Protecting your computer has been a necessity for many years now and has become increasingly important with the rise of broadband and now superfast broadband. On a personal level, inadequate protection of your machine can lead to identity theft and your bank account becoming emptied; on a national level, there’s also the threat of hacking attacks on industry and national infrastructures such as power grids.
Many home computers are unwittingly used as ‘bots’ or ‘zombies.’ This means that they are part of a much larger illegal network known as a botnet. These can be used to perform Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on websites, which send so much traffic to a site that it fails to cope and is brought down.
The reasons for such an attack vary, but for the most part it’s for reasons of extortion or political motivations, such as those carried out by ‘hacktivists,’ hackers with a political agenda who want to make a point.
For the average user, internet security is not something that is given much thought. Many people have anti-virus solutions installed on their machine but fail to update them. It’s important that updates to these are carried out, as new viruses, trojans and worms are discovered every day and so security companies are carrying out a constant game of catch-up.
According to a US government report 72% of Americans have suffered a hacking attack at some point whilst using PCs. The rise of social networks has gone some way to increasing the incidences of malware (which literally means malicious software), as people are fooled into clicking videos or photos with sensationalist headlines. This is known as social engineering and can result in survey scams, where victims are often signed up to premium rate mobile services without their knowledge, or redirected to an external site which is infected with malware.
Some of the most common incidences of malware around are ‘banking trojans;’ these work in various ways, but all have the ability to discover banking details and empty bank accounts of all their funds.
These can be very sophisticated and can originate on social networks or through ‘phishing attacks,’ an email which appears to be from your bank and which can look extremely convincing. Other forms of banking trojans use browser injections which fool users into thinking they are logging into an official online banking page.
Trojans are generally also responsible for using ‘keyloggers’, which can record everything that the victim types such as passwords, credit card details and so on. These are then sent to a Command and Control (C&C) server where the malware author uses the details for criminal activity.
Other forms of malware can destroy the files stored on a PC and prevent Windows from working properly and botnets are also often responsible for spreading spam.
Bearing all of this in mind (and we’ve only really scratched the surface here), it’s essential to have security software in place to protect your privacy and dollars. These days, it’s as well to have layered security, so ensure that you buy a good security suite and use Windows Defender and Firewall.
In addition to this, it’s also vital that all software is kept up to date such as Windows Update and third party software such as Adobe, Java and Office products, as these are often vulnerable to attacks if not kept up-to-date.
For the most part, common sense plays a part too; never click on links sent in emails or via social networks unless you’re 100% sure of where they’ve come from. If in doubt as to whether that friend has sent a link, ask and remember that banks will never ask you for your account details or username and passwords via email.
Author Bio: Kerry Butters is writing this article on behalf of Broadband Genie, the consumer information portal for all things broadband and internet.
Photo credit: linder6580