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Computers---Tips on how to protect your Computer and Identity!

Updated on August 19, 2012
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Intro

Many people do not realize that their computer is at risk for many types of Malware. An infected computer can easily infect other computers as well as personal websites and home networks.

With just a few lines of code, even a low level programmer can steal an individual's identity as well as cause mischief with the computer by slowing down programs, eating away at files, and eventually deem the computer useless.

This article lists ways that a computer can be infected with Malware, lists a few ways to protect a computer from the threat, as well as tips to prevent a computer from such Malware attacks.

Below lists different types of Malware as well as different types of ways of receiving malicious software.

Malware

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Malware

Malware, is a general short name standing for malicious software, unfortunately lurks everywhere. Malware includes all types of viruses, worms, malicious scripts, trojan horses, spyware, and adware. There are many ways of coming across Malware.

Most common ways:

  • Flaws in programs--Hackers search for vulnerabilities/weaknesses in programs. Often times when the weakness is spotted, vendors will release a patch to seal the vulnerability. However, until that patch is released, there is a time where Malware can lurk and infect a computer.
  • User Actions--Most common ways of receiving Malware on a computer can happen by clicking on links that are infected or downloading infected software. Nearly guaranteed places to watch out for are pornography sites, "free" software sites that are most likely illegal or contain pirated material, as well as clicking on "You Won" type of links.

Some Signs of Infected Computer:

  • Will run slower, may crash often, may shut down unexpectedly, or not shut down at all.
  • User may have a ton more pop-ups that are hard to get rid of.
  • May have new toolbars in browsers.
  • May have new icons from unsolicited downloads.
  • May display webpages that were not clicked on.
  • Computer may show other quirky behavior.

Below lists some of the different types of Malware as well as a brief description and harm the Malware can do to a computer.

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Viruses

Viruses need a program to attach to in order to infect a computer. When the program is executed by a computer or even a mobile device, the virus will infect other programs.

Viruses can be found by downloading infected programs, embedded in e-mail attachments, or visiting other websites that are infected--this includes websites that are legitimate.

Worms

Worms are very tricky because they do not need to attach other programs and can spread from computer to computer at amazing speeds.

Worms can be found and spread through e-mail as well as specific computer weaknesses.

Scripts

Scripts are pieces of code (snippets) that are executed as soon as a webpage is displayed. HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) used to create webpages often contain such scripts. Most scripts are harmless and are used to enhance a webpage. However, there are some scripts that if the browser shows any weakness can infect the webpage.

Scripts can infect a computer just by visiting a webpage or can download malicious programs that can do damage.

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Trojan Horses/Spyware

Trojan Horses and Spyware are often disguised as system files and extremely dangerous because this type of Malware is used to steal information from a computer.

Some just collect information about websites visited, however other types can literally log each keystroke on the keyboard which can look for personal information such as passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers, as well as other personal information.

This can be installed easily through other viruses, worms, directly from a hacker, downloaded within files, pictures, e-mails etc. Once a Trojan is installed, it will find and exploit the individual user for as long as necessary.

Phishing

Phishing is a very dangerous type of spam. Phishing is common through clicking on e-mails that look authentic.

Basically, the e-mail can look like a bank that is used, common credit card companies, as well as companies like PayPal, or any other type of company.

Another way phishing is done is by creating fake yet authentic looking websites. Phishing is tricky to find.

The purpose of phishing is to find usernames and passwords to real accounts. Do NOT click on links in e-mails. Instead log into the secured encrypted website that often begin with https://. Often if the information is important it can be found on the encrypted website.

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Tips to Prevent Malware

The tips below are just some ways to prevent Malware. This does NOT guarantee that the computer will not become infected, however, will help against attacks.

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Use Anti-Virus Software, Firewalls, and Updates

This may seem like common sense to some. However, many do not realize the importance of using Anti-Virus Software along with using Firewalls as well as Updating a Computer.

Many ISPs(Internet Service Providers) offer free virus protection. Be sure to download and use the Anti-Virus protection given. Many Anti-Virus protection programs come with a Firewall. A Firewall acts like checkpoint and checks the credentials of packets and if a packet does not have the proper credentials, the packet is thrown out.

For those that do not have virus protection, should download some sort of protection. Avast and AVG offer a free Anti-Virus program, however, be sure to use a Firewall with the free version of these products.

Lavasoft Ad-Aware is another highly recommended program that is free and offers Anti-Virus/Malware detection and removal and should be used in combination with a Firewall. This product is amazing and does catch both older and newer forms of Malware. This can be used and should be used along side other virus protection software.

Norton is a awesome program that offers a free 30-Day trial and does offer Firewall protection along with other tools that allow a computer to stay up-to-date. McAfee is also a awesome program that does offer Firewall protection as well.

Although Anti-Virus Software will detect and remove many viruses, they necessarily will not detect or remove worms. Worms can be prevented by using a Firewall as well as using Computer Updates. Updating a computer will help close any vulnerabilities a computer may have and will help prevent attacks.

Lavasoft Free Ad-Aware

Screenshot of Lavasoft Ad-Aware Free Version
Screenshot of Lavasoft Ad-Aware Free Version
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Passwords

One of the easiest ways of hacking a computer directly is through passwords. A beginner programmer with just a little knowledge of hacking can crack passwords using what is known as a dictionary attack.

Just like the name of the attack, uses a customized dictionary to find trends in passwords by looking for direct words and names. With that information, the hacker can easily capture passwords to steal an identity or cause other havoc.

Ways to prevent this type of attack is to use long passwords mixed with upper and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers. Because many people use basic passwords, hackers can easily find many victims with a dictionary attack. If the password is too complicated, the hacker feels there are many other fish in the sea, and most likely won't bother with using more time doing a brute force attack.

*Note never keep passwords on a mobile device or in a document. Also note be sure to use different passwords for each account and make it a habit to change passwords every few months. NEVER give passwords to others!!!

Below are some common password types.

Examples

Instead of:
Try Something Similar to This:
Password
P@$$w0rd&xYz
ILovemydog
1L0v3mID0gg13!
swordfish
$w0rdF1$hSw!mz$
momanddad
M0m@^dD@dRc0oL
StarWars
$t@rW@r$R0Ck$!
HotStuff
H0t$T*uF%f?

Other Important Tips

  • Do keep computer up to date with the latest updates offered.
  • Do keep Anti-Virus software up to date with the latest definitions.
  • Do run virus/adware scans on a regular basis.
  • Do keep browsers up to date.
  • Do use, at the very least, the "medium" security setting on the browser.
  • Do protect all passwords and change them every so often.
  • Do backup computer on a regular basis.
  • Do report Malware to the FTC.
  • Do check the source code of personal website. Use a trusted webcrawler to pull the links from website and look for strange links and other code.
  • Do NOT click on unsolicited material on the web! Use a pop-up blocker to prevent from accidentally clicking on potential Malware.
  • Do NOT open e-mail attachments from senders that are unknown. Opening an e-mail attachment is a dangerous way for Malware to attack the computer.
  • Do NOT download anything from a site that is not encrypted or secure. At the very least, make sure the website is trusted.
  • Do NOT click on suspicious links on social media sites. Social media sites are a great way to trick a user into clicking on something that can contain Malware.


*NOTE If it sounds too good to be true, than most likely it is--Protect Identity at all times!!!

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Comments

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great information Patty! I'm not sure why I didn't see this hub when it was posted, but I'm here now.

      As much time as I spend on a computer, this information is very valuable. Thank you for the education!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Good and valuable info. Thank you, Unfortunately, in light of recent news (KGO), there still is no protection from " Flame" technology, which struck Microsoft.

    • Patty Kenyon profile image
      Author

      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Bill, Thank-you soooo very much for your comments!! I do appreciate them!!! The last few days we have had major construction right in front of my house along with thunderstorms and have had to deal with power outages and so I have been unable to post as often as I would like.

      Also, I am still having problems with receiving notifications of those I follow and using the feed to keep up...lol

      Thanks for your continued encouragement and support!!!

    • Patty Kenyon profile image
      Author

      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      MH, Flame is one of the newest form of Malware that is pretty scary. I believe it started deployment through USB flash drives as well as LAN(Local Area Networks)...Although I am not 100% sure.

      Each day there are a ton of new forms of Malware and it is really hard to keep up with technology. The sad thing is that many low level programmers are capable of doing a lot of damage and Hacking programs can be found all over the internet.

      Thank-you soooo much for taking the time to read this as well as comment!!! I do appreciate it!!!

    • iefox5 profile image

      iefox5 4 years ago

      We never know when the computer will be affected by the latest virus, so it is important to install anti-virus software.

    • Patty Kenyon profile image
      Author

      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      iefox, Thank-you for taking the time to comment!!! I do agree. I was inspired to write this because a few local friends were having problems with their computers and asked me to see if I could help.

      One of my friends didn't have Anti-Virus software installed and the other never updated their Anti-Virus software since they had installed it years ago. Both had easy passwords that a beginner programmer could hack. So I thought I would throw a few tips out there for those that didn't know.

      Thanks again for commenting!!! I do appreciate your time!!!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for the write, Patty, and just to share, my students hacked my Facebook account once and posted some terrible stuff on it. They were severely reprimanded. of course. And karma...they come to me complaining of being victims of the type of spamming you've mentioned. (Reminds me that I'd better protect my FB account!!) LOL. Awesome, and shared!

    • Patty Kenyon profile image
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      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Michelle, YIKES in regards to your students hacking your account!! I would never have the guts to hack anyone let alone a teacher that has control over my grades...LOL...I am so glad those students were caught...LOL

      I love Karma when it comes to things like that!!! :D

      Not sure what Anti-Virus program you have, but some offer live protection on Facebook feed...I am pretty sure that Norton does offer live feed protection.

      Thank-you soooo very, very much for sharing your story and of course for your encouragement and support!!! It does mean a lot to me!!!

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Patty -

      You gotta let me know when you post a hub. I definitely didn't receive notification on this one.

      Very informative. I'm a strong user in Avast, and have had it block several infected hubs even here on Hubpages. I also do a boot scan with it twice a week. Also, I keep another firewall going, use Spybot at least three times a week, and clean my computer out at least twice a week. Some may say I'm paranoid. I just like to thinks it's "safe computer!" Never wanted to be a carrier of transmitable diseases! lol

      Great Hub! But, that's what I expected when I came here! : )

    • Patty Kenyon profile image
      Author

      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Rich, I too am having problems receiving notifications so I often find everyone on the HubPages feed.

      LOL, no you are not paranoid, unfortunately evil people who wish to use their skills for Hacking instead of using them to better the world make it so that everyone should do all they can to protect their computer.

      ROFL, Safety is very important and I agree never want to be a carrier of any transmittable virus or disease!!! LOL

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!!! As always I appreciate your support and encouragement!!! THANKS AGAIN!!!

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Patty,

      Wow! This is a very informative hub, touching on a subject that I honestly know very little about! LOL Your research was fantastic here, as well as the layout and pictures too! I loved the way you presented this hub Patty! Awesome job!

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 4 years ago

      This stuff is way over my head, but you've presented it wonderfully in an easily understandable format. Thank you. Voted up and shared.

    • Patty Kenyon profile image
      Author

      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Josh, I am glad that you found it informative!!! Thank-you soooo very much for taking the time to read through and to comment!!!

      I always appreciate your encouraging comments as well as continued support!!! THANK-YOU!!!!

    • Patty Kenyon profile image
      Author

      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Mama Kim, Thank-you soooo very much for your kind comments as well as your vote and sharing!!! THANKS AGAIN!!!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      Thank you so much my IT Connecticut girl.. so are you telling me to stay off those porn sites through coded messages? hmmm.. well when I went on that site babes gone wild.. I thought it was a site depicting infants having tantrums... pooping, spitting up and crying uncontrollably.. who am I kidding :( Frank

    • Patty Kenyon profile image
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      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Frank, ROFL, I am soooo glad I wasn't drinking my coffee when reading this, I would have had a mess to clean up...LOL

      I love reading your comments as well as your hubs!!! Sooo glad to know that CT does have a few that have a Awesome sense of Humor and such Talent too!!! Thanks for commenting, it really did make my day!!!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      With the way all of us are using computer these days it is imperative that we stay safe from all sorts of attackers and hackers.

      Thanks for sharing some very useful and important information, Patty.

      Voted up, useful and interesting. Sharing this.

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Patty - my technological brain is non-existent - how well you've presented this - it's actually sinking in to the cells - a rare moment!Thank you so much - voting up.

    • Patty Kenyon profile image
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      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      rajan jolly, Thank-you sooo very much for commenting, the votes, as well as sharing!! I do appreciate it so very much!!! Unfortunately, many people are unaware of damage that can be done with just a few lines of computer code. Thanks Again!!!

    • Patty Kenyon profile image
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      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      travmaj, Thank-you sooo much for you kind comments and vote!!! I truly do appreciate it!!! Thanks Again!!!

    • Patty Kenyon profile image
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      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      maheshtcr1, Thank-you sooo very much for taking the time to read this as well as comment!! I truly do appreciate it!!! Thanks Again!!!

    • nanderson500 profile image

      nanderson500 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Great hub explaining the different types of dangers to computers. Very detailed and well organized! Voted up and useful.

    • Patty Kenyon profile image
      Author

      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Nick, Thanks for taking the time to read this and for the kind comments!!! I do appreciate your continued support and encouragement!!! THANKS AGAIN!!!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Patty, this hub touches on so many aspects I was not aware of. Thanks for sharing this useful and awesome information.

      Voted up as such and shared.

    • Patty Kenyon profile image
      Author

      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      rajan jolly, I am so glad that I was able to make you aware of some aspects. Your Hubs always give information that I am not aware and glad that I was able to do the same for you!! Thank-you soooo very much for the votes and sharing!!! I do appreciate it!!

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 4 years ago

      This is an excellent hub. It is unnerving to think about the destructive nature of what some computer programs and hackers can do. I have had my share of these annoyances, even when virus protection is in place. Your article is filled with much wisdom and good advice. I especially liked your password tips. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. And welcome to Hub Pages, I look forward to reading more from you. Voted up, awesome, interesting, and useful.

    • Patty Kenyon profile image
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      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      toknowinfo, Believe it or not some hacks only take a very few lines of code that even someone not savvy with a computer can easily become a hacker. There are so many programs that can be downloaded from the web and yes some are free, that hackers can use to hack a computer by just driving by a house or business.

      Thank-you soooo much for taking the time to read this, comment, and for the Welcome!!! Thank-you sooo much for the votes as well!!! I do appreciate it!!! THANKS AGAIN!!!!

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 4 years ago from Central United States of America

      Interesting and helpful warnings, advice, and tips. I just got my computer back from the shop from getting a virus so I am a bit

      more careful now. Your password tips were helpful info too. Thanks bunches!

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