Malware: What is it and how to make sure your children don’t install it
The internet is a very useful tool, but it can be a dangerous place if you don’t protect yourself. For criminals and scam-artists, the internet is big business and we’re all targets. Attacks can strike anytime your computer is connected to the internet. At worst, these attacks can destroy our computers, drain our accounts and steal our identities.
The good news is that for every scam and attack, there are effective ways to protect yourself while still continuing to enjoy the enormous benefits of the internet. Learning a little bit about some of the threats that are out there can help you enjoy a safer, happier internet experience.
Email Scams: (“Phishing”)Email is a favorite tool of online criminals. Email costs virtually nothing to send and can be blasted out to millions of potential victims at once. One of the most common email fraud techniques is called “phishing.” In a typical phishing scam, an email is forged to look like an official message from a real-world bank or e-commerce company. The message directs victims to a fake Web page, where they are prompted to provide their account information. By mimicking the email and Web sites of popular banks and e-commerce companies these scams can easily fool people who have existing relationships with those companies.
Viruses, Worms and Trojan Horses: These computer programs are every bit as nasty as they sound. Viruses, worms and Trojan horses can be transmitted in a number of ways, but mainly travel over email. Although they differ in substantial ways, all are designed to spread themselves from one computer to another over the internet and cause havoc once they arrive. Some of these programs simply cripple the computers they infect but more commonly, they are designed to give the criminals who create them some sort of access to those computers.
Spyware and Adware: The words “spyware” and “adware” can be confusing, because they’re used to describe a lot of different technologies. The two important things to know about spyware and adware programs is that 1) they can download themselves onto your computer without your permission (typically when you visit an unsafe Web site) and 2) they can make your computer do things you don’t want it to do. Sometimes that might be as simple as opening an advertisement you didn’t want to see. In the worst cases, spyware can track your online movements, steal your passwords and compromise your accounts.
Botnets: Although they sound like something out of a bad science fiction movie, botnets have become a very real security risk on the internet. Botnets are made up of large numbers of computers that have been infected by criminals (often using some of the tools mentioned above). Often, the people whose computers are trapped in botnets don’t even know that they’ve been infected. Criminals use these armies of infected computers to attack Web sites by flooding them with massive amounts of traffic. These attacks can devastate companies, and even entire countries in some cases. Victims caught in botnets can also be subject to identity theft as their personal information is compromised.
Parents should teach their kids to not download anything from the internet unless it is from a trusted source and to never click on any links that come anonymously through email.