Internet Safety and Security

Internet Safety: Viruses, Trojans and Spyware

Internet Safety and Security

A Safe and Secure Place?

The Internet offers some truly wonderful benefits, in our daily communication, research, education, banking, online shopping and entertainment. However, there are risks we need to recognize and deal with. There are those few that seek to use this global network link for malicious and criminal activities. We need to apply security measures. This is similar to how we have learnt to deal with strangers and thieves in our physical world. Criminals will take advantage of computers that do not have security software installed such as firewall's, anti-virus, spyware and privacy protection. Computer systems and programs regularly require new critical updates (security issues).

Internet safety: NetAlert Australian Government

NetAlert is the Australian Government’s internet safety initiative which consists of a wide range response to the needs of the Australian community in protecting our families using the internet. The NetAlert website and its listed national Australian helpline: 1800 880 176 provide resources about free internet content filters to help block unwanted content from our children. NetAlert also provides a support monitor for offensive and illegal material on the Internet, as well as enforcing Australia's anti-spam laws and complaints about unsolicited email messages.

Protect Yourself Against Viruses

A virus is an electronic infection of a computer that attempts to spread itself to other computers. Email is the most common method for transmission of viruss, but there are other modes of transfer as well. Some software, particularly some screensavers, are actually virus's in disguise. However, good computer hygiene and installation of current anti-virus software can help protect you against virus infection. Important Notes: Anti-Virus programs generally have poor protection against real Internet threats like Trojans, Worms, Dialers, Hijackers, Spyware and Keyloggers.

Virus Symptoms & Anti-Virus Software

Some common symptoms that could indicate your system has been infected are:

  • Strange messages or displays on your monitor
  • Pop-up advertising messages that you have not seen before
  • The computer seems slow to respond
  • Programs or files suddenly go missing
  • Strange Windows Security or Download prompts appear
  • Some of your files become corrupted - or no longer work correctly

Spyware, Trojan's and Malware:

Computer Worms, Viruses, Trojans - Compare

A rapidly growing problem is the abuse of "spyware," software that installs itself on your computer and captures certain kinds of activity back to its sender. Most spyware is used to mine data for marketing, but some can compromise the security of your information or slow down your computer. Some spyware sneaks uninvited into your computer when you visit a site or open an infected e-mail, but some masquerades as a helpful free program for you to download onto your computer. Never download a "free" program unless you check it out first! You may also want to run periodic scans of your system with programs such as Lavasoft's Ad-Aware or Spybot Search & Destroy (outside this site), both of which can identify and delete spyware. Both Ad-Aware and Spybot are proven & FREE tools.

Please read this helpful guide on installing and using Spybot!

For more serious Spyware and Malicious computer attack situations and strange computer behavior, I highly recommend you to download AVG Anti-Spyware 7.5. I have proven this product to be able to clear many parasites, spyware, Trojan software, malicious and hidden malware.

If your attempt to clear the computer problem fails, using the above range of software tools, then you need to have the issue resolved and analysed by a experienced computer technician within your own local service area!

Indications of spyware include:

  • Your computer running abnormally slow
  • Pop-up windows appearing whenever you surf the Internet
  • Your browser using a different homepage than you once had
  • Searches conducted through one search engine are "hijacked" and the results are displayed in a different search engine

Spoof Sites & Phishing:

The Internet has been a boon to identity thieves who harvest information from a variety of scams known as "phishing." You may receive a bogus ("spoof") email requesting that you respond or visit a phony Web site to update personal or account information. Just as you should never provide such information to unsolicited phone callers, you should avoid similar appeals on the Web.

Tips for Parents:

Much of the content on the Internet (both Web content and e-mail) is not suitable for children. The following are some of the options you have as a parent to reduce the risk that your child will be exposed to content you consider inappropriate:
  • Monitor your children's activity. Ask them which sites they visit and why. Set up the computer in a common area so you can keep an eye on things. Check the Web browser's History file to see which sites they access.
  • Agree upon basic rules. Explain why it is critical not to divulge personal information without your approval. Do not allow children to have access to credit cards or checks which could be used to withdraw money from your account.

Internet Safety Laws:

A federal law has been created to help protect our children while they are using the Internet. This law exists to keep anyone from obtaining your child's personal information without you knowing about it and agreeing to it first. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA in USA) requires websites to explain their privacy policies on the site and obtain a parent's consent before collecting or using a child's personal information.
This law also prohibits a site from requiring a child to provide more personal information than necessary to play a internet game. However, your child's best online protection is you. Educate your child about potential online dangers and monitor his or her computer use.

Is there spyware on your computer!:

The following symptoms may indicate that spyware is installed on your computer:
  • Many unexpected pop-up windows occur (often when you access the Internet)
  • Redirection to web sites other than what you normally have used
  • Unexpected toolbars appear in your web browser
  • Strange Icons appear on the Windows task bar
  • Your default search engine when you click "search" has changed
  • Random Windows error messages begin to appear
  • The computer seems very slow when opening programs or processing tasks (saving files, etc.)

How you can help prevent spyware occurring?

Follow these wise Internet security practices:
  • Don't click on links within pop-up windows - Because pop-up windows are often a product of spyware, clicking on the window may install spyware software on your computer. To close the pop-up window, click on the "X" icon in the titlebar instead of a "close" link within the window.
  • Be wary of unexpected dialog boxes asking whether you want to run a particular program or perform another type of task. Always select "no" or "cancel," or close the dialog box by clicking the "X" icon in the titlebar.
  • Take care with downloadable software - There are many sites that offer customized toolbars or other features that appeal to users. Don't download programs from sites you don't trust, and realize that you may be exposing your computer to spyware by downloading some of these programs.
  • Don't follow email links claiming to offer anti-spyware software - Like email viruss, the links may serve the opposite purpose and actually install the spyware it claims to be eliminating.
  • Don't take the offer of may websites to offer you free music. EG; "KaZaA" You will get free music, PLUS some Virus's, and Spyware from other users! This is a very high ATTACK THREAT risk choice for the sake of copyright 'free' music!

Watch this Youtube Guide on Computer Safety

So what is the issue with downloading free music (often illegally offered)?

Computer Worms, Viruses, Trojans - from illegal free music

Those wishing to download music for free should be aware that the threat of legal action is not the only thing to be concerned about, as more and more (professional) criminals are targeting sites that offer free downloads to spread viruss and spyware. Basically, this means that if you click a link, usually in the form of a pop-up box, promising "free music downloads" or "free software downloads” you are leaving your computer wide open to any number of viruss, worms, spyware or Trojan horses.

Warning: Although (data) file sharing is not strictly illegal, it is illegal to download or share copyrighted material, such as music and films, so you need to avoid any sites that offer these as "free download" services.

Conclusion and Summary

Overall, Viruses, Trojans and Malware have been there present since the innovation of programming itself and with time, they have (and will) become more complex and harder to deal with. That does not mean you should worry too much. In the correct use of tools like virus scanners and spyware removers - by being sensible and careful, it is very likely you will not have to worry about them! Always think before clicking a link!