Banks and financial institutions are doing their best to improve security. They are adding multiple questions to answer before gaining access to an account and using secure (HTTPS) connections to scramble the transmission so prying electronic eavesdroppers cannot grab information. This all sounds great except if the criminal element is able to pick this information directly from your computer! And, sadly, there are too many computers surfing the Internet with open computer ports, the doors into the computer, ripe for the picking or a person opening bogus emails that download a thief’s malicious code.
You might say, “I’m safe, I’ve got the Windows Firewall, a respected Anti-Malware (Virus) protection Software plus a Anti-Spyware program. What’s the problem, hey, the computer does seem a bit slower but everyone is complaining about that!” The problem, like the last Computer I performed a Security Audit on, was 120 detections of which 2 were electronic pick-pocketing programs. And, the slow computer was due to these plus other issues of which one was excessive Add-Ons to Internet Explorer. In fact, part of the slowness of Internet Explorer was due to the Anti-Spyware program they were using for protection.
Maybe you are getting a little worried, and this is a necessary ingredient towards action, because the criminal element is keen to have your money and your identity. Don’t go too far and be fearful because there is plenty of help! First of all, financial institutions are not going to allow these rogue elements to stop the economy and the Internet is too useful a tool. The first thing to do is follow some KEY TIPS – such always typing in financial institution web site addresses directly and do not click on links for these in emails. Do not use a debit card on the Internet, only use a Credit Card for purchases. The other step is to setup a multi-layered Security using top-rated security.
What are the criteria for top rated security programs; consistency, efficiency and proficiency. The Security Program needs to perform over time and be adaptable. A slow computer will boil your head and there is too much bloat-ware out there. You need trusted protection. The beautiful news is that home computers can get all this for free!
Currently, there are 3 Anti-Malware programs that border on 100% detection rates which outstrip some well known Security Software. And, they do this efficiently without unduly burdening the computer.
Success, you install one of these Programs and it finds over 100 detections and these are all cleaned. This is good news but first check the computer is running okay. If so, toggle the Restore Points, because this is a well know hiding place for Malware hoping to be “Restored” back onto the computer. Toggling Restore Points on and off will delete all the previous Restore Point files and the corresponding Malware.
Now, what about those PORTS? Ports are the communication pathways between your computer and the Internet. You might even think of each PORT being a different language communicating to different countries for different activities. Now, if you were to walk into a dark neighborhood it would be nice to be invisible? Sure, and the technical term is STEALTHED. Your computer will be invisible to the general Internet. Windows Firewall can STEALTH the PORTS but eventually an EXCEPTION is needed and now the computer is visible. If a criminal element finds your computer they can begin using different kill methods to tear down the firewalls. But if you are using a top-rated FIREWALL, also free for Home Use, their task will be next to impossible. Installing top rated Firewall and Anti-Malware software are the primary steps to safe Internet use.
If you are using Windows XP the real trick is to use a LIMITED USER account for general web surfing. Many Windows XP users run with the original computer configuration that has them assigned as an ADMINISTRATOR. This is convenient for installing programs and making modifications but also convenient for MALWARE. By using a LIMITED USER account the privileges are greatly reduced on what files can be accessed and what can be modified. The net result is even if MALWARE makes it to the computer it is likely to find it cannot install itself since you and thus it do not have the necessary privileges. In giving up some control in another sense you have more control of the computer!
Making these modifications is not beyond the reach of the average or even beginning computer user. The Computer Appliance Learning Maintenance Manual is written for this purpose. There is no reason to settle for a slow computer and small business owners, especially, need to take the proactive step to protect their vulnerable computers that house important customer information. The criminals like the current situation but it is costing our economy. Take action today to protect your computer and your identity.
Diana & Paul Woodward, Authors
Copyright (c) Napa Valley Security Consulting 2009
A list of DO’s and DON’ts for using the Internet to avoid becoming a victim of Malware, Virus’s, Spyware and email scams.
Tips from Diana & Paul Woodward, Stop the Electronic Pick-Pocket