Celebrate Computer Security Day…by trembling in FEAR!

Not really... Computer security really can be a scary thing, but don’t let it create unhealthy habits in you. I mean, it really is okay to click on SOME links on the internet.

And while I’m a big proponent of security software, this isn’t a “you-seriously-need-to-spend-a-lot-of-money-on-computer-security” kind of post.

Rather, I’d like to suggest a few ways that you can protect yourself from the bad men who want to get access to your computer. You’d be surprised at their methods…so sneaky…

  1. Your ride - Your internet browser is your ride on the internet, and if the ride doesn’t have locking doors, would you take it into a driving free-for-all down dark alleyways and car traps? I doubt it. The internet isn’t really that sinister, but there are people who are purposefully trying to get your passwords and the like, and you need a ride that knows the difference.

    If you’re using Internet Explorer version 6, you should — and I stress this — UPGRADE YOUR BROWSER RIGHT NOW!

    Don’t wait! The newest browsers are much more sensitive to “clone” websites (websites that LOOK like the ones you trust, but aren’t), much more aware of downloading applications (which you might not have intended to do), and overall more security conscious. The downloads are easy…install is easy. It might take 10 minutes of your life, but it will save you for years to come.

    Have I stressed that enough? Okay, moving on…

  2. Forward Fanatics - I don’t know about you, but I have a LOT of family and friends who like to forward links, movies, urban legends (usually about stolen kidneys, Madeline Murray O’Hare and getting money from Bill Gates) and the like to me…whether I want them or not.

    If you read a funny forward and REALLY want to forward it to your friends, do them all (and yourself) a favor:
    1. Copy and paste only the text from the story.
    2. Send the story to your email address and Blind copy (BCC field in your email message) everyone you want to share it with.
    3. Ask your friends to do the same.
    Reason is…there are people on the internet called “list harvesters” who really want your email address. They depend on people forwarding funny, interesting and otherwise inflammatory stories on to others. When you get a story that’s been blindly forwarded, you’re bound to see more than 100 email addresses there. Make sense?

  3. Always be where you are - So you’ve gotten an email from PayPal that says, “Hey, there’s a HUGE problem with your account!” It gives you a link to PayPal…looks like a PayPal email, and then you click on the link and it looks like the PayPal site, replete with a login form for you to fill out.

    This is the point at which you STOP. Look up at the little field that displays all that http:// www…garbledeguk. If it’s not a site that ENDS IN paypal.com/ — and please note that it shouldn’t look like paypal.com.12345.squirrelchaser.com — leave right away. Don’t fill in the first little nugget of information, because you’ve unwittingly gone to a clone site where someone is just DYING for you to type in your PayPal username and password…so that it will go RIGHT into their hands, and they can send your money to themselves. How fun is that?

    Always be aware of where you are. No one but PayPal owns the paypal.com domain. They own the subdomain.paypal.com domain if they want. No one else can own it. Same with ebay. Same with Amazon.

    If you’re STILL in doubt, go to the official website yourself, call customer service and ask them if there’s a problem.

Now, this obviously isn’t ALL the measures you could take to ensure your computer is secure. I highly recommend security software if you’re on a PC and regular spyware maintenance.

Most of the battle, however, is using the internet defensively, knowing that not everyone is not who they say they are.



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