What’s Bugging Your Computer?
I just finished a writing project dealing with online security and I’m feeling more than a little paranoid right now. But hey, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that somebody isn’t out to get you, right?
When it comes to the security of your own computer, lots of somebodies indeed are out to get you. Surely you’ve heard about malware. That’s the malicious software that gets installed on your computer without your permission or even your knowledge.
There are many different types of malware and new kinds being created on an almost daily basis. Some of the most common ones are:
As the name implies, spyware spies on you. It can track what web sites you visit, what keystrokes you perform, what passwords you use, and what products you buy online. It can even affect what online search results you get, change your computer settings, and reduce your Internet connection speeds.
Ever wonder why ads on the web sites you visit often are targeted to the kinds of products you like to buy or have recently purchased? That’s adware in action. You’ve got cookies on your computer. You’re not eating them, they’re eating YOU, or at least information about you!
This is the scariest virus of all. You boot up your computer only to be met with a screen you can’t get out of telling you that somebody else now “owns” all your files and data and won’t give them back to you unless and until you pay them a specified amount of money. And if you don’t, they’ll destroy everything!
If you weren’t paranoid when you started reading this article, bet you are now, as well you should be.
What To Do
So what can you do to protect yourself ?
1. Backup everything. Daily. There are several ways to do this and you may want to use more than one of them “just in case.”
- Backup to an external hard drive. I’ve had one for years and I set up all my computer programs to automatically save all the files I create to it, not to my C drive. I take it out of its cradle every night after I shut down my computer.
- Backup to a high-capacity flash drive. I copy everything on my external hard drive to my flash drive once a week and NEVER leave the flash drive plugged into my computer.
- Backup to the cloud. I also use an encrypted backup program daily to store all my data to the cloud. I’m not plugging anyone’s product or service here. Do your own research and comparisons and choose the one you feel is the safest and most secure. Then use it!
2. Install and use a quality antivirus program. There are several really good ones out there, some of which are free. Again, do your research and comparisons. Every morning when I boot up my computer the first thing I do is to check for updates to my antivirus program (usually there are some) and then tell it to scan my computer and remove whatever malware it finds. It invariably finds and removes between 600-1,000 tracking cookies and sometimes (more often than I’d like to think about) finds and gets rid of other kinds of malware, too.
3. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know. That’s just begging to be infected.
4. Don’t visit suspicious web sites. This one’s a no-brainer.
None of my recommendations is very time-consuming or very expensive and all of them will go a long way to keeping your computer safe from the invasion of the data snatchers. The responsibility is yours. You and you alone are the best protection your computer has!