Cyber security is about protecting your computer and online accounts against threats that may damage your computer or cause you to lose your personal information or suffer monetary loss. Cyber criminals target you in many different ways: through software threats which you can inadvertently download, or through spam and scams in which you must exercise discernment in order not to fall for them. Cyber thieves can also hack into your computer or account to steal your identity to commit crimes.
Malware is basically malicious software which you (typically) inadvertently download into your computer and mobile device. They are commonly known as viruses and depending on how they function or spread, they are also called worms, bots and Trojan horses. The Internet offers a large number of computer software, freeware, games, game cracks, music and video files for downloading. The most common ways of getting infected by viruses are through downloading these files, downloading infected email attachments and documents, as well as using infected storage devices such as USB drives. One can also be infected by clicking on adware or spyware that can innocuously monitor your internet surfing habits or even change your computer settings.
- As most of us would not even know that the emails, files or thumb-drive we just borrowed is infected in the first place, it is important to install an anti-virus programme in our computer system to detect and block the virus.
- An added protection would be to activate the firewall, which is an embedded security feature in most computers. The firewall can be located in your computer's control panel.
Cookies are small text files which are saved onto your computers by a website to remember your preferences and personalization. This makes for a smoother surfing browsing experience. Cookies are commonly used in e-commerce websites to remember the items in your "shopping cart" and are usually deleted after you leave the site, or have not visited for a few days. However some cookies are malicious and even after being deleted, they can recreate themselves in some other location in the computer.
- Most browsers (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, Firefox) accept cookies by default. You can set your browser to disable cookies.
- Logins and passwords are often saved using cookies, so you should periodically change your passwords on any site you visit.
Spam & Scams
Email Phishing scams
Scamware and Fraudware
Advance fee scam, chain letter scam, "Congratulations, you've won ..." scam
As the responsible adult in the family, here's what you need to do:
- Always keep your computer's firewall turned on. It is usually found in your computer's Control Panel. This helps to protect against hackers.
- Install an anti-virus programme and set it to update automatically. An up-to-date programme is essential as there are hundreds of new threats that are found daily. You can purchase the anti-virus from your ISP or online from security companies like Norton or McAfee.
- Keep Your Operating System Up to Date. Computer operating systems are periodically updated to stay in tune with technology requirements and to fix security holes. Be sure to install the updates to ensure your computer has the latest protection.
And here's what you can do and also teach your kids to do, especially since they are the ones who are most likely to be downloading songs, movies and all sorts of files and freebies on the internet.
- Avoid P2P sharing software. Unless you are technically savvy, you might end up downloading something that has a virus or keystroke logger attached.
- Do not click on ads, especially those that promise big wins or scare you about something being wrong with your computer.
- Delete unknown emails, especially those with attachments. Be wary of strange attachments from friends too, as they may be unwitting victims of viruses sending malicious code.
- Be careful what you attach to your computer. It's easy these days to be sharing files using a USB stick, but you don't know what viruses are on your friends' computers and what got transferred to their stick. Many virus programmes will auto launch when the USB is put into the computer — you don't even need to download anything to be infected.
- Avoid shady websites such as gambling or pornographic sites. You are likely to get infected with a virus or spyware when you visit these sites.
- Create strong passwords for your online accounts and do not use the same password for different accounts. You can create a complex password by combining two words into a "nonsense" word, using a mix of letters, numbers and symbols, eg. fishface -> fI$hf4c3. Complex passwords make for better protection against hackers.
- Be more cautious when using public internet hotspots. Do not log into online accounts or perform ecommerce transactions on public wifi networks.
- Always log off from your online accounts before you close the browser tab.
- Always turn off the computer. Not only does this save electricity/battery, it effectively severs an attacker's connection — be it spyware or botnet that employs your computer's resources to reach out to other unwitting users.