Internet Security Guide

Internet security is more important than ever before as online technology comes more pervasive in every aspect of our lives. With the rapid expansion of mobile Internet, people in many areas now have online access throughout the day so long as they are within reach of a Wi-Fi hotspot or 3G/4G network.

As an increasing number of people use the Internet for everything from sending emails to shopping for clothes and trading stocks, the number of people looking to take advantage of this trend also increases. Hackers, phishers and other unscrupulous people work hard looking for ways to victimize other people online. The quantity of viruses, malware, spyware, adware and other malicious software is always growing.

People with ill intent look for ways to steal your money or your identity, or they simply try to wreak havoc with your computer system to boost their ego and their reputation among the hacker community. For all these reasons, Internet security should be of concern to everyone who uses the Internet.

Types of Internet threats

The most common threats encountered online are the various types of malicious software that can infect your computer, or the server that stores and processes your data. These software programs are classifiable into five main types: viruses, worms, malware, spyware and adware.

  • Viruses – Computer viruses infect computers and spread from one computer to another in a manner similar to how a biological virus spreads from person to person. These days viruses commonly migrate through Internet downloads or email attachments. A virus can destroy a computer system, but in many cases, it will act silently for some time so that it can maximize the number of computers that it infects.
  • Worms – A computer worm is like a virus, but it generally hides in otherwise non-malicious code. For example, a virus might reside secretly in a free software program that does not intend to do any harm. Sometimes, programs may carry a link to worms or other types of malicious software. Worms often appear over the Internet in popup windows or other types of links that require you to take action for the worm to infect your computer. To avoid worms, you can program your browser to reject popup windows, but the best practice is simply to avoid clicking on anything that looks suspicious or out of the ordinary.
  • Malware – A malware program attempts to harm your computer and even to shut off your antivirus and other security software. Malware is sophisticated software designed by people who thoroughly understand how computer security systems work. Some malware programs, after shutting down your security software, will mimic that software in order to trick you into updating your system. This type of malicious software can even make it difficult to utilize measures like Windows System Restore to install a backup copy of your system files before the malware infection. Many malware systems inform you that you need to update your antivirus software to deal with viruses that have infected your computer. The reality is that these notices come from the malicious software itself and when you enter your credit card information, the hackers will immediately drain your account. Removing malware is extremely difficult and often requires a computer professional because the system is so completely under the control of the malicious software.
  • Spyware – A spyware program is a piece of code designed to reside secretly on a computer in order to record data and send the information back to the hacker. Spyware can catch users as they enter their passwords, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, bank account routing numbers and other sensitive information. Spyware can allow the hacker to steal money from your accounts and even to steal your identity.
  • Adware – Adware is a type of software that infects your computer and serves unsolicited ads often through popup windows. While adware usually does not harm your computer, it still is bothersome and in some cases it may also act like spyware by tracking your shopping behaviour. Adware is usually easy to remove, but it is also the most prevalent type of Internet security problem since it usually works through the conventional cookie protocol.

How to deal with Internet security threats

The main types of software used to defend computers are antivirus programs, firewall software, anti-spyware software, anti-phishing software and security suites.

  • Antivirus Software – An antivirus program can continuously monitor your computer against virus infection and conduct file scans for existing viruses. Most antivirus solutions allow you to conduct either a quick scan of important files and folders or a full scan of your entire computer system.
  • Firewall Software – An Internet firewall screens traffic from the Internet that tries to access your computer. The firewall will only allow certain types of communication through the computer ports. Users can specify if they want the firewall to allow a specific domain or program to access their browser. In this way, you can use the firewall to restrict content from certain types of websites.
  • Anti-spyware Software – With this type of security solution, you can prevent spyware from snooping on your computer for private data. The anti-spyware detects and automatically removes any malicious spyware threats.
  • Anti-phishing Software – Phishing is a technique of mimicking reputable sites in order to lure computer users into entering their passwords, credit cards or other private information. The anti-phishing software provides a system of verifying the authenticity of websites.
  • Security Suites – A security suite solution bundles up some combination of antivirus, firewall, anti-phishing and anti-spyware software to provide your computer with a complete defensive system.

In addition to installing security software on your computer system, it is also important to use safe practices when online. Be careful about entering important private information like passwords and credit card numbers. Learn to check the site URL to ensure that you are at the proper Internet address and not on a phishing site instead. Do not install software programs until they are scanned by antivirus software. Safe practices are important because the threat environment evolves constantly.