It cost one of our friends a whole lot of money, much aggravation and lost time, lost records, and a major inconvenience to recover from the havoc caused by the worms and viruses that had infiltrated their computer over a period of many months.
Actually, our friends are like so many other people who use their computers primarily for communicating with family and their friends by email, sharing personal pictures, playing a few games, doing a little research now and then, making airline and hotel reservations, and maybe even balancing their check books.
Surfing the internet for them was just a sometime thing, not necessarily a must-do daily routine.They were aware of computer viruses and had even heard of firewalls. Occasionally, public comments on TV and in newspapers about wide sweeping virus attacks with odd names like ‘MyDoom’, ‘Sasser’, and ‘Bagel’ caught their attention.
After those reported epidemics were no longer news items, they simply put them out of mind, and resumed use of the internet.
When they purchased their computer a few years ago, it came with virus scanning software but not a Firewall program. So, they believed ‘they were protected’!
The general public didn’t really care about Trojan Horse dangers then, because no one was really making an effort to inform them of the insidious efforts of Hackers, spammers, and malcontents who were flooding the internet with their poison. Even today, there are computer users who believe that they don’t need a firewall. They aren’t aware that Firewalls help stop some of the viruses and worms that are hidden in email attachments and other downloaded information.
They aren’t aware of the new strains and variants of worms, adware and other spyware programs that crop up nearly daily, or that there are over 70,000 identified computer viruses.
They aren’t aware because for the past few years, their chances of actually being infected by a computer virus were very small, and spyware and adware weren't even discussed in the general news media.
Not so any longer!
Some authoritive researchers have determined that the internet is so dangerous today, that an unprotected computer connected to the internet is likely to become infected within 20 minutes of going on line.
A protected computer today MUST HAVE an up-to-date Firewall program, up-to-date virus scanning software, up dated Spyware scanning software programs, and the latest updates from the manufacturers of their web browsers (MicroSoft’s Internet Explorer in particular).
Unfortunately for our friends, they were not aware that their anti-virus program needed to be brought up to date on a regular basis. A few years ago, maybe a monthly update would have saved them from their virus grief.
(Actually, they had never updated their anti-virus program at all).
The safest way today is to use anti-virus and anti-spyware software that can be programmed to download updates automatically from the Software providers themselves.
Also true for Firewall program updates.
Today’s major scourge, however, seems to be therampant spread of spyware (keyloggers, adware, malicious software known as ‘malware’, all designed to be invisible, often self propagating).
Spyware seeks information about you and your computer-use habits that are private and personal. It is a threat that can often lead to loss of a person’s identity, bank accounts, reputation and employment.
There are major efforts on an international basis to stop the spread of SPAM (unwanted email), that has been responsible for much of the virus epidemic.
Viruses are spread in other ways, too. Downloaded music files, downloaded programs and information gained from Chat Room visits, hidden worms that activate just by clicking on links in some unsolicited emails and pop-ups, are just a few.
There are other protective tools available at no cost (FREE) from many of the software manufacturers of Firewalls, anti-virus and spyware searching programs. Many are included with the email services provided by AOL, Earthlink, MSN, etc.
These are primarily Pop-up blockers and virus scanners. The ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) also scan for and filter out email messages that look suspicious before being passed on to you.
Pop-up blockers, spam filters, message blockers, and other protective defenses can be installed on everyone’s personal computer. They are often free, or relatively inexpensive.
Our friends now know a lot more about protecting themselves from all of the dangers lurking in the Cyber-Jungle.
To clean out their infected computer, which required a clean wipe of their hard drive, re-installation of their Operating System, and an updated anti-virus program, they were charged $180.00!
Needless to say, they have increased their defenses with updated virus-scanning software, Firewall, and spyware scanners and cleaners.
They learned a lesson the hard way, and they’ll help their friends avoid the problems they experienced by sharing their story and encouraging them to get their computers up to date and prepared for the ever increasing threats by the spammers, hackers and virus writers.
If you use the internet regularly, a subscription to one of the security oriented newsletters can alert you to the latest threats and provide helpful information for maintaining a secure, virus free computer and avoiding potential identity theft.
The “Security Alert News Reporter” published through the Firewalls and Virus Protection website is free, it’s distributed about once each month and is written in an easy to understand, non-technical style.
A few minutes browsing there now might save you many hours of agony and grief later.
(You can take part in the Computer Security Awareness Campaign by Sharing this with a friend.)
About the Author
Richard started his "Firewalls and Virus Protection" website and "Security Alert News Reporter" to help everyday internet users safely navigate through the cyber space that has become a ‘Cyber Jungle’, loaded with ambushes and booby-traps. He promotes his "Computer Security Awareness Campaign" thru his website at http://www.firewalls-and-virus-protection.com
Article By: Richard Rossbauer