Internet and Email Viruses

Internet and Email Viruses

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Internet & Email Threats

Definition of a Computer Virus
A program that infects a computer by attaching itself to another program, and propagating itself when that program is executed. A computer can become infected by files downloaded over a network, or by the installation of new software or floppy disks that are infected with viruses as well as email attachments. Some viruses are only pranks, and perform harmless actions like displaying a screen with a joke message on it. Others can destroy files or wipe out a hard drive.

Why Do People Write Computer Viruses?
Some general reasons are to experiment how to write viruses or to test their programming talent. Some get a kick out of seeing how the virus spreads, and some do it for cyber fame. One reason I can think of is the same psychology that drives vandals and arsonists. Why would someone want to break the window on someone else's car?, spray paint on buildings? Set fire to things? For some people that seems to be a thrill.

How Can I Prevent My Computer From Being Infected By A Computer Virus?
Buy a well known Anti-Virus Software such as McAfee or Norton and KEEP THE VIRUS DEFINITIONS UP TO DATE! Set it to scan email attachments and periodically scan your hard drives for infections.

Be careful of what you download from the Internet! Only download files and programs that are from trusted sources. Once downloaded, use your Anti-Virus software to scan them for viruses. Downloading music or videos from file sharing communities such as iMesh or WinMX, Etc. is a popular way of distributing viruses.

If you are using Microsoft Outlook, close the email preview pane (On the toolbar click "View" and uncheck "Preview Pane"). The reason for this is that some emails (with or without attachments) are infected with program scripts that will run when the email is opened. If the email message is viewable in the preview pane the email is technically opened and the script can execute.

Lastly, USE YOUR HEAD! If an email attachment or file download seems suspicious, DON'T OPEN IT!


Definition of Spyware –
Software that sends information about your Internet sessions back to the computer from which it's launched. Spyware is often built into free downloads and works in the background without a user's knowledge.

Why Do People Write Spyware?
It's often used to create marketing profiles based on surfing habits. Basically it records when and where you have gone on the internet, what you have been searching for and reports its findings back to the company who created the program.

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Why Is Spyware Bad And How Can I Prevent It?
Generally Spyware is bad because it is an invasion of personal privacy but another side effect is that it can slow your computer down to a crawl. Making booting up and running applications slower as well as using up RAM (memory) and hard drive space. Many of these pesky applications are extremely hard to get rid of.

Preventing Spyware infection is fairly simple. Firstly, at home use a web browser other than Microsoft's Internet Explorer. This browser is very susceptible to ActiveX and Java Applets and has been a major security problem since its creation. In other words, if you visit a website that is tainted with a malicious applet (mini bad program) Internet Explorer may download and install anything that the website wants you to and completely without you knowing it has happened.

Instead, try using Netscape or Mozilla FireFox . Both have popup blockers built in and are immune to many of the problems that Internet Explorer has.

Don't download programs that are "free", such as Smiley Central, WeatherBug, Gator, CoolWebSearch Toolbar, and Internet Optimizer Etc. These programs are used as bait to get the Internet user to download them but the real reason for the program is to install Spyware on your system. There is a reason that these programs are free don't be fooled.

If you already have a Spyware infection you can use a free tool called SpyBot Seek and Destroy to help eradicate the problem.


Definition of Adware –
A form of Spyware that collects information about the user in order to display advertisements in the Web browser based on the information it collects from the user's browsing patterns.

Why Do People Write Adware Programs?
To collect information and surfing habits about you and then display popup ads within your web browser and even when you're offline.

Why Is Adware Bad And How Can I Prevent It?
Basically for the same reason that Spyware is bad, it invades your personal privacy and annoys you with popup ads. It too can slow your computer down to a crawl.

You can prevent it in the same manner as preventing Spyware. Changing web browsers and being careful of what links you click on.


Definition of Phishing –
The act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft. The e-mail directs the user to visit a Web site where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers, that the legitimate organization already has. The Web site, however, is bogus and set up only to steal the user's information. For example, 2003 saw the proliferation of a phishing scam in which users received e-mails supposedly from eBay claiming that the user's account was about to be suspended unless he clicked on the provided link and updated the credit card information that the genuine eBay already had. Because it is relatively simple to make a Web site look like a legitimate organizations site by mimicking the HTML code, the scam counted on people being tricked into thinking they were actually being contacted by eBay and were subsequently going to eBay's site to update their account information. By spamming large groups of people, the "phisher" counted on the e-mail being read by a percentage of people who actually had listed credit card numbers with eBay legitimately.

Why Do People Use Phishing Techniques?
It is used generally by criminals to steal your credit card information, personal information, and even worse… your identity!

How Can I Prevent Myself From Being Caught In A "Phishing" Scam?
The best rule of thumb to avoid getting "phished" is NEVER directly respond to an e-mail that requests private information, no matter how legitimate it looks. Phishers simply copy the style and graphic directly from the Web site they're scamming. For safety, enter the appropriate Web site in another browser window or call the company and ask if the email that you received is legitimate. NEVER respond to an email that you are suspicious of until you know for sure!
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