Hackers are getting more devious than ever. We used to be able to rely on our antivirus software with malware and adblock protection to keep our computers secure. Unfortunately, the people who want to get into your computer have come up with new ways to bypass those programs and have developed new tricks. Knowing they are out there may make the difference in you getting hit by an attack.
A frequent issue that you might encounter in your daily computer use is called phishing. Phishing sites or emails LOOK like the official site you are used to, but are actually not real. They ask for account information and once received, they use it and take over your accounts.
You can avoid phishing if you double check the URL of the website. Make sure it looks like it always does, without any odd spellings or numbers replacing letters. Check carefully before you enter that password. Emails are another phishing ground. These are getting more numerous. For example, yesterday I received an email that looked as if it came from PayPal and it said that I need to confirm some account information or my account would be suspended. A link was included. Before reacting, I clicked the “details” tab next to PayPal. The address that had sent the email was not a PayPal address. To be sure, I did not click the link, but went to PayPal on my own. There was no alert on my account. Another way to spot fake emails is to check the language. Often things are not worded professionally or contain misspellings. These are giveaways that the email is fake.
Other email scams include malicious links or attachments that unleash viruses. Always be careful using email links if you are unsure and downloads are even more dangerous. Be sure you know the source before you download anything. Some antivirus programs will scan an email before allowing you to download an attachment. Use this feature if you have it.
Watch for fake update warnings. Adware scams trick you into clicking a link that leaves you incapacitated with a flood of warning messages that you must download something or your computer is at risk. Clicking anything on the ad, even the X to close, may trigger the download. Only update your software through main websites and if you become infected with an adware virus, look up reliable instructions for removal. This is usually a multi-step process. Keep your antivirus software and Windows updates current and you can be sure that any warnings of vulnerabilities are fake.
Whatever you do, NEVER allow anyone you do not know to remotely access your computer. Recently, a senior citizen received a call that was allegedly from Microsoft. They told her that they needed to remotely access her computer to fix a Windows bug that left her computer vulnerable. It could only be fixed by them, the official team. She allowed them access. Twice. When she told us about it, we shut the computer down and took it to a shop to take her photos from it and then destroyed the hard drive. We set up a new email account and changed all of her passwords. Then we emailed her contacts to inform them to delete any emails received from her old address. Was it infected? I’m sure it was, but we weren’t willing to wait to find out what would happen. Luckily it was a very old computer and was easily replaced.
Protect yourself. Use common sense. And be careful out there.