Spotting the dodgy ones: • Probably the most obvious way to spot them is a line such as “Send this email to everyone in your address book”. Hoax writers want their material to spread as far and as fast as possible, so almost every hoax email will in some way tell you to send it to other people. Some email hoaxes take a more targeted approach and suggest that you send the email to a specified number of people in order to collect a prize or receive a benefit (mobile phone, iPad, digital camera etc). • Hoaxes tend not to provide checkable references to back up their claims. Genuine competitions, promotions, giveaways or charity drives will usually provide a link to a company website or publication. • The actual language used. Email hoax writers tend to use “over-the-top” writing peppered with words and phrases such as “Urgent”, “Danger”, “worst ever virus!!”, or petitions “sign now”. They are often in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS or technical jargon for added emphasis. Spyware While the term spyware suggests software that monitors your activity, the functions of spyware can extend beyond simple monitoring. Spyware is a type of software that installs in the background of your computer, helping to gather information without your knowledge. Spyware can collect almost any type of data, including personal information like Internet surfing habits, user logins, and bank or credit account information. Spyware can also interfere with user control of a computer by installing additional software or redirecting Web browsers. Some spyware can change computer settings, which can result in slow Internet connection speeds, un-authorized changes in browser settings, or changes to software settings. Spyware is rarely alone on a computer: an affected machine usually has multiple infections. Users may notice unwanted behaviour and slow system performance. Stability issues, such as programs freezing, failure to startup, and system-wide crashes are also common. In some infections, the spyware is not even evident. Users assume that performance issues relate to faulty hardware or installation problems. Some owners of badly infected systems resort to buying a new computer because the existing system “has become too slow”. Badly infected systems may require a clean reinstallation of all their software in order to return to full functionality. The best defence against spyware is not to download it in the first place. Here are a few helpful tips that can protect you from downloading software you don’t want:
T ech Bytes Jo Ireland Communications Manager Protecting yourself from digital nasties What to watch out for....
• Read all installation windows carefully. When installing or updating a program, if you are asked (often checkboxes already checked) if it’s ok to install additional programs, uncheck them. Only install the program you paid for. Email Viruses An e-mail virus is computer code sent as an e-mail attachment (usually a .zip or .exe file) which, if clicked on, will cause some unexpected and usually harmful effect, such as destroying files or causing the attachment to be remailed to everyone in your address book. E-mail viruses are the best known and most common type of computer infection, and cause the greatest loss of time and money overall. The Best DEFENCE is a good Offence. Never open an e-mail attachment (double- clicking on it) unless you know who sent it and what the attachment contains or use your anti-virus software to scan any attachment before you open it. Hoax Emails & Viruses Have you ever received an email stating that you are the recipient of a large sum of money in a foregin bank account? Or won a great deal of money in a lottery that you never bought a ticket for? There are thousands of email hoaxes moving around the Internet at any given time. Some may be the latest email hoaxes around. Others may be versions of hoax messages that have travelled the Internet for years. The good news is that, with a little bit of foreknowledge, email hoaxes are easy to detect. Hoaxes are usually harmless and accomplish nothing more than annoying recipients and wasting time of people who forward the message. Nevertheless, a number of hoaxes warn users that vital system files are viruses and encourage the user to delete the file, and if acted upon, potentially damage their computers.
Email and the Internet are wonderful resources that have revolutionized the way humans communicate and access information. Unfortunately, they have also proven to be a fertile medium for the unscrupulous and the morally challenged. By taking the time to educate yourself about common types of scams and security threats, and by sharing this information with others, you can make a valuable contribution to the war against Internet fraud. Viruses A computer virus is malicious code that is engineered to replace or destroy files or disable functions on your computer. Computer viruses are “executable:, meaning that they can be double clicked and “run” like any other program on your computer. However, unlike other programs they have undesirable consequences. Many viruses attach themselves to files that may be part of legitimate programs and when the user attempts to launch the program; the virus’ code is also executed – infecting your computer. Computer viruses are most commonly spread by downloading information, programs, music, movies and tv shows from the internet. If you or someone on your computer is downloading copyrighted music, movies, software for free, often many of these files can contain viruses, spyware or malicious software. Avoid Computer FLU • If you are browsing the Internet, and an advertisement or window appears that says your computer is infected with a virus – do NOT take any notice of it. This is one of the most common causes of computer virus infection, and extremely difficult to get rid of. • When downloading any software (programs, utilities, games, updates,
demos, etc.), make sure you’re downloading the software from a reliable source