In part 1, I talked about the ways that antivirus companies try to manipulate you with misinformation and fear tactics. In this part, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and help you help yourselves. The internet is a fun playground but people often want to jump from the top of the slide, stick their tongue on the cold pipe, eat sand and yet still be protected. Sorry but it doesn’t work that way. There are some things you need to do to be safe out there especially since we’re now kicking our antivirus software habit:
If your reaction to this first one is “I have a cup of coffee installed on my computer?” than chances are you’ve never used it. You wouldn’t be alone. Java is typically installed from the manufacturer when you buy a new computer. From Sun Microsystem’s website, the maker of Java: “It is the underlying technology that powers state-of-the-art programs including utilities, games, and business applications.” That makes it sound more necessary than it really is. The majority of websites today do not require java to render properly. Surfing the web with an outdated version of Java is like walking through a minefield. Sites can exploit known flaws in Java and install software without your knowledge. The software these sites install isn’t Dora the Explorer’s party game.
If you’re still insistent that you need Java or you run applications on your computer that require it, then I recommend disabling it in your web browser. Here are links with instructions on how to do that:
Keep Adobe Flash updated.
Flash sucks. Flash is buggy and a nuisance but if you want to watch a rollerblader fall from the roof and land on a metal pole using his crotch on YouTube you have no choice. Just keep it updated. It’s security holes open up more frequently then…oohh..I’d better leave that joke alone. Go here to see if you have the latest version.
To close exploits, make sure your operating system is updated.
Microsoft releases their patches on the second Tuesday of every month. Apple doesn’t follow a set schedule so make sure you check periodically. Instructions on how to check are here. If that annoying shield or blue square with the yellow circle thingy on Windows starts blaring away in your toolbar telling you that you “New updates are available”, stop surfing porn and run them. Reboot and then resume your previous porn surfing.
Learn how to identify correct url’s.
One of the ways that hackers or spammers can trick you is to mislead you about a site you think you’re going to. Here’s a case in point – mouse over these links and look at the address it says you’d go to. It will show you in the bottom left corner of your browser:
At first glance those links look identical but they aren’t. One takes you to this finely crafted award winning blog and the other takes you to your maker. Before you click, pay attention to where you’re going to first.
You don’t need to open every email from a friend.
Just because a friend sent you a link to a video doesn’t mean you always need to view it. If their email account has been hijacked then you’re receiving something you probably don’t want. Spam links can typically have crazy domain extensions. Domain extensions are .com or .net. and can also contain a country of origin. Here’s a list. If your buddy Jim sent you a link which has .ru as its domain, I’m guessing they haven’t learned Russian since you saw them last. These links can take you to sites with really bad stuff on them, like the “Congratulations you’ve won!” popup ad on permanent repeat and viruses.
Turn on file name extensions.
If a file you found is named YoMomma, how does your computer know how to open it? It does because of the part most computers by default aren’t configured to show you, the file extension. If YoMomma was a word document, it is probably stored as YoMomma.doc. If a file you downloaded from the internet says beautifulsky.jpg, you would probably open it wouldn’t you? If you had show file extensions turned on, you might discover that the file is really called beautifulsky.jpg.exe and that exe means executable which if opened will probably install something really bad. Not all exe files are bad, of course, just ones named beautifulsky. Know what kind of file you’re really opening by showing all file extensions:
A website cannot scan your computer for viruses without you telling it to first.
Please don’t fall for this crap. If a website pops up and starts blaring that “You have 144 viruses and 69 Trojans. Please download our software today!” do NOT…I repeat do NOT do anything but try to close that website out. Run your task manager and stop your web browser’s process or as a last resort, hold the power button in for up to 10 seconds on your machine so it shuts off. I’ve had people fall for this, install the software and then pay the $70 bucks. Please don’t do it.
Switch to Linux.
Linux is the safest operating system out there. Virtually virus proof. It’s geeky but if you’re willing to try it, it’s willing to have you. Here’s one of the easiest Linux distros to start with… Ubuntu.
If something looks funny, it probably is. Don’t open it. If that site doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Don’t be afraid though. Being in control of your computer is empowering. You own it, don’t let it own you.