Connecting to the Internet is a two-way street. Not only can your PC access other computers online, but other computers can also access your PC to access your private data or damage your system hardware and software. As the Internet becomes more and more integrated into everyday lives, we must learn how to defend ourselves against new types of online attacks.
A computer virus is a malicious software program designed to do damage to computer system by deleting files or even taking over your PC to launch attacks on other systems. A virus attacks your computer when you launch an infected software program. It opens up backdoors on infected systems, giving hackers direct access to the hijacked PC. In this case, a hacker can use the infected PC to upload personal information to a remote system, or to turn the PC into a remotely controlled robot used in criminal activity.
While viruses remain a threat, today’s hackers commonly use vicious multi-layered attacks, such as a worm in a chat message that displays a link to a Web page infected with a Trojan horse. “Worms” have been found that tunnel though programs, uncovering new vulnerabilities and reporting them back to hackers. The hackers then quickly assemble malware (malicious software) from pre-made components, exploiting the vulnerability before the majority of people can download a fix. Protect your computer with strong security software and keep it updated. You should check for new definition updates daily. Most antivirus software can be configured to do this automatically. Also install security patches of windows and applications. Vulnerabilities in software are constantly being discovered and they don’t discriminate by vendor or platform.
It’s not simply a matter of updating windows; at least monthly, check for and apply updates for all software you use. Most of the exploits that are out there today would be obsolete if people followed a strict update policy. Use a security-conscious Internet service provider (ISP) that implements strong anti-spam and anti-phishing procedures. But don’t fall victim to virus hoaxes. Dire-sounding email spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt about non-existent threats serve only to spread needless alarm and may even cause you to delete perfectly legitimate files in response.
No Internet connection is safe without one. Firewalls are necessary even if you have a dial-up Internet connection — it takes only minutes for a non-firewalled computer to be infected. Windows come with firewall software built into it. Spend some time configuring it and making sure that it’s set up properly. Use caution when opening attachments. Configure your anti-virus software to automatically scan all email and instant message attachments. Configure your instant messaging application correctly. Make sure it does not open automatically when you fire up your computer. Make sure your email program doesn’t automatically open attachments or automatically render graphics, and ensure that the preview pane is turned off. Never open unsolicited emails, or attachments that you’re not expecting. If you’re using Linux, there are plenty of scripts out there to help with iptables, though if you’re running Linux, you really should know how to use iptables via the command line.
Back up your files regularly and store the backups somewhere besides your PC. If you fall victim to a virus attack, you can recover photos, music, movies, and personal information like tax returns and bank statements. Stay informed of current threats news by checking websites like this.