Saturday, December 23, 2006

Cyber Crime Hits the Big Time - Washington Post

Got a call from a friend who had just read today's article in the Washington Post about cyber crime. My friend was made very afraid by the article. It was, after all, somewhat scary. In response, I will share a few security tips with you here. To stay safe (or as safe as you can reasonably hope to be), follow these measures:
  • Make sure your email client or webmail does not show images by default. If the email is safe and you want to view the images, you can allow them for that site only. This practice protects your privacy.
  • Beware of social-engineering scams. These are relatively sophisticated scams that play off our social sytems of trust or desire. Lottery scams play on greed. Porn scams play on lust. Scams that appear to come from your bank or the government play on trust.
  • Don't try to unsubscribe from spam messages. Clicking the "unsubscribe" text will only inform the spammers that they have a live email address, which will now be sold and resold to other spammers.
  • Don't let your friends send you all their forwarded crap. I'm always leery of messages that have "Forward" in the subject line. I've had to ask friends, in a nice way, to stop sending me that kind of stuff. I don't need another funny or heartwarming story. I'm funny enough as it is. And I don't do heartwarming.
  • Do not go to websites by clicking a link in an email, especially banking or commercial sites where you normally would type in private data. You should type the address directly into your browser's address bar. Phishers try to get you to go to their fake sites so they can harvest your passwords, etc. You can't always trust anti-phishing toolbars either, because phishers will often use zombie computers to route their fake sites through.
  • Always install the latest security updates for Windows and other programs. Not doing so leaves you more vulnerable to worms, trojans and viruses.
  • Use antivirus, firewall and antispyware applications regularly to protect and scan your computer for these pests. You can get several of them for free. Get them from PC World or another reputable site. (Email me for a list of good, free applications.)
  • If you use a wireless home network, make sure that it is not accessible to outsiders; use encryption or MAC filtering to block neighborhood snoops.
  • Finally, don't download crap. Only download from sites you can trust, recommended by people you can trust. Like me.
Send me an email or leave a comment if you have questions.