with a little knowledge that can go a long way. First, never believe a website’s pop-up that claims your computer has been infected.  Security scans don’t work that way.  If you’re concerned about a new program you didn’t install or about the decrease in the performance of your computer, have it checked out. Second, never download a program that promises better security or PC performance on a whim.  Make sure any program you download comes from a reputable company.  Check independent tech websites like pcworld.com or cnet.com for their reviews and user comments. Third, watch out for phishing attacks.  This is when someone impersonates a business to trick you into disclosing your personal information.   If you receive any emails like this DO NOT REPLY, just delete them.  A legitimate company won’t ask for this kind of information in an email. You can get more information about these types of scams at www.onguardonline.gov. According to www.onguardonline.gov you can take the following steps to avoid a phishing attack:

  • Don’t email personal or financial information. Email is not a secure method of transmitting personal information.
  • Only provide personal or financial information through an organization’s website if you typed in the web address yourself and you see signals that the site is secure, like a URL that begins https (the “s” stands for secure). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some phishers have forged security icons.
  • Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges. If your statement is late by more than a couple of days, call to confirm your billing address and account balances.
  • Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain viruses or other malware that can weaken your computer’s security.

Finally, only use trusted security software and set it to update automatically.  If you’re not protected than you may want to look at the following website for the best security software for 2015: http://privacy-pc.com/news/best-security-software-2015.html. Keeping nasty’s off your computer is like keeping dust out of your house.  In the end it’s up to you to keep it clean.