How to avoid phishing or infection by computer virus?
You’ve been receiving warnings from friends that there are faked mails, phone calls, emails, WhatAapp, …..everyday and everywhere, how can we prevent our identities being stolen or being infected by computer virus? Despite there are now so many different means and the ways such culprits show up, the basic principle to tackle them remain the same ….
BE CAREFUL! Yes, that’s the defence that should always work and below are some advice/precautions one should bear in mind to tackle whatever newly invented culprits- be it mail, phone calls, emails, WhatsApp message, etc. With the information explosion nowadays, there are so many ‘interesting’ or enticing things you receive almost every minute, but carefully reading them and understanding them before taking action is always and increasing more important (this apply particularly to news!).
Do Not accept or act without reading/checking
By far one of the most common ways someone’s identity got stolen by phishing or a computer becomes infected is when a user accepts what they receive or see on the screen without reading carefully and understanding the prompt before proceeding. For instance:
- Got a seemingly Government official letter (tax, social welfare, utilities,…) and without carefully confirming authenticity, complete and return with your personal information. Always check the address on the Reply envelope, and such letters should always come with information re Privacy Ordinance, if in doubt, always call the relevant government department and check.
- While browsing the Internet, an Internet advertisement or window appears that says your computer is infected or that a unique plug-in is required. Without fully understanding what it is you’re getting, you accept the prompt.
- When installing or updating a program, you’re prompted (often checkboxes already checked) if it’s okay to install additional programs that you may not want or are designed to monitor your usage of the program.
Careful in opening e-mail attachments
Computers can become infected when users open email attachments that contain malicious code- this typically comes with enticing headings or descriptions such as “photos from your friend”, “Whatsapp attachment- click to Play”, etc. Even if the message is from a co-worker, friend, or family member, always use caution before opening a link or downloading an attachment. Zip file (filename.zip) is particularly suspicious and dangerous as you don’t know what the nature of the contents. They may call it photos and name them e.g. img00123.zip, but you should check with the sender first. As a general rule, DO NOT open e-mail you were not expecting to receive. The enticing WhatsApp logo in the emails with attachment can be a trap, as WhatsApp don’t send you emails- why don’t they WhatsApp you?
Always get and run the latest updates
Many of the OS (Operating System) updates, especially those associated with Microsoft Windows, are security oriented. Always keep your operating system and programs up to date. The plug-ins associated with your browser can also contain security vulnerabilities. Check that you have the latest versions for your OS and installed plug-ins, accept system messages recommending you to update.
Be Careful with pirating software, music, or movies
Best of all, stay away from them. This is high risks area such as using bit torrent for exchanges of software, music and videos. Quite often these files or programs contain viruses, spyware or malicious software in addition to what you believe your are downloading.
Do use antivirus spyware scanner
If you’re running a computer with Microsoft Windows, I highly recommended you have some form of antivirus and spyware protection. This software removes existing (if any) viruses and helps prevent future infections. Below are some help links:
Download software from reliable sources
When acquiring any software (programs, utilities, games, updates, demos, etc.) via the Internet, make sure you’re downloading the from a reliable source. Be sure to run your downloads through your antivirus and spyware scanners upon completion- some antivirus software use what they call a sandbox. As we stated in a previous section, during the installation process, reading all prompts about what the program is putting on your computer.
- Can a thumb drive be infected with a virus?
- How do I remove a virus from my computer?
- See the virus, spyware, and malware definitions for further information and related links.
- Computer virus information and help
Credit – much of the above information was obtained from Computer Hope (http://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch001045.htm)