Does This Look Familiar?
We all saw this message on our screens at least once, Right!:
“You have been infected! Download antivirus X right now to protect your computer!”
Many of these fake antivirus software pop-ups are very well created to resemble actual messages that you might get from Windows or from a normal, reputable security product provider.
What Can You Do?
If you are lucky, they are nothing more than a hoax that will annoy and distract you by displaying unwanted pop-ups on the screen while you browse online.
In this case, to get rid of the annoying pop-ups, I recommend you do a scan on your system using a good antivirus product – most likely you have one already installed, possibly McAfee or Norton etc.
Usually, there is an Anti-Virus package installed on new PCs and this can be activated for a free trial period after which, assuming you are happy with it, you can subscribe and renew it annually.
If you are not so lucky, you can end up with malware on your system, such as these examples:
Trojan – which is any malicious computer program that is used to hack into a computer by misleading users of its true intent.
Keylogger – which is the action of recording (logging) the keys struck on a keyboard, typically covertly, so that the person using the keyboard is unaware that their actions are being monitored.
This kind of message could also come from one of the most dangerous ransom ware threats around, such as CryptoLocker, which is capable of blocking and encrypting your operating system and requesting from you a large sum of money in exchange for the decryption key.
To avoid this situation, I recommend using a specialised security product against this kind of financial malware, in addition to your traditional antivirus program.
To help you, I have put together some of the steps you can take to improve your digital security. There are ten in all so here goes:
Steps To Bulletproof Your Digital Security
1 – Use a Reliable Antivirus Product
You may have heard that the Antivirus product is dead! Yes I know, it sounds strange, but the traditional antivirus product is not dead – not just yet. You still need a good antivirus to catch most malware, to block phishing threats and to check the web reputation of popular online domains.
Though it is not an easy task to find the best antivirus product from the market, it is worth checking the top brands as it is still a very useful tool to block most malware threats.
2 – Stick with your old firewall solution
Though the firewall has recently been placed on the list of ineffective security tools that we can forget about, there are those out that consider firewalls are still useful.
Though there are limitations to the Firewall blocking capabilities, it is still a good tool that you can use to filter your Internet traffic and toblock communications from an infected machine or internet location.
From a security point of view, there is quite a similarity between the Antivirus products and the Firewall. They are both covering some areas of Internet security, but just not all of them.
3 – Use anti-spyware solutions to protect your system
Spyware is software that monitors your Internet traffic and uses your personal information against you.
In cases where multiple issues appear, like system slow-down, pop-ups when you navigate new toolbars and random error messages, all these indicate a possible spyware infection.
To stay safe from spyware, you can use a few popular anti-spyware products, like Malwarebytes or Spybot Search and Destroy.
Or, to prevent this type of infection, take precautions and follow a few steps:
- don’t click suspicious links in e-mails from unknown people
- don’t click unexpected pop-ups, even from legitimate websites
- don’t disclose personal information to strangers on social media platforms
- pay attention to “drive-by downloads” that could bring spyware on your system
A Spam and Phishing Statistics Report from 2014 reveals that malicious attachments remain a popular option for spreading malicious programs that are designed to steal financial information and personal details.
4 – Use automatic update tools for your vulnerable applications
Are you using Adobe Flash, Reader or Java on your operating system? Are you using at least one popular web browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox?
Almost 100% of users respond positive to these questions and, unfortunately, most online attacks take place when cyber criminals use unpatched vulnerabilities from these software programs.
By using “security holes” in unpatched applications, cybercriminals manage to deliver financial and data stealing malware on the affected systems.
For this reason, we always need to know we have the latest security patches available and this can only be done by using a free solution that does this automatically for you.
5 – Use a password manager for your credentials
We all have a great number of online accounts and websites and it is very easy to forget what passwords we have set for each account. To avoid this issue, most people simply decide to use just a few passwords all the time. Unfortunately, this is exactly what hackers count on!
Why, because not all these online accounts incorporate high security standards to protect your password. So, if a hacker can break just one account and find out your password, they can simply use it on all your other online accounts!
To avoid all the issue above, you could simply use multiple passwords and keep a reliable list of those passwords or you could use a good password manager like LastPass.
An additional option is to use a password generator that will give you long and complicated passwords.
Finally, don’t forget to log off after every online session.
6 – Back-up your system and sensitive information
IT security experts will tell you to use a back-up solution for the system and your sensitive information. So, even if your system is blocked by ransomware that stops you from accessing it, you can format the system and use your backup to get back on track.
You can use one of the back-up solutions available from your PC supplier or the internet with an exterior storage device or you can keep the most important data in the “cloud” and access it from any location and any device.
7 – Maximize your data and financial protection
These security products are designed to detect online threats that normal antivirus products can’t remove. We talk about “zero-day” attacks that a traditional signature based antivirus is not able to block from infecting your system.
Most of the time, these solutions target financial information from the system, like credit card and pin numbers or personal data that we employ on online banking accounts.
In order to get protection against data stealing malware, the solution you need should:
- include a real-time Internet traffic scanner that scans all incoming network data for potential malware threats
- provide malware detection and removal of malicious code from a system
- contain online scanning capabilities that detect malicious software from online pages and legitimate websites
To assure financial security for banking operations and protection against zero day malware, you need an advanced scanning technology that can protect you from the latest threats.
8 – Encrypt your important files
By encrypting your personal information you make sure cyber criminals can’t access your confidential data, even if they gain access to your operating system.
You can choose to encrypt files on your local disk or you can choose an online location, which makes things more difficult for any hacker.
Since this is a wide ranging topic, we recommend that you think about encryption as an important part of your online security strategy.
For example, you can use an encryption program for your files, but how useful can it be if your password for the program is not that strong?
A fast and easy solution to encrypt your files is to use Microsoft’s BitLocker software, which is now installed on most Windows systems.
To protect only the sensitive files from your system, you can use a light and easy to use program like 7Zip, which is also useful in case you want to send a file by e-mail. Just make sure you don’t include the password in the same e-mail.
9 – Protect your online traffic by using multiple tools
How do we keep our system safe from online threats? It is the same question we started this article with, but are we closer to the answer?
To improve our online protection, we cannot rely on a single solution, rather we need to understand that multiple means and guidelines must followed:
- let’s start with the browser. Are you using the latest version that contains all the available security patches?
- did you know that you can improve your good old browser?
- how much do you travel outside your home or place of business so you need to use public networks and computers? In case you do, don’t forget to use a private browsing session to go online or at least use a free proxy server to hide your IP address from surveillance mechanisms.
- are you serious about online security and privacy? Then you need to best tools available out there. To encrypt your online connection, use a VPN solution. Choose the Tor browser to hide your Internet activity by sending your communication through the Tor network of computers.
10 – Listen and learn from the best security experts
Though you may rely on one or more security solutions to do the job for you, a set of security solutions and online safety guidelines from the best security experts should be followed.
That’s why learning from the best in the IT industry is an important step in improving your online safety.
At the same time, learning is a process and in today’s security landscape, staying up-to-date is vital, that’s why I recommend a long list of security blogs you need to check out and follow to find out about the latest threats on the internet.
What Do You Think?
What do you think about all this? Do you consider antivirus is dead? Are you using a single security solution or more to keep your system safe?
Online scams have been developed using increasingly sophisticated software to deceive and manipulate internet users, most especially targeting the rich Western countries.
According to the FBI, online scams have increased over the last 10 years and the total losses doubled in the recent years, affecting both private individuals and large scale businesses.
For this reason, cyber-criminal activities are now subject to federal investigations and are treated as a very serious problem that affects us all.
You may think that you can’t be fooled by these online scams, since some of them are quite hilarious, such as the one promising to send you money or the one where the scammers pretend to be FBI agents.
But some stories are so convincing for the potential victims that it is difficult to know how to deal with them.
Since some scams are so well organised and convincing, and the people behind so difficult to catch, we need to always keep our guard up. Stay informed about the latest scamming strategies.
Have you met some of the above scams while browsing or in your email inbox? What were the most convincing ones?
A year ago, one of Symantec’s executives declared that Antivirus is dead!
How should we interpret or try to understand such a statement from one of the leading names in IT security?
Brian Dye, Symantec’s senior vice president who made that statement, said those words indicated that traditional antivirus software manages to block only 45% of computer systems attacks. At the same time, he also mentioned that security experts need to concentrate on tracking advanced pieces of code that cyber criminals and hackers’ use as tools to retrieve sensitive information.
When you break it down, all this does not mean that Antivirus Protection is dead and that we should all just give up antivirus products.
No, it means we must adopt new tools to protect against modern phishing attempts, spam campaigns, malicious web pages and cyber-criminal attacks.
So, be careful.
I hope this post has helped you to better understand this very live issue.
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There you have it for today.
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Cheers for now and stay safe.