How to beat 2012’s web threats (Part 1)

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How to beat 2012’s web threats (Part 1)

Description: web threats

How much trouble can the kids get into with your old laptop, or nan with her new mobile phone? A lot. John Oates explains how to protect your identity, bank account and computer as you venture on to the web

Even the most clued-up user can get into trouble online, and whether you’re inheriting someone’s old machine or setting up a brand-new PC there’s a lot to remember. So what advice do you offer the schoolkid receiving dad’s passed-down laptop? And how much trouble can nan get into with her new iPhone or tablet?

Today’s online dangers are more likely to come from organised criminal gangs than script-writing hacker kids. A malware infection could empty your bank account and damage your computer. These crooks are hunting down your private information, which includes much more than just your bank details. Login details for websites can give away enough information to get an identity theft underway. For this reason, you’d be wise not to include your real-world address or date of birth on Facebook profiles or other publicly accessible websites.

Traditional PC viruses are becoming less of an issue. Of the new malware strains Panda Labs found in the third quarter of 2011, 77 percent were Trojan horses, against  12 percent for viruses. Trojans are software designed to take control of your PC, whether to forward span and phishing messages or to return data to a hacker’s server. Trojans have been gaining ground for some time - a trend that’s unlikely to change in 2012.

But there are other dangers that you might never even notice. A web-connected computer can be conscripted into a ‘zombie network’ of machines that collectively run distributed denial-of service (DDoS) attacks on websites or servers. Such software might drain the batteries more quickly than usual on a laptop or other mobile device, but you might not notice any other changes while your computer is busy working for a criminal gang. If you do notice a change in how your machine or phone is behaving, be sure to investigate using an appropriate scanner.

Another danger you might run into is fake antivirus, software that places popup adverts on your PC’s screen. Don’t be fooled into clicking a link in the pop-up to download software that purports to remove a supposed infection - you’ll either end up forking out for unnecessary software or malware will be loaded on to your PC.

To stay safe online, you need to use the common sense you apply to the real world. Instruct less experienced users to trust their gut instincts. If something about a website or email looks or feels wrong, even if they can’t put their finger on exactly why, it probably is - or, at the very least, further investigation into its credibility is required.

Here are a few useful tips to keep you on the straight and narrow:

Your bank will not email you if someone attempts to access your account.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will not email you news of a huge tax rebate.

Young, beautiful Russian girls do not want to meet you (or, indeed, marry you).

None of these old threats is going away any time soon, and 2012 is set to bring new online dangers. Keep your wits about you.

Wi-Fi security

Description: Malware Strains

The majority of new PCs sold this Christmas will be laptops and netbooks. These will probably be connected to a home Wi-Fi network, which brings its own dangers. For a good overview of how to sort out your home Wi-Fi security, see the guide produced by Get Safe Online at tinyuricom/cpaupwq.

But laptops aren’t going to stay safely at home. They’re going to be taken down to the local café, which offers free Wi-Fi access with every cup of coffee. However good the lattes and muffins might be, though, you need to be confident that the café owners are doing a good job of keeping their network safe.

Tablets and other mobile devices are particularly vulnerable. An iPad or other Apple device is arguably safer from malware, but social-manipulation scams and DNS attacks don’t mind what platform you’re using. Mac malware is on the rise, too, as Apple’s market share increases.

Scammers target Wi-Fi networks at airports, train stations, pubs and cafés. Anyone logging into such network must be especially vigilant that they select correct network - don’t allow your PC to automatically find and log into a network.

This is an easy mistake to make. You’re in a hurry and need to send a quick email or confirm an appointment before jumping on a train or plane. It seems so harmless to quickly log into an unsecured wireless network, and you can’t remember whether the station offers free Wi-Fi anyway.

Description: WIFI Settings

Show new users how to scan and identify available wireless networks and to carefully check with one they’re joining.


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