Your computer might have software installed on it that you did not install, and
might even be harmful. It's commonly referred to as spyware or malware, and there many
types of spyware. Here are some examples of what spyware or malware can do:
- Track you Internet usage.: This is the most common type of spyware.
It typically gets installed on your computer by a malicious web site and then sends back
information regarding the web sites you have visited so they can target marketing material
to your buying habits.
- Pop up advertisements on your screen.: This is one of the most annoying
types of malware. A malicious site will install software on your computer and cause it to
pop-up advertisements on the screen, some of them do it even though you are not using the
- Spyware that captures information you type: This type is very dangerous.
It captures information you type, typically in a web browser, and sends it back to a server.
The people who operate this type of spyware are looking for bank account information, usernames,
and passwords. They then use this information to compromise your online bank and financial accounts and
withdraw money from them.
- Remote control software: Some malware installs software to make your computer
do thier dirty work for them. Some tasks include sending bogus "phishing" email to other people,
usually people you know that are in your address book or contact records. These emails will
attempt to lure people in to visiting a malicious site and either install malicious software
on thier computer or attempt to trick them in to entering personal information, which is then
used to compromise thier financial accounts.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you ever have something pop up on your screen stating that
your computer might be infected, and asking you to click on something to run a free scan, or
something to that effect, DO NOT CLICK ON IT! A tactic of many distributors of spyware and
malware trick users into thinking they are protecting themselves from spyware and malware,
and then install the malicious software when you click to run the "free scan"! The best thing
to do is right-click on the icon in the task bar and close the window that shows the message.
If you can't figure out which one it is, save your work and restart the computer. The reason
for these precautions is that in some cases,
the red "X" that closes the window is really a link to install the malicious software. Remember,
these people are devious.
Another thing to keep in mind is email. If you ever get an email claiming to be from your
bank, paypal, or any other online company that deals with your personal or financial information,
it! Do not ever click on a link in an email that asks for any personal or financial information.
Some common methods that are used are:
- Your account has been compromised. Log on now to update your information
- Your account has been inactive. To prevent your acces from being suspended, log on now.
- It is urgent that you update your account information.
One thing that any of those emails have in common is that they are not from who they say they are.
Even if the email address looks like it is from that company, and even if the link that is
provided looks like it goes to the web site for the company, they are not. If you do click
on the link and then enter your personal information, you are almost certain to be a victim
of fraud or identity theft. Click here to take the
PayPal Phishing challenge.
Another thing you should make absolutely certain of is that any web site that you provide
any kind of personal information to is a Secure web site using at least 128 bit encryption. How do you tell?
Look for the "Lock" symbol on your web browser that indicates that your communication with the
web site is secured. Otherwise, it is visible to other users on the Internet.
If you have inadvertantly clicked on a link from one of these emails and compromised your personal
or financial information, the very first step you should take is to "lock" your identity with
a service such as LifeLock. After signing
up for an account with LifeLock, contact your financial institutions and credit card companies
and advise them that you
believe your account information may be compromised and what happened. They will be happy to
issue new credit and debit cards in this event.
Whatever the purpose of spyware or malware, one thing is certain: you do not want it on your
computer! We can recommend some free software that will help you detect spyware on your computer,
but if you suspect that you have something on your computer that might be compromising your
personal information, you should contact a professional.
You should also be aware that some methods of gathering information are not even software installed
on the computer! It could be an external device attached to the computer, or even someone
intercepting your information on the Internet. For a thorough analysis and peace of mind, give us a call
and let us inspect your computer and network. Note that if there is something running on your
computer that you are not sure of, it is best to consult with an expert to avoid doing major
damage to your computer by removing or disabling Windows components or other software that
your computer needs to function.
Some anti spyware programs that can help eliminate unwanted or malicious software:
Another thing you can do to protect yourself online is use OpenDNS as your DNS provider.
If you are a member of a domain or on a company network, ask your IT staff to change the network to
use Open DNS. They prevent many malicious sites from ever even being displayed on your computer,
in fact, you won't even be able to open most malicious sites using Open DNS!
Checking for computer spyware is just one component of a comprhensive security plan. Call
us today to schedule an appointment for a security evaluation at your facility.