We are constantly dealing with issues related to spyware, viruses, and other malware due to unchecked Internet usage.  A lot of small businesses have no active Internet browsing policies, leaving a lot of ambiguity on what users can or cannot visit as work-appropriate sites.  There are a lot of great tips that I wanted to share with you all. Feel free to pass this post on to your employees and co-workers.  Your bottom line will thank you.

Please consider yourself warned: Viruses and malware have such a huge negative effect on your productivity, and have real costs associated with troubleshooting, rebuilding, or replacing computers.

5 ways you can get viruses, spyware, malware, etc. from visiting the Internet:  How to protect yourself with common sense, and some general tips to tighten up your overall Internet security plan:

1.  Peer to peer networking sites

  • Bit torrent, Kazaa, Limewire, and Sharezaa shouldn’t be used.
  • Loaded with viruses and misleading content.
  • Also, they have very little relevance in the business environment.

2.  Social Networking sites: Facebook and Myspace

  • Automated malware attacks hit Facebook and Myspace constantly.
  • Don’t blindly trust Facebook and Myspace as they are a great breeding ground for viruses and social engineering hacks.
  • Be wary of fake profiles that send you messages asking you to click on them to “view videos” which prompts you to install “special software” to view them.
  • There are Facebook applications that contain malware. Especially some that can tell you who has been visiting your profile.
  • Unknown links can either download a virus right away or say something like your video player Adobe Flash is out of date and needs to be updated and that’s when the virus downloads.

3.  Web browsing

  • Be careful about how far down a path you go, clicking on link after link
  • Don’t download “smileys” or special “emoticons”
  • A lot of websites have been set up by hackers to try to trick you to download things on your computer when you go to them
  • Depending on your browser settings things may get automatically downloaded or it may ask you to install an update or active x control or something like that
  • When possible, make sure you have the most updated web browser out there (not always possible when you have specific business software that needs an older browser like IE6 or 7)

4.  IM

  • Don’t click on links in an IM from someone you don’t know
  • If it is from a friend ask them if it is OK to open or try a different method to send it
  • Don’t open attachments unless you know who it’s from and you are expecting it
  • Don’t download applets when it asks you to view pictures, etc.

5.  Email

  • Don’t click on a link if you don’t know the sender and the email is unsolicited.
  • Don’t click on links from services you don’t recognize that want you to update your account info or verify membership or something.
  • Don’t click on a link if you know the sender but the message is strange.
  • Don’t open attachments unless you know who it’s from and you are expecting it
  • Never open .exe or .scr attachments. Typical attachments are doc, xls, pdf, jpg.

General tips and friendly reminders:

  • You have a lot of control over the safety and security of your computer
  • Most viruses and malware need your help in getting installed
  • Remember the “Trojan Horse” story?  That’s why some viruses are referred to as “Trojans.”
  • Don’t believe everything you see in pop-up windows, especially offers to:
    • Optimize your computer
    • Protect your computer
    • Your computer is infected and you need Win Anti Spyware to clean it
    • These things will always download malware into your computer that will make it unusable, steal your information, use your computer to send spam, etc.
    • Hitting “cancel” on some popup windows is not enough. Sometimes the way it is worded will install the program if you click cancel.
    • Close it using red X in the top left corner of the window or going to Windows task manager (Ctrl-alt-del and click “Task Manager).

If you are unsure how to control these dangers to your network or where to go from here, call AndersonPC right away. It is better to attempt to stop something before it gets into your computer than to have us try to remove it or have to rebuild your computer. The old saying “It’s better to be safe than sorry,” definitely should apply to computer usage, especially when you’re on the Internet.  There are many ways to stop these dangers at the door with filtering firewalls and the correct desktop protection.