Data Security: Fighting Off Cyber-Hackers
9/1/2004 By: Carol Holzberg
High-speed access to the Internet may be great for improved information retrieval, but it has its dark side. For example, do increasing numbers of pop-up ads appear in your browser window? Think they're totally innocuous? Think again! Pop-ups may be evidence of intruders infecting your computer with malicious software code. If left untreated, these digital parasites could slow down system operation, cause crashes, lead to data theft, or result in file destruction. For more information on computer security threats and what you can do to defend against adware, spyware, Internet hackers and the more than 500 PC viruses discovered each month, visit these Web sites:
Patrick Douglas Crispen of Internet Tourbus fame tells you everything you need to know about computer viruses and how to protect your system. Get the facts about virus-infected Email attachments and learn about computer virus hoaxes and urban legends. Several links in this helpful article guide you to PC resources that will help safeguard computer security.
Computer security solutions developer Network Associates markets several products to protect Windows-based computers from network intrusions and virus attacks. If you suspect your computer has a virus infection, download and run McAfee AVERT Stinger, a free stand-alone Windows-compatible utility that detects and removes over 40 specific viruses. It's no substitute for a full anti-virus scanner, but it does a great job of rooting out harmful bugs like Blaster, Sasser, FunLove and Bagle.
At the Web site of this well-known provider of security solutions for networks, servers, computers and handhelds, you'll find tools and information for pro-active and real-time defense. Learn about the latest Macintosh and PC virus threats, download free virus removal tools to delete noxious computer viruses and repair the damage they've caused, visit Symantec's Spam Watch Response Center and find out more about suspicious email offers. While you're there, take a moment to verify that your computer is virus free and safe from online threats by running Symantec's free online virus checker. At Symantec's Internet Security for the Mac you can take advantages of the free Web-based Macintosh-compatible Symantec Security Check to test your Mac's susceptibility to hackers and other online threats, or go to the Articles Library to learn more about protecting your Macintosh from outside attack.
At this site you'll find information about current virus threats, a search tool to locate information about specific viruses, information about virus hoaxes, help with removing specific viral-infections, anti-virus tips, plus McAfee's free FreeScan anti-virus tool that you can download to help detect viruses on your computer. There's also an Online Guide for Parents with tips about safe online chatting, alerts, and interesting articles about filtering, cyberstalking, consumer fraud, and online safety. To double-check that your computer is virus-free, scan your PC with HouseCall a free Web-based virus checker from Trend Micro, makers of PC-cillin anti-virus software. If HouseCall finds any infection, it will clean or delete the files.
You've got to love the folks at Lavasoft for making their windows-compatible Ad-Aware anti-malware utility available free of charge for personal use (corporate users must purchase a licensed version). Download it, install it, tell it what to scan, then use it regularly to remove spyware, adware and other monitoring software parasites picked up while surfing the Internet or downloading music and other files. Ad-Aware detects, quarantines and removes pernicious programs, cookies, and noxious digital parasites that install without your permission, run constantly in the background without your knowledge, and direct you to problematic Web sites that take over your browser with impunity. Use the tool at startup each day and be sure to download and install updated Ad-Aware reference databases weekly to regain control of your browser and restore your computer to peak operating efficiency.
When it comes to spyware removal, you can double-your computer's protective immunity by downloading and installing both Ad-Aware (see above) and Spybot-S&D v1.3. Use the Windows Add/Remove Control Panel to uninstall any previous version, then download the latest Spybot from MajorGeeks.com. For a brief installation tutorial, visit Tutorial. If you have a problem uninstalling an older version, visit the Settings Utility for a patch to remove all references to Spybot in the Windows Registry.
If you receive an urgent email from PayPal, eBay, Citibank or another reputable company with which you do business and the message tells you there's something wrong with your account, don't head for the company's Web site to make corrections. Chances are good the message is fraudulent and you've been "spoofed." Criminals have hijacked your Email address and are using it to "phish" for personal financial data such as your account user name, password, social security number, or credit card number. Learn more about phishing at this industry association Web site aimed at putting an end to this identity theft and fraud scam. Internet Tourbus archives also feature information-packed articles on the Internet fraud of "social engineering".
Microsoft lists several precautionary tips you should follow to make Internet Explorer 6.x more secure. Learn more about Explorer's Security Zones and how you can assign various Web sites to each zone for enhanced security. For Mac users, there's SecureMac.com with news, tools, and information devoted to Macintosh security.
Why you should use a computer firewall
Castles have moats; politicians have handlers; computer have firewalls. These various shields all do essentially the same thing. They prevent unauthorized visitors from getting too close. Learn about the three types of computer firewalls (software, hardware, and wireless) and what you can do to shore up your computer's defenses.
For an introduction to Windows security, visit the Microsoft Security Web site, featuring helpful articles such as Increase Your Browsing and E-mail Safety. You'll also find a link to the site where you can order a free Windows Security Update CD, providing all Microsoft critical updates for Windows XP, Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows 98, and Windows 98 Second Edition (SE) released through October 2003.
Pop-up Blocker Toolbars
Pop-ups often contain offensive content in non-compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act. In some cases, these pop-ups may also serve as gateways to the installation of malicious spyware. Free Internet Explorer-compatible popup blockers prevent these unwanted ads from opening. Safari for Macintosh has a built-in popup blocker. Several free utilities are available to prevent popup windows from opening in the PC edition of Internet Explorer. Download:
MSN's Toolbar; or
This is a very readable introduction to the world of hacking. You'll find definitions of the term hacker, how to educate students not to engage in hacking, the legal implications of hacking, an explanation of the differences between hackers and crackers, and several great links to sites with anti-hacking resources for Mac and Windows.
Carol S. Holzberg, PhD