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Common EBay Scams – How to Spot and Avoid Them

Reading Time: 4 minutes

For many consumers, eBay is the go-to marketplace for buying and selling most items. Doing business on eBay is often straightforward and hassle-free. However, there are experienced scammers on the platform with a myriad of ways to rip you off. This is why you cannot let your guard down for a moment when you are shopping on eBay or on any online platform, especially in the current climate.  

Here are the most common eBay scams to watch out for:

Seller knowingly sends the wrong item.

This is a scam that you need to watch out for if you’re buying a computer, especially a laptop. Here’ how the scam typically works: a seller advertises a laptop with a high powered processor (For example, an intel dual core i5 processor). But after you buy the computer, the seller sends you a computer with an intel Celeron processor, which is a much less powerful and a lot cheaper processor than you bought.

Many people never bother checking out the processor when they get their computer, and would never even realize they’ve been scammed until it’s far too late to do anything about. You might also receive a pirated version of Windows 10. When you buy a computer on eBay, be sure to fully check the system out to ensure you’re getting what you paid for.  

You can easily check out your computer’s processor and other specs in Windows 10 by going to Settings > System > About. Look under Device specifications. Here, you’ll find all the details of your computer’s processor, system type, RAM size and whether you have a genuine copy of Windows 10. You can also verify the size of your hard drive by clicking on Storage in the left pane.  

Buyer claims item not received.

As a business seller, you’re covered by the PayPal seller protection. However, if an order has a total cost of £450 or more, you’re required to get signature confirmation which will protect you if a buyer claims they haven’t received the item. Fraudsters know that private sellers may be unaware of this requirement. So, what they will do is purchase items worth over £450 and then claim they never received the item. If you never purchased the signature confirmation, you won’t have any protection against those scammers.

Seller disappears after payment is made

This scam is simple. You pay for an item and never receive it. For the majority of listings, as a buyer, you’re protected by the eBay money back guarantee. But there are several items that are not covered under this policy. These include:

  • Vehicles
  • Real Estate
  • Business & websites for sale
  • Digital content,
  • Intangible goods
  • Classified ads
  • Services
  • Some business equipment categories

This means that if you send payment for any of these high-value categories to a fraudster, you could lose all of your money and have no recourse. The best way to avoid falling for this type of scam is by physically inspecting the item, paying in person and collecting the item there and then.

Hijacked account

If you have a weak or hackable password, your account could be hijacked by a fraudster. If you are a seller with several items on your account and you get hacked, the first thing a scammer will do is to change the PayPal email address on a certain number of listed items in your account. This means that every time those items are sold, the fraudster will be the one getting paid for those items.

If you sell a lot of items each month and don’t have a process for checking that you’re receiving payment for each item, the fraud could go unnoticed for months. This is because the fraudster will only change a small percentage of items to avoid suspicion. If you sell digital items and the buyer gets to download their item automatically, it might take a long time to find out that you’ve been scammed. Sellers have lost thousands to this type of scam and have no recourse. This means you won’t get any of your money back if this happens to you. The best way to secure your account and protect it from being hacked is to use a strong password and enable two factor authentication.

Fake buyer scam

This scam is aimed at sellers, and is widespread on most online marketplaces, and you can lose the item you’re selling as well as some money if you fall for this scam. Unfortunately, you won’t get any recourse if it happens to you, so you need to ensure that it doesn’t. It begins with a buyer showing interest in what you’re selling. When they pay for the item, you’ll notice that they will overpay by at least £50, depending on the cost of the item. They will then contact you to explain that they made a mistake and ask you refund the difference to a different PayPal or bank account.

So, you send out the item and send off the overpayment. But what you’ll find is that the payment was made using a stolen credit card, and PayPal will eventually reverse the payment once the credit card company gets in touch with PayPal. This means the seller is out of the overpayment amount as well as the item. This is why you should cancel any transaction that includes an overpayment because it is not a mistake, it is an elaborate scam.

Phishing emails

Fraudsters send out spoofed emails that mimic eBay support emails to fool you into thinking that you’re getting an official email from eBay. As with other phishing emails, these bogus emails will contain a malicious link that looks like a legitimate eBay address. If you click the link, it will take you to a spoofed webpage that mimics the eBay official website where you’ll be prompted to sign in and submit personal and financial information. Alternately, you may be taken to an infected website that downloads malware to your device. If you receive a phishing email, forward the message as an attachment to eBay at spoof@ebay.co.uk and delete the message from your device. 

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PC SECURITY

How Hackers can Turn on Your Webcam and Control Your Computer with RAT

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Remote access software is typically used by IT professionals to resolve computer issues over the internet. Examples include TeamViewer and LogMeIn, which are legtimately used by helpdesk technicians and system administrators to fix technical issues remotely. Attackers, however, also recognize the effectiveness and usefulness of this technology and exploit it as a means of taking control of their victims’ computers through the “back door” with the help of Remote Access Trojans (RATs).

A Remote Access Trojan (RAT) is a type of dangerous malware program that hackers generally use to get complete, anonymous control over your computer without your knowledge. Most RATs are designed for Windows computers, but some are multiplatform and work on Linux, Mac and Android devices. When a RAT is installed on your computer, hackers can do just about anything.

What can a Remote Access Trojan do to my computer?

When a computer is infected with RAT, it assumes full administrative control over the targeted device. This makes it possible for a hacker to do anything on the machine, including:

  • Spy on you.
  • Watch you inside your home through your webcam camera as you go about your day.
  • Combine with a keylogger to steal sensitive data.
  • Record all your on-screen activity.
  • Steal confidential information such as usernames, passwords, sensitive photos and financial information such as credit card information.
  • Alter your personal files.
  • Stream you over the internet through your webcam without your knowledge.
  • Take control of a home network and create a botnet.
  • Hijack or even destroy your device.
  • Delete files and folders.
  • Download additional malicious programs that can be used to take over online banking transactions.
  • Distribute viruses and other malware to other computers.
  • Format your computer’s hard drive.

How can I check for RATs on my system?

Unlike other types of malware, it can be difficult to detect when RATs has been installed on your machine because they are designed to conceal their presence. It won’t slow down your computer so you won’t be aware that anything’s wrong. It also won’t show up in your lists of active or running programs.

In fact, a RAT can be installed on your computer for years without detection, which is why this threat is known as an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT). Ordinary antivirus scans are also unlikely to detect encrypted RATs.

Here are some symptoms of possible infection in your Windows 10 computer:

  • Unknown processes running in your system which are visible in the Task Manager.
  • Your internet connection suddenly slows down considerably.
  • Files have been modified or deleted.
  • Your mouse begins to move across your computer screen on its own.
  • You have strange programs in your startup folder.
  • Your webcam indicator light is constantly on or blinks when you haven’t turned the webcam on.
  • Unknown programs that you never installed are visible in the Control Panel and Add or Remove Programs.

Top antivirus software solutions help ensure RATs are unable to function properly in your computer. But the best way to identify and remove RATs from a system is through the use of intrusion detection systems.

 How can a RAT be downloaded on my system?

Users who end up with malicious software on their system often do so inadvertently in the following ways:

  • Phishing emails. A cybercriminal sends a spoofed email to a victim from what appears to be an established and well-respected company. The message will include an attachment which the user opens and inadvertently downloads a RAT onto their system. Alternately, the user can click on a malicious link in the email which takes the user to an infected webpage that downloads a RAT to the user’s system.
  • Phishing phone calls. A cybercriminal poses as tech support from your bank, Microsoft or some other trusted organisation and persuades the user to download onto their computer.
  • Piggybacking on legitimate software. A RAT can be downloaded by attaching itself to free software bundles — such as a video game.
  • Automatically when you visit a website that has been infected with malware

How can I protect my computer from RAT infection?

To protect your system from RATs, follow the same procedures you use to prevent other malware infections:

  • Keep your OS, antivirus and other application software up to date.
  • Make sure your firewall is enabled and active.
  • Be very careful when downloading any free software packages advertised on the web.
  • Do not download software from sites you don’t trust. If in doubt, Google the website.
  • Regularly backup your data.
  • Use a safe browser like Chrome, Firefox or Edge when surfing the web. Safe browsers are able to prevent automatic downloads or notify you when a website you’ve landed on is unsafe.
  • Avoid clicking pop-us, links or opening attachments from unsolicited emails.
  • Download webcam on-off software from Sordum that can automatically turn off your device when you’re not using it.
  • Use black tape to cover your webcam when you’re not using it if you don’t want to download software.

What can I do if my system is infected with RATs?

If you discover that your system has been infected with RAT, you need to take action immediately as soon as you discover the infection.

  1. Disconnect your device from the internet. Your device must be connected to the internet for RAT to work.
  2. Run a full scan of your machine using a powerful antiviral software like Malwarebytes.
  3. Use Malwarebytes to remove the malicious software. Malwarebytes is currently one of the most successful tools for removing RATs from an infected device.
Categories
INTERNET SECURITY

17 Cool Advantages of Surfing the Web With a VPN

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Get Cheaper Online Prices, Increase Your Security and Watch Live Sports, Movies and TV Shows Anytime, Anywhere.

What is a VPN?

The convenience of the Internet has come at the expense of our online privacy. Search engines, governments, ISPs, websites, social media apps, advertising agencies and cyber criminals all monitor everything we do online. They track which websites we visit, how long we spend on them, the content we watch, what we search for, the devices we use, our geographic location, etc. In fact if you live in the United States, it is perfectly legal for your internet service provider (ISP) to harvest your data and sell this information to the highest bidder without your knowledge or consent.

How does a VPN work?

A VPN makes you anonymous online by masking your IP address, making your online activities untraceable. It does this by creating a tunnel between your device and the VPN server. The data transferred via the tunnel is encrypted to keep it completely private and prevent it from being intercepted.

You’ll appear to be browsing from the location of the actual VPN server that you connect to at any point in time rather than your actual location, because you’ll assume the IP address of which ever VPN server you’re connected to.

vpn illustratiom

There are a number of compelling reasons why you should use a VPN and we’ve rounded up 17 of the best ones in this article. 

1. Take control of your digital life.

VPNs are the most powerful tools for ensuring your anonymity, security and privacy whenever you browse the internet. They protect your online privacy by completely changing your IP address to that of the VPN server so that you’re totally anonymous when you’re online.

This means your location, browsing history, habits and online behavior are completely shielded from being tracked by anyone online including search engines, internet service providers, websites, social media apps, advertising agencies and cybercriminals.

2. Get cheaper online prices.

Websites and services do not treat all visitors the same. What part of the world you’re browsing from plays a very big role in how much you pay for a product or service. When you’re shopping online from more affluent countries, cities or even postal codes and zip codes, prices can be drastically more expensive.

For example, you’ll pay significantly less if you’re trying to buy some cloud storage if you’re shopping online from India than if you are shopping from the United States. In fact, ExpressVPN recently did a study where they found out that if you buy an airplane ticket, the price of exactly the same flight or exactly the same number of people from exactly the same airport is different depending on which country you actually connect from when you try to buy those tickets.

You can also get a cheaper hotel depending on where you’re booking from. Some sites have even been found to charge users more based on whether they’re using a Mac or a PC. With a VPN, you can connect to VPN servers in Mexico, Brazil or India and get access to the best international rates. This means you can actually save money by using your VPN to find better deals while also protecting yourself online.

3. Bypass geo-restricted websites.

How many times have you gone to watch a YouTube video and it says it’s “not available in your country?” And streaming subscription services like Netflix do not broadcast certain shows outside of the U.S. For example, there are nearly 4,000 movie titles available for viewing in the U.S. But in Europe, subscribers have access to roughly 2,500 titles.

With the right VPN, you’ll be able to bypass these types of blocks to access restricted content from popular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or HBO GO from any location in the world. In addition, if you’re in the US or anywhere else in the world, you’ll be able to watch shows that are exclusively available on catalogs of the UK, Canada or anywhere else.

If you’re an avid sports fan, a VPN allows you to get access to live streaming sports including Formula 1, NBA, La Liga, English premier league, European Champions League, etc. Your VPN allows you to bypass regional blocks by assigning an IP address of a region where streaming of your favorite sporting events is not blocked.

Note however, that not all VPNs work with Netflix because the streaming service’s tough geoblocks stop many VPNs from accessing the service. But a small group of VPNs developed workaround technology for most streaming services including Netflix and BT.

4. Safely connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Free, public Wi-Fi is very popular with the public and can be found in popular public places like malls, hotel lobbies, coffee shops, trains, etc. They allow you to get access to the internet for free. And according to a recent survey, 82% of users say they connect to any free Wi-Fi that’s available in a public place. The trouble is, these Wi-Fi hotspots are always unsecured connections and are fraught with hazards. According to the Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report, public Wi-Fi is a hacker’s playground for stealing personal information and other sensitive data.

Risks of public Wi-Fi include:

  • Malicious hotspots
  • Man in the Middle (MitM) attacks
  • Snooping and sniffing
  • Malware distribution
  • Unencrypted networks

The great news is that a VPN with a modern encryption protocol will help protect you and your precious data from all of these types of cyberattacks.

5. Better online gaming.

At first glance, using a VPN to play video games might not make a lot of sense, but there are actually some benefits. First of all, the anonymity means you can keep your financial information safe and secure. Furthermore, lot of gaming content on the internet is geo-restricted, which means they are only available to specific countries or regions.

For example, a Brit can bypass geoblocking and access a UK-based game whilst travelling overseas, even in a country or region where the game is not available. And if a game is released in a country like the US but not yet in Europe, you can set your server location to the US, purchase and play before anyone else can.

6. Escape data-throttling.

Your ISP can slow down your internet connection at peak times or after you’ve used a certain amount of your data. They do this to save money. Limiting speeds allows ISPs to serve more customers without having to increase their network capacity. When your data is throttled, you might notice videos streaming in lower resolution, slow file downloads or excessive lag while gaming.

Commonly throttled websites and traffic types:

  • HD video: YouTube, Hulu, Twitch, Nexflix
  • Gaming: Fortnite, World of Warcraft, League of Legends
  • File sharing: Usenet, BitTorrent

Detecting data throttling is not easy to detect because it occurs at the protocol level. The best way to tell if your ISP is throttling your data is with an Internet Health Test.

Using a VPN can prevent your ISP from throttling your data by encrypting your web traffic. Because your ISP cannot see what services, websites and protocols you’re using, they will be unable to trottle your data.

7. Bypass Internet censorship in China.

Some countries like China restricts locally accessible internet content in one form or another. If you’re planning to visit countries like China or Hong Kong for business or pleasure, it is crucial to get a VPN before you travel. China blocks access to Google, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and many other popular websites. If you find yourself in a country that censors the internet, you will also be subject to this online censorship. A VPN is an invaluable tool that allows you to access anything on the internet as if you were browsing the web from London or Los Angeles.

However, note that not all VPNs have been able to get around the great China firewall to overcome these censorship and restrictions.

9. Secure messaging.

The potential exists for email messages sent using services like WhatsApp, Skype, and Snapchat to be interpreted and read. With the inherent encryption which offers a higher level of security, a VPN is the best option to transmit messages safely and securely.

10. Avoid malicious DDoS attacks.

According to the Q2 2018 Threat Report, the number of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks increased in size by 500%. Once a cybercriminal has your IP address, they can DDoS it, making your home connection unstable. However, you can mitigate that risk with a VPN. A VPN shields your IP address by routing your data traffic through remote servers. This protects your internet connection from being a target of a DDoS attack.

11. Download information from the internet safely and anonymously.

A VPN secures the connection between your computer and the internet by creating an encrypted virtual tunnel through which all of your data traffic is sent. This allows you to download information from the internet safely and anonymously.

12. Avoid bandwidth-throttling.

Similar to data throttling, bandwidth throttling occurs when your ISP delibrately slows down your internet connection. Your ISP monitors what sites you visit, and depending on what they see, they might decide to throttle your connection. For example, if you spend a lot ot time on constant 4K streaming or gaming, they limit how much high-speed data you can use per month. So you might notice sluggish speeds towards the end of the month. This can be be very frustrating, especially when you’re live streaming a football match or movie. A VPN hides your online activity from your ISP by encrypting your traffic and therefore, preventing throttling. You can find out if you’re being throttled by running a speed test before and after activating your VPN.

13. Protect your data.

Many times, governments can request your browsing history and other data from your ISP and use the listed IP addresses to track your location. But with a VPN, their information only reaches the VPN server. They cannot track you back to your original IP address. You can also use a VPNs to hide your browsing activity from your internet service providers. In 2017, the US congress made it legal for ISPs to be able to sell the browsing activity of US residents to advertisers without their knowledge or permission.

14. Avoid cybercrime.

The extent of modern online crime means that you have to be wary and alert at every turn. Furthermore, without a VPN, every time you browse the internet, you are vulnerable to hackers, phishing attacks, malware, spyware and other dangerous online threats. Using a VPN service offers an extra layer of protection for your confidential information, financial transactions, etc. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that not all VPNs offer reliable protocols, such as OpenVPN or IKEv2/IPsec, or have extra security options like malware or botnet blocking.

15. Enables businesses to share sensitive data online.

A VPN uses strong encryption protocols, which makes it an ideal tool for entrepreneurs to communicate and share sensitive data about their business over the internet. A VPN keeps the data confidential and safe from all prying eyes including cybercriminals, internet service providers and advertising agencies.

16. Stop Google and Facebook tracking

Google have admitted that they store your details – your searches, clicked ads, watched videos, and several other confidential data about you. According to Google, this is done to enhance your search experience. A team of researchers from Microsoft, the University of Pennsylvania, and Carnegie Mellon also revealed a study showing that Google and Facebook keep tabs on your porn viewing habits with trackers and using incognito mode or private browsing does not stop this. The best way to stop this is with a VPN.

17. Enable VoIP

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. It is a technology that allows users to talk to anyone, anywhere in the world securely and at a cheaper cost than traditional phone services. Unfortunately, VoIP services in certain countries were restricted or blocked due to government vested interests in telecom services. However, a VoIP VPN allows you to use VOIP by changing your IP address and encrypting your internet traffic. This allows you to unblock VoIP apps without being tracked.

Disadvantages of Using VPN Services

1. Using a VPN might be illegal in your country.

Some countries actually have actually blocked VPNs and other countries that do not have the technology to block VPNs have outlawed VPN services that are not registered in the country.

2. When you connect to a VPN, your internet connection may slow down.

For example, you may be sending your traffic deliberately in the opposite direction to where the services that you need reside. For example, if I’m in Australia, and perhaps I make a connection to a VPN in India, and then I try to access a website that is in Europe, it is going to be slower because it means I have to send the data halfway across the world again to get to that server.

Categories
PC SECURITY

10 Warning Signs Your Computer Has Been Hacked and What To Do

Reading Time: 7 minutes

The internet has made our lives easier and more convenient. There’s so much we can now do online. We can bank, shop, order food and connect with old friends around the world within seconds. But while digital technology has enhanced our lives in so many ways, it has also exposed us to threats that we didn’t have to face before.

Computer hacking has become increasingly sophisticated and capable of posing a major threat to our privacy and the security of our most sensitive data such as our usernames and passwords, credit card numbers, banking details and other valuable information. This means we need to pay close attention to any changes that occur on our computing devices.

How Hackers Get into Your Computer

In order to infect your computer with malware, a hacker will have to entice you to click on a link to an infected website that automatically downloads malware to your computer, or download an attachment that contains malicious software. One of the most effective ways they do this is by sending files that look legit such as MS Office documents or PDFs that contain hidden code that infects your computer. It is also quite common to get infected from a USB flash drive that contains any form of malware. 

Here are 10 warning signs that your computer has been hacked and infected with malware:

1. Your antivirus software is disabled.

The first red flag that your computer has been compromised is if your antivirus software has been disabled and you didn’t do it yourself. It cannot turn off on its own. Disabling your antivirus software is usually the first thing an attacker will do when they hack into a computing device to prevent you from running a virus scan or antivirus software.

2. Fake virus warnings.

Fake virus alerts or warnings are the browser tab or web page pop-ups that you get when you visit a web page. They will display warnings that your computer is hacked, and that you need to call a number or click a link to fix it. If you are getting these alerts, then your computer has already been infected.

These alerts are fake and created by attackers, and they will try to get you to click on a link or contact a random phone number. What you must always reaize is that legitimate AV software will never prompt you to call a number or click a random link. Any links you click on will take you to professional-looking sites setup by cybercriminals to infect your computing device ad steal your confidential information. 

Fake virus alert – desktop
Fake virus alert – Android
Fake virus alert – iPhone

3. You’re getting random pop-ups all of a sudden

If you’re suddenly getting a barrage of constant popups from websites that don’t normally generate them, that’s a big sign that your computer has been infected. You get these pop-ups because one of the first things a hacker will do is when they hack into a computer is to disable pop-up blocking software.

4. Your passwords suddenly don’t work

If the passwords to your online accounts stop working all of a sudden, this is a major red flag that your computing device has been hacked. This can be your password for your emails, social media accounts or even your computer. A common tactic when stealing information is to lock the real person out of their accounts by changing the password. When this happens, you may find that your friends have received weird messages on social media from you that you never sent, often containing a malicious link .

5. You discover strange, random applications on your computer

If you notice strange computer programs on your desktop that you or anyone else that uses the computer with you did not install, this is a clear warning sign that your machine has been infected with malware. Malicious software today has evolved into sophisticated programs that install themselves as legitimate software. This makes it very difficult to differentiate between real and fake applications. In many cases, these rogue programs get installed by attaching themselves to other software that you have installed together as a bundle.

6. Your web searches are being redirected.

If you’re repeatedly getting redirected to random, spammy websites whenever you search for stuff online, this is another symptom of hacking. This typically happens when you enter some keywords into a search engine. You’ll get a list of search results but when you click on one of them, instead of being taken to that website, you’re taken somewhere else. These redirects are often caused by adware and other different types of malware present on your system. 

7. Programs start to crash repeatedly.

If your mouse is moving by itself or your once reliable applications suddenly begin to crash on a frequent basis, this is one of the biggest symptoms of malware infection. When this happens, you may not be able to open your files or programs. You may also find that your files have been randomly deleted. Any files ending in .exe are the file types that viruses tend to use. However, note that hackers can also disguise text documents, PDFs and images as viruses.

8. Random browser toolbars

Browser toolbars are one of the biggest red flags that most people overlook. If your browser suddenly has multiple toolbars that you never installed, then this is a sign that your device has been compromised. Some hackers will add toolbars to malicious websites which are designed to download trackable apps that monitor passwords to your social media and online banking accounts.

Infected browser with random toolbars

You’ll want to delete all of the toolbars that you don’t recognize. You can also restore your browser to its default settings if you are unable to remove any of those toolbars. If those toolbars stay deleted, then all may be well. But if they reappear after a few days, then you’re being actively hacked. This is why you should be very careful when installing any type of free software on your computer. Free software is one of the most common sources of random toolbar installation.

Webcam hacking is quite common nowadays, and the last thing you want is some creep spaying on you. If you notice your webcam activity light comes on and flickers even when you’re not using it, this is a sign that your computer has been hacked. Be sure to disconnect your webcam when you’re not using it. If it is built into your computer, you can cover it with black tape when you’re not using it.

10. The computer has slowed down.

All computers gradually slowdown in performance as they get older. Sometimes however, it may have nothing to do with the age of your computer. If the simplest tasks such as booting up and loading applications are taking considerably longer, it might mean that your computer’s processor is being overworked because it not only has to process the instructions that you’re giving it, but it also has to process instructions from the malware that’s been installed on the computer.

How can I check if my Windows 10 computer has a virus?

If you suspect that your Windows 10 computer has been infected by malware, start by running a full virus scan to detect the malware infecting your computer. If you don’t have antivirus installed and are running Windows 10, follow the steps below:

Type settings into the Windows search box to run the Settings app.

Click on Update and Security.

In the left menu, click on Windows Security.

In the Protection areas menu panel, click on Virus & Threat protection.

Scroll down to Current threats. Perform a full scan by clicking on Scan Options and select Full Scan and click on Scan Now.

What can I do if a virus scan is not fruitful?

Security software isn’t perfect. There could be instances where Microsoft Defender or any other antivirus software does not detect the malware on your computer. According to security experts, thousands of new malware are created every week, and a new strain could easily slip past your antivirus software and get into your system. Once on your system, you may find that you’re prevented from downloading or running any malware clean-up tool.

Here are some things you could try:

  1. Most antivirus companies will send you an ISO file that you can use to boot from a USB drive. This will launch a separate operating system with a built-in antivirus.
  2. Symantec offers a free, downloadable Norton Power Eraser tool that is used to detect threats using aggressive methods. You can run a virus scan with this tool.
  3. Run Malware Chameleon. This is a free utility tool that you can use to easily remove malware from your computing device. Once you have extracted the contents of the zip file, you’ll find a list of files that don’t appear to have anything to do with malware removal.
Malwarebytes Chameleon

These files are so-called in order to fool the malware into thinking that the files don’t have anything to do with malware removal. Because the files don’t appear to be any type of security software, the malware doesn’t block them.

When you run these files, they will open a command prompt and download Malwarebytes in a way that won’t be detected by the malware. Anti-Malware is run automatically. It scans the disk and removes viruses and other malware.

Categories
PC SECURITY

9 Ways to Prevent Windows 10 From Spying on You

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Many users consider Windows 10 to be the best version of Windows that Microsoft has ever released. However, you may not be aware of how intrusive the operating system really is. By default, Windows 10 is programmed to constantly track confidential data about you and what you do on your computer, store that information on your hard drive and send it back to Microsoft via the web for processing.

According to Microsoft’s privacy statement, this information is used only to improve the operating system. It is not sold to third parties, and is deleted after 30 days. But no matter how Microsoft tries to spin this, most users would consider this an unfair intrusion on their privacy.

According to InvestmentWatch, Windows 10 transmits the following data back to Microsoft:

  • Typed text on keyboard sent every 30 minutes
  • Anything you say into a microphone
  • Transcripts of things you say while using Cortana
  • Index of all media files on your computer
  • When your webcam is first enabled, 35mb of data
  • Telemetry data

Here are privacy settings you can tweak to prevent Windows 10 from collecting data about what you do on your computing device.

1. Switch off your location.

For security reasons, it would be a bad idea to keep your location switched on all the time. When you keep your location switched on, Windows 10 stores your computing device’s location history for up to 24 hours. During this time, apps with location permissions will have access to that data.

If your location is switched off, apps that use your location (such as the Maps app) will not be able to find you. But you can manually set a default location that apps can use.

To switch off your location, go to Start > Settings > Privacy > Location. Click the Change button under Location for this device is on and toggle it to off. Below this setting, you can also allow or restrict apps from knowing your location.

2. Turn off ad tracking.

Each Microsoft account has a unique advertising ID that allows Microsoft to collect information about you. The ID gathers info about you as you browse the web and as you use Windows 10 apps. This information is used to create a profile of you and your interests to deliver a personalized ad experience across various platforms. When you sign into Windows 10 with a Microsoft account, targeted ads will follow you onto your computer. You’ll see them in frequently used apps and sometimes in the operating system itself. 

To switch these ads off in Windows 10, go to Start > Settings > Privacy > General > Toggle off Let apps use advertising ID to make ads more interesting to you based on your app usage. This doesn’t mean you won’t see ads any more. You’ll still see ads, but they just won’t be personalized to you.

3. Use Microsoft’s Privacy Dashboard

Microsoft has introduced a web-based privacy tool that allows you to track and delete a lot of information that Microsoft collects about you. To get to it, when you’re logged in with your Microsoft account, go to account.microsoft.com/privacy. Here you can do things like turn off ad targeting, delete data gathered by Cortana, to review and delete data about you that Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer have collected about you including location activity, search history, browsing history, voice activity, social media activity, and a lot more.

Turning this off will prevent ads from showing up when you’re using Windows 10, but you’ll still see ads when you’re using Windows 10 on other platforms. If you want to get rid of ads on other platforms, you can do so from Microsoft’s advertising opt-out page.  

4. Change your app permissions.

You can decide what level of access Windows apps can have on your device because they have the potential to intrude on your privacy by gaining access to your camera, location, pictures, videos and microphone. To control app permissions, go to Start > Settings > Privacy. Type App Permissions in the search box on the left pane, and you’ll get a list of all of all the hardware and features that Windows apps can access if they have permission to do so. By clicking on any of the items, you can turn off access for all apps. You can also view a listing of all apps that have access to the microphone, and control access on an app-by-app basis.

5. Stop syncing.

If you have multiple Windows 10 devices, when you sign into Windows 10 on one device with your Microsoft account, you can sync your settings with all of your Windows devices. For example, if you make any changes to settings on your desktop PC, those settings, including your passwords, will be applied to your laptop when you login with the same account. Note that if you switch off syncing, your settings and passwords will not be synced when you login with the same Microsoft account. To switch of syncing, go to Start > Settings > Accounts > Sync your settings. Here you have the option of turning syncing off or switching it off for different features.

6. Switch to a local account.

Once you have turned off syncing across your devices, there’s no point using your Microsoft account to login to your computing devices. You can simply use a local account that doesn’t require email, which will prevent Microsoft from collecting information about you. When you create a local account, all you need to do is to create a username and password.

Click here for instructions on how to create a local Windows account. Note however that when this is done, you won’t be able to use Microsoft’s OneDrive storage or install paid apps from the Microsoft store. However, you’ll still be able to install free apps from the Microsoft store.

7. Switch off Timeline

If you have multiple Windows 10 devices, Timeline is a feature that allows you to resume activities that you’ve started on one device, on another device. For example, if you begin work on a Windows 10 laptop and logoff, you’ll be able to resume your activities on a different Windows 10 machine. But to do this, Windows will need to collect information about your activities on both computers and send it off to Microsoft. If this is something that bothers you, you can switch Timeline off.

To do that, go to Start > Settings > Privacy > Activity History and uncheck the boxes next to Store my activity history on this device and Send my activity history to Microsoft.

8. Limit what information Cortona gathers about you.

Cortona is a visual assistant built into Windows 10. But for it to work well, Cortona collects a lot of information about you including your device location information and location history, contacts, voice input, searching history, calendar details, content, place of work and the times and route you take to get there, as well as communication history from messages and apps on your device. You can limit the amount of information that Cortona gathers about you. Note however, that there’s some information you’ll have to share if you want to use Cortona at all.

Make sure you are signed in to your Microsoft account. Open Cortona settings by clicking on the circle icon next to the Windows 10 search box, then click the three-dot icon in the top left of the screen. Select the Settings icon. A panel appears that allows you to limit the information Cortona gathers about you. If you click on Revoke Permission and sign out, Cortona won’t collect any information about you, but you also won’t be able to use the tool.

To clear other information from Cortana, go to the Privacy Dashboard. Scroll down to ‘Cortona’s Notebook’ and click on Edit Cortona. To delete all of the data Cortona has collected about you, click Clear Cortona data on the right of the screen. You will have to repeat this process from time to time because Cortona will begin to collect information about you once you start using. If you don’t want the tool to collect any information, you’ll have to stop using it completely.

9. Use the free WPD tool

The WPD tool is the most convenient way to manage all of your privacy settings in Windows 10. The tool is easy to use and simplifies the process of finding the settings you need to change. It also tells you what each setting does, so you don’t have to try to figure anything out on your own.

Here’s how to use the WPD tool:

  1. Go to wpd.app.

2. Click the big blue Download button

3. Right click the zipped folder and click open

4. Double click the WPD app

Click “Extract All”

Select where to save the file. Make sure “Show extracted files when complete” box is checked. Click on browse and select desktop in the left pane. Click on “Select Folder” and click on Extract.

Double-click on WPD.exe file.

wpd app

Click “Yes” to allow WPD.exe to make changes.

You’re now faced with 3 icons:

Privacy

Click on the Privacy button to manage your privacy settings. Under Local Group Policy, toggle off each setting you want to switch off. If you’re not sure about a particular setting, click on the question mark beside the setting for an explanation.

Blocker

This is where you can block the Windows 10 Telemetry data. This typically includes basic system diagnostics information, logs of how frequently you use features and applications, system files, and other metrics that Microsoft hasn’t disclosed. This is where you can also block applications like Skype, Bing, Live and Microsoft Office. You can also block Windows Update, but this isn’t recommended, as that could leave holes in your operating systems that cybercriminals can exploit. This is also where you can enable or disable the Windows Firewall (should be left on). 

Apps

This is where you can directly remove any unwanted Windows app from your PC.

At the bottom of the tool, avoid choosing “Disable All”. Doing so will switch off all the privacy settings including Microsoft Services and Task Scheduler settings in one felt swoop. It is better to go through each individual setting one by one.

Categories
PC SECURITY

How to Secure Your PC When You’re Not in the Room

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Windows 10 has a great feature called Dynamic Lock that will automatically lock your PC whenever you leave the room. It works by pairing your Android with your computing device. But for this feature to work, you need to have Bluetooth enabled on your phone, and your PC needs to have Bluetooth capability. To activate Dynamic Lock, all you have to do is take your phone with you when you’re not in the room, and it will automatically lock around a minute after it detcts that you’re no longer in Bluetooth range.

How it works

Dynamic Lock will lock your computer automatically based on the following:

  1. It does not detect user input for at least 30 seconds.
  2. Bluetooth has been enabled on the PC and smartphone.   
  3. Your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone is no longer in the same room.
  4. If someone starts to use your PC while it’s unlocked, Dynamic Lock won’t engage even if you leave the room with your smartphone.
  5. There’s no Dynamic Unlock feature when you return to your desk. You’ll have to login again.

How to enable Dynamic Lock

Step 1: Enable Bluetooth on your PC and Android device.

Each Android device may vary, so if you can’t find your Bluetooth settings, check your phone’s manual. You can also visit this link: https://support.google.com/android/answer/3094742

Enable Bluetooth on Android:

  1. Tap on Settings on your Android device.
  2. Look for Bluetooth or the Bluetooth symbol in your settings and tap it.
  3. Look for the option to enable. Tap on it so that is in the on position.

Enable Bluetooth on Windows 10:

  1. Select the Start button, then select Settings > Devices > Bluetooth & other devices.
  2. Toggle the Bluetooth switch to turn it On or Off as desired.

Step 2: Pair your phone

You must first pair your phone with your PC before you can enable Dynamic Lock.

  1. On your PC, go to Settings > Devices > Bluetooth & other devices. (You can also press Start and then type Bluetooth in the search bar and press enter.)
  2. Turn on Bluetooth with the toggle switch.
  3. Next, tap the “+” button for Add Bluetooth or other device.
  4. In the pop-up Add a device window, click on Bluetooth, then choose your device from the list that shows up.
  5. You should now get prompts on both your PC and phone.
  6. Passcodes will appear on your phone and PC. If they match, accept them both by clicking Yes on the PC and then click Pair on the phone to pair.

Update your PC’s Bluetooth driver:

In the search box next to the Start button, type Device Manager and click to expand the Bluetooth line.

Right-click on the first Bluetooth item listed (e.g, Bluetooth USB module), tap Update driver and then select Search automatically for updated driver software.

Step 2: Activate Dynamic Lock

Once your PC and phone have been paired:

  • Click the Start button
  • Go to Settings > Accounts
  • Click Sign-in options in the left panel.
  • Scroll down to the Dynamic Lock section and check the box for Allow Windows to detect when you’re away and automatically lock the device when you’re away.
  • You’re done!

You have now enabled Dynamic Lock. So, every time you leave the room with your smartphone, your PC should automatically to into Locked mode.

Categories
INTERNET SECURITY

How to Create a Long and Complex Password That Is Easy to Remember

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Your password is your first line of defence when it comes to securing your accounts for the various websites, apps and services that you use. Many victims of cybercrime have had their lifetime savings stolen, spent hours registering for new accounts, and their credit destroyed, all because of weak passwords.

According to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations report, 80 percent of data breaches are caused by compromised, weak, and reused passwords. Don’t let this happen to you. It is really important to start taking your online security more seriously than ever because the amount and sophistication of hacking activity has been steadily increasing for years and is now at record levels

Your password is the key to your digital world. It authenticates your identity. In fact, your password is often the only thing protecting you from cybercriminals. But if you’re like most people, you probably don’t treat passwords all that seriously. And to some degree, that’s understandable because most people don’t regard themselves as potential targets of cybercrime.

But once you understand that anyone can be a target, you’ll see why your passwords are critically important.

Consider the following scary hacking statisitcs:

  • There is a hacker attack every 39 seconds (Source: Security magazine)
  • Cybercrime is more profitable than the global illegal drug trade. (Source: Cybersecurity Ventures)
  • Hackers steal 75 records every second. (Source: Breach Level Index)
  • You can purchase a consumer account for $1 on the dark market. (Source: RSA)
  • 80% of hackers say “humans are the most responsible for security breaches”. (Source: Thycotic.com)
  • Hackers are the average American’s biggest fear. (Source: Statista)
  • More than 6,000 online criminal marketplaces sell ransomware products and services. (Source: McAfee)
  • There will be 3.5 million cybersecurity job openings in 2021. (Source: Cybersecurityventures)
  • Bank transfer scams costs customers £1 million a day. (Source: DailyMail.co.uk) 

The most powerful and secure passwords will protect your online accounts from attacks and ward off attacks, but they don’t have to be difficult to remember.

Read on to learn how to create passwords for your online accounts that are not only extremely secure , but are also easy to remember…

How Hackers Crack Passwords

There are two main methods that attackers generally use to try to crack passwords:

1. Brute force attack

An effective password is not simply about using an uncommon word or phrase. Even if your password is hard to guess, it may be susceptible to what is known as a brute force attack. A brute force attack is where an attacker uses a special computer program to try every combination of symbols, numbers, and letters to systematically guess your login info.

Many people have this image in their head of a hacker sitting at sitting in front of a laptop, guessing passwords. That’s not quite how it works. Hackers have several password-cracking strategies at their disposal. One of them is to use automation software that can crunch hundreds of billions of numbers per second. Unfortunately, sites like Facebook don’t have a login trial limit. This means an attacker can try multiple password combinations as many times as they like to try to get into your account.

Generally, any password under 12 characters is vulnerable to being cracked. With this strategy, the hacker simply automates their specialized computer program to guess millions of different users’ passwords every second until they find the correct login credentials. With these tools, hackers are generally able to guess passwords at the rate of 350 billion guesses a second!

2. Dictionary attack

With a dictionary attack, the hacker tries an ordered list of words such as you would find in a dictionary. This means if your password is an ordinary word that can be found in a dictionary, it can be cracked with ease.

Here are the top 25 most commonly used passwords primarily from North American and Western European users in 2020. Each of these passwords can be cracked in seconds. The most popular password in 2019 was 12345, followed by 123456, and 123456789.

NordPass recently released the top 200 passwords in 2020, and 73 percent of those are incredibly easy to guess. Click through to see if you can recognize your password in the list.

As we have learned, the shorter and more common a password, the easier it will be for the password to be cracked using brute force attacks. Ideally, your password should be a long, random string of letters, numbers and special characters that means absolutely nothing and is impossible to guess. However, the problem is that unless you have a photographic memory, remembering such a password is going to be problematic for a single account, to say the least. And when you have to do this for multiple accounts, you can see why this would be completely impossible. 

Fortunately, there are certain techniques you can use to create an uncrackable password that will be easy for you to remember. Follow these handy tips, and you won’t have to worry about losing the key to your online personal kingdom.

The Passphrase Method

A passphrase is a random collection of common words combined together into a phrase. It is generally longer than a traditional password, but is easy to remember and yet far harder to crack even with brute force attacks. As we’ve already learned, increasing the number of characters in a password makes that password much harder to crack. A traditional password is typically 8 – 16 characters in length, while a passphrase can be as long as 100 characters.

Consequently, using a long passphrase instead of a traditional password is one of the simplest, most powerful and most effective ways to create a strong and complex password and protect your confidential information online.

The Bruce Schneier Method

This is also known as the sentence method. To create your passphrase using this technique, start by picking a long, random phrase from pop culture such as the favourite lyrics from a song or a favourite line from a movie or book. The idea is to come up with a random sentence and transform it into a powerful password using a rule such as using the first character of the phrase to create your passphrase.

For example, if your favourite song is Blame it on the boogie by The Jacksons, your passphrase could be:

“MY FAVOURITE SONG IS BLAME IT ON THE BOOGIE BY THE JACKSONS.” “IT WAS RELEASED IN 1978.” Based on the sentence technique, this is what your password could look like:

“MFSIBIOTBBTJ.” “IWRI1978.”

As you can see, this is a long and complex password that doesn’t make sense to anyone but you. Keep in mind that the quotes and periods are all part of the password itself. You can easily memorize it, and you don’t even have to write it down.

When you create a new password, get into the habit of checking how secure it is by using the website, how secure is my password. For example it will take 25 “septillion years” to crack the above password.

This means it will take millions of years to crack this password which makes it uncrackable, but yet very easy for you to remember.

How can I create a unique password for each website?

It will be challenging and time consuming to create a unique passphrase for each online account, especially if you have over 100 accounts like the average user. However, you can fix this problem simply be creating a master password based on a passphrase and then add the name of each website to the end of your password.

So, if your password is “MFSIBIOTBBTJ.” “IWRI1978.”, your Facebook password could be “MFSIBIOTBBTJ.” “IWRI1978.”Facebook. Your Barclays account password could be “MFSIBIOTBBTJ.” “IWRI1978.”Barclays, and so on. This ensures that you have a unique and complex password for each online account, based on a single master password.

Using a Password Manager

Another quick and easy way of ensuring that you have a unique and complex password for each online account is by using a password manager. A password manager is a software application that generates secure passwords for you and then stores them in a secure, encrypted database known as a vault. Then, as you visit your favourite websites, you can retrieve those passwords with the option of having them auto filled in your browser. So, you get all of the benefits of secure and complex passwords without actually having to remember any of them.

The Master Password

When you sign up to use a password manager, you will be prompted to create a master password. This is the only password you will have to remember. The master password protects all of your passwords, so it is crucial that you come up with a long and complex password that is based on the above technique.

Categories
PC SECURITY

Top 11 Mistakes to Avoid When Creating a Password

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Every day, more and more people are having their accounts hacked because of their passwords. People have had money stolen from their bank accounts, lost sleep, spent hours setting up new accounts, or had their credit ruined. And the source of all of this can be traced to weak passwords.

If you do not secure your computer and online accounts with a strong password, the more vulnerable they will be to hackers and malicious software.

With that being said, here are 8 common mistakes to avoid when choosing a password…

Mistake #1: Using the same password on different websites.

Many victims of online banking fraud often use the same password for their online bank accounts as they do for social media and online shopping sites. Recent research carried out by F-Secure shows that people have an average of over one hundred accounts requiring password login and 41 percent of those people reuse the same password across those accounts. That number increases to 56 percent when slight variations of the same password are used. This is understandable. Remembering long, complex and totally unique passwords for so many different email and password combinations is practically impossible.

But what you must realise is that if you use the same login info for all of your online accounts and if any one of those sites get hacked, you would have to change your password on every other site. For example, if a cybercriminal gets hold of your eBay password, the first thing they will do is try it with your PayPal account. Using a single password for all of your online accounts is just like having a master key that unlocks everything. If someone gets access to that key, they can steal everything.

Mistake #2: Not updating your password.

Many people find it inconvenient to change their passwords, which is why they carry on using the same passwords for years. This can be quite dangerous, especially if your password is not particularly strong. If your password is less than 12 characters, your password is vulnerable, and it is important to change your password on a regular basis such as every 90 days to avoid being hacked.

Mistake #3: Using short passwords

One of the most common ways that hackers try to guess your password is through brute force attacks. As already mentioned, any password that is under 12 characters is vulnerable. Brute force attacks show that password length is very important. If you have a six-character password with upper case, lower case, numbers and special characters, that six-character password can be brute forced in about 12 hours.

If you increase that toe a 12-character password, it would take almost 2000 years to brute force the same password. So just by doubling the password length, you have significantly increased the amount of time it would take an attacker to brute force your password. This means, the longer your password, the better.

Mistake #4: Using people’s names.

Along with a longer password, you want to make sure that your password has enough randomness in it. Passwords that are created around things like names are much easier for cybercriminals to break because the combination of characters is more predictable. By choosing a name as your password, you’re making a hacker’s job easier. Avoid using people’s names, celebrity names, kids’ names, nicknames, names from characters in books or movies.

You should also avoid other obvious choices such as your address, favorite band, sports team, pet’s name, the word ‘password,’ and any alternations of it. Such passwords are very weak and will be relatively easy to guess. When you use weak passwords to secure your online accounts, you are only making it easier for someone to compromise all of your accounts.

Mistake #5: Using easy to remember English words

English words that are easy to remember are also easy to guess. Your passwords should never contain English words, non-English words or any words that can be found in any dictionary. Furthermore, according to security experts, if your password contains one or more recognizable words with a few of the letters changed to numbers and even with some random characters at the beginning and/or end, it could get cracked in as little as 3 days.

Mistake #6: Using personal information as your password.

Avoid including information about you that is easy to find online in your password. These include birthdays, social security numbers, telephone numbers, anniversaries, address, city of birth, university, high school, and relatives’ and pets’ names. Using these types of details will only make your password easier to guess.

Mistake #7: Using a used computer you bought from a private buyer without checking for malware.

Logging in to your personal accounts on a second hand computer that you bought from a private buyer is a big risk. Install antivirus before you do any such thing. It is easy for cybercriminals to sell computers that they have infected with malware that is designed to steal your password. They can also install a keylogger that tracks everything you type and relays it back to the previous owner, including the usernames and passwords you’ve used to sign into your bank accounts.

Mistake #8: Relying on common substitutions in your password.

Common tricks such as substituting numbers or special characters for letters are completely ineffective against brute force attacks. Those types of passwords will be cracked with ease. Random character placement is a much more effective technique. 

Mistake #9: Entering your passwords when connected to public Wi-Fi.

Do not enter your passwords whenever you are connected to an unsecured Wi-Fi connection. Free Wi-Fi such as those that are found in coffee shops, hotels, train stations and other places are known to be favorite hunting grounds for hackers. It will be easy for them to harvest your passwords and confidential information over an unsecured connection.

Mistake #10: Saving passwords in your browser.

Whenever your internet browser asks for permission to remember your passwords especially when you sign into a site like your bank, always decline and choose the “never” option.

Mistake #11: Using your password on an insecure computer.

Do not enter your password on computers that you have no control over. That computer may have malicious software designed to steal your password.

You are ultimately responsible for keeping your information safe and secure. These tips can help you avoid most of the hazards you may come across along the way.

Click here to learn how you can create a long and complex password that will be very easy for you to remember.

Categories
PC SECURITY

What is a Computer Virus? Tips to Protect Your Computer in 2021

Reading Time: 4 minutes

What is a computer virus?

A computer virus is a type of malicious program that gets into your computer through email attachments or are hidden inside of other software applications that you have downloaded to your computer. Viruses are primarily created to alter the way a computer functions. Although they cannot damage the physical hardware of a computer system, some viruses have the capacity to render the device completely useless within seconds. Thousands of new viruses are discovered by security experts every week.

How does a computer virus work?

Once a virus has attached itself to a legitimate program on your computer, it can remain dormant without showing any symptoms until the infected program is run, which in turn will cause the virus to be activated. When a virus is activated, it means that it is in the computer’s memory, where it will be able to do a lot of damage such as infecting other applications in the machine. Once the infection phase of the virus is complete, the next stage begins: the destructive phase, where it delivers its payload. Viruses will wait for a certain trigger such as a date before it delivers its payload. This can be the deletion of files all the way to the destruction of the operating system.

Some of the damage a virus can do include:

  • Steal passwords and sensitive data
  • Log keystrokes
  • Corrupt or delete files and folders
  • Spam email contacts
  • Completely take over your device
  • Damage your hard disk

How does a computer get infected with a virus?

In the olden days, viruses were distributed on a floppy disk. Today, as the Internet has matured, computer viruses are spread in several ways.

  • The virus can attach itself to legitimate software such as a computer game, PDF file or office document which is then downloaded to a device.
  • By clicking on an attachment in an email that is infected with a virus.
  • By clicking a malicious link in an email or text message that redirects to an infected webpage which downloads a virus to your computer.
  • By clicking on a malicious link in a social media message or post.  
  • Through external storage devices such as USB sticks.
  • A network user visiting an infected site will infect other devices on the same network.
  • Some viruses are part of macros in spreadsheets or word processing applications like Microsoft Office.

What are signs or symptoms of a computer virus?

If your computer has been infected with a virus, it will begin to show symptoms that indicate the computer has been infected, and what type of virus it has been infected with:

  • Unexpected pop-ups. The popups that suddenly appear when you browse the web are actually coming from adware that’s been installed on your computer. These popups are used to sell fake antivirus programs. Avoid clicking on them as they will actually install different types of malware onto your computer.
  • Your search engine changes without your consent. When your homepage is changed or your search engine changes without your consent, you won’t be able to reset it. It means your web browser has been infected with browser hijackers and adware that has been installed on your computer. When this happens, you’ll be redirected to unfamiliar websites and see unwanted advertisements that originate from the viruses that have been installed on your system.
  • Your computer and internet speed slows down. Sudden loss of performance is one of the most common symptoms that indicate your computer has been infected by a virus. Your operating system will take longer than normal to start, and software programs will take ages to open. Your internet speed will also slow down considerably. If you have recently downloaded free software, you may have inadvertently downloaded a virus that was attached to the file.
  • Antivirus software is disabled. If your antivirus software is disabled, this is a clear sign that your computer has been infected with malware. Antivirus software cannot get disabled on its own. You’re also likely to find that you’re unable to download antiviral software.
  • Slow internet. Computer viruses are a major cause of slow internet performance. Some viruses can hog your internet bandwidth by sending out hundreds of spam emails per minute.
  • Strange programs: You may suddenly have unrecognized applications on your computer that launch by themselves.
  • Programs crashing: If you have a virus, your computer is likely to crash frequently, with programs opening and closing automatically. You may not be able to open your programs and files. You’ll may also see strange messages as you boot.
  • Overactive hard drive: If you find that your hard drive is exhibiting a high level of activity and constantly spins even though you’re not using the device, it is highly likely that you have a virus in the machine.
  • Password changes: if you’re suddenly no longer able to login to your computer, a virus may be preventing you from logging in.
  • Missing files: If you find that certain files and programs have suddenly been deleted or moved around, this is likely to mean that you have a virus on your system.
  • Constantly active internet connection: if your internet connection is very active even when you’re not using it, you may have a virus that is transferring messages back and forth across the web.

How can I prevent computer virus infection?

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Installing antivirus software on your system may not be enough to guard your computer against all types of viruses, with thousands being created every single week. Here are crucial tips you can use to protect your computer from being infected by a nasty virus.

  • Use strong passwords. Secure your computer with a strong, unique and complex password. You need to make it extremely difficult for your computer to get hacked.
  • Stay up to date. Ensure that you have the very latest versions of all applications installed on your devices. Legitimate software vendors regularly update their software to get rid of vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit.
  • Install good antivirus software. Antivirus software are not a complete solution, but they can identify and eliminate threats and keep your system protected.
  • Enable your firewall. Modern operating systems come with a firewall pre-installed. Be sure to enable it to provide an extra layer of protection against viruses and other online threats.
  • Block pop-ups. A pop-up blocker will prevent pop-up ads that can download malware onto your system.
  • Beware of phishing emails. Clicking attachments in phishing emails is one of the most common ways to download viruses to your computer. Never click a link or download an attachment in an email unless you are 100% confident of the source of that email.
Categories
INTERNET SECURITY

Why a Basic Understanding of Cyber Security is Absolutely Necessary

Reading Time: 5 minutes

It was a mixture of an embarrassing and scary fiasco late last year (2020) when one of the “Big 6” tech giants (Google) major networks shut down for the better part of an hour. Users connected through the Google Homes, Cloud service, navigation services, Email, Streaming services, and some others were OFF grid for the better part of an hour. While official reports claimed it was an internecine problem, external reports claimed otherwise.

 However, the truth remains that we have come to that stage in our society’s development, where we must no longer be careless with simple data like SIN, Driver’s license, and other personal information.

The internet is undeniably one of the best things ever to happen to our world as far as globalization and development are concerned. But this has not prevented it from becoming one of the most effective, catastrophic, and advanced tools for unscrupulous people. Even as you read this, bots are crawling about the internet looking for weaker systems to infiltrate.

There is no way to sugarcoat this; it will be highly irresponsible and lethargic for any individual, firm or organization to be oblivious to their security on the internet space. With the massive rise in remote working (a result of the global pandemic), more internet-related issues have continued to come up, and it doesn’t seem to be retrogressing anytime soon.

A lot of people neglect taking steps to protect themselves because they think, “why would anyone want to hack me?” Well, for starters, if you have any money to your name, there are plenty of cybercriminals that would very happy to relieve you of that money. But beyond that, they could also steal your identity to open new bank accounts, run up charges on your credit card, get a passport in your name, use your health insurance, and a variety of other things that are undesirable to say the least.

And even if hackers didn’t manage to get hold of your most sensitive information, for example, if they just managed to get into your social media accounts, they can still exploit your reputation and take advantage of the people who know you.

So the bottom line is, you don’t have to be a celebrity, you don’t have to be rich. If you use the internet frequently, you are already a target. That’s why a basic understanding of cyber security is essential for anyone living and working in the modern world.

The FBI Criminal Center (IC3) reports that there is a growing increase in cybercrime complaints per day. It now stands at over 900 per day, and I say it could be quadruple that amount because many don’t even know they are being hacked.  Also, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that consumers lost a whopping $134 million in the first six months of 2020, a mammoth increase from the $117 million in the whole of 2019.

You may continue to look at these as “statistics” until you or someone close to you is affected (which is not always pretty).  This and others listed here are other reasons why a basic knowledge of internet security is important.

1.      Helps you take more pro-active steps

If you are on a visit to a country and the official “country guide” says extreme temperatures all-time in a region. Surely, you will want to stock on your deep, thick wool and fur cloaks. Or the guide says lots of pick-pockets in that region; you will always keep your eyes on your valuables. It is the same with having a basic knowledge of cybersecurity.

It will make it easier for you to detect, suspect and manage any form of internet attacks on your resources, data, or portfolio.

2.      Keeps your network security “healthy”

Just like how we hear of “spam”, internet bots are worse, they can be sent to your network systems to overwhelm and crash the system’s security. Many big tech companies create specific lines of codes to trace and rebuff bots on their networks. Also, internet bots can make the entire system lag and inconvenient for users.

Without a basic knowledge of internet security, it will be hard to understand the impacts of bots.

3.      Save yourself the banal “Hey, you have got the wrong person”

Remember the Bitcoin scandal on Twitter? Where accounts impersonating top billionaires swindled people of their crypto coins?

Personal data theft has become the fastest thriving evils on the internet. It has become a lot easier to steal a person’s data as it was 100 years ago. Asides from creating faux accounts, many even go as far as hacking the individual’s social media accounts.  

Losing your data is even more painful because it can badly sever trust, business/Family ties, complicate existing issues, and worse still, the wrong person ends up at the receiving end.

4.      Helps you guard your resources

There is an estimated £1 million scam in bank transfers each day. And this is mostly a matter of pure naivety and ignorance on the part of the victim.

No “prince” from anywhere in the world needs your money for anything of sorts, and not a “marine sergeant”.  Funny and scary is the fact that people still fall for these scam techniques. A basic understanding of how internet security works will help you understand the different tricks these people play to alter the location, IDs, voice, images, videos, and other elements.

5.      Lots of business are now done remotely

Now more than ever, we need to be more vigilant of our actions on the internet. The debilitating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many jobs now done remotely and ironically using the internet. 

Data and information transfers, especially sensitive ones, must be encrypted and protected by all means. Transfer of other resources, money, and other aids in the business must be protected, and completed under a secure network. Simple internet protocols should be taught to staff and other employees in the business.

6.      Cybercrime is a menace for everyone

Most people erroneously conclude that internet fraudsters and hackers target big companies. The fact is that their crude and brutal means for their nefarious acts are more dangerous to smaller, small-budget networks. 

Individuals, Organizations, and the government all suffer from internet breaches and attempts on their networks. It makes it expedient for everyone to get a basic knowledge of internet security. 

7.      Know that every info on the internet is useful to hackers

Your failed login passwords, personal addresses on your account, images, social media stories, and other things, that you consider mundane can be used to hurt or attack you even physically. It is why most sites block their user’s data, save for the name.

There have been lots of cases where people were traced, hunted, or harmed through their online data.

Wrapping Up

In this time of massive globalization, ignorance will only drag you farther. What you refuse to learn today might hunt your investments tomorrow. 

One funny thing about cybercrime is that it is that the effects are always exponential compared to the prevention of such acts. It is the swiftest means to con a person or organization, and it is usually untraceable.

You do not need to be a Manhattan Beach resident or a Silicon Valley CEO to protect yourself on the internet. It is relevant for everyone.