Internet & Computer Protection Tips

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has issued warnings this year about spam emails containing malware and phishing attempts that appear to be greeting cards and ads for shopping bargains.

The FBI urges victims of cyber crimes to report them to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Phishing is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Communications purporting to be from popular social websites, auction sites, online banks, online payment processors, or information technology (IT) administrators are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting. Phishing is typically carried out by email or instant messaging, and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose URL and look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate 1.

Email spam, also known as bulk email or junk email, is a subset of spam that involves nearly identical messages sent to numerous recipients by email. A common synonym for spam is unsolicited bulk email. About 80% of all spam is sent by fewer than 200 spammers. Networks of virus-infected computers, are used to send about 80% of spam. The cost of spam is borne mostly by the recipient.

Malware, from the words malicious and software, is software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system. The expression is a general term used by computer professionals to mean a variety of forms of hostile, intrusive, or annoying software or program code. Many computer users are unfamiliar with the term, and often use "computer virus" for all types of malware, including true viruses.

Software is considered malware based on the perceived intent of the creator rather than any particular features. Malware includes computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, most rootkits, spyware, dishonest adware, crimeware, and other malicious and unwanted software.

Safe Computer Practices
Most workplaces have multiple filters in place to stop most of this type of activity. This may not be the same with your home computer. Whether at work or home, we recommend good safe computer practices to include the following:
  • Do not open suspicious / unsolicited emails. Just delete them.
  • Never respond to spam.
  • Never click on the “unsubscribe” button or link. If you do, you just confirmed to the spammer that he has a valid email address and you will be flooded with more, not less, unwanted spam.
  • Do not be fooled into forwarding emails “to everyone you know” that proclaim they are “early warnings” of major new viruses. These emails are scams.
  • Pop-ups of “Antivirus 2009” or similar title that states their computer has been infected and are offering a free download to “fix” the problem is a hoax. The download is malware.
  • Do not download software from a pop-up. If you do, and cannot close the window any other way, shut down your machine, reboot it, and do not revisit the website the pop-up came from.
Don't Be a Victim
The FBI offers the following tips to avoid becoming a victim:
  • Do not respond to spam.
  • Do not click on links contained within unsolicited email.
  • Be cautious with email attachments and open only those from known senders.
  • Do not supply personal information via email surveys, or emails from financial institutions saying they need to update or verify your information.
  • Compare the links in emails to the links they connect to in order to determine if they match. If they do not, leave the site.
  • Log on to websites that are advertised in unsolicited email rather than connecting via links in emails.
  • Contact the business that purportedly sent the email to verify if it is genuine.