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Internet & Email Threats
Definition of a Computer Virus
A program that infects a computer by attaching itself to another program, and propagating itself when that program is executed. A computer can become infected by files downloaded over a network, or by the installation of new software or floppy disks that are infected with viruses as well as email attachments. Some viruses are only pranks, and perform harmless actions like displaying a screen with a joke message on it. Others can destroy files or wipe out a hard drive.
Why Do People Write Computer Viruses?
Some general reasons are to experiment how to write viruses or to test their programming talent. Some get a kick out of seeing how the virus spreads, and some do it for cyber fame. One reason I can think of is the same psychology that drives vandals and arsonists. Why would someone want to break the window on someone else’s car?, spray paint on buildings? Set fire to things? For some people that seems to be a thrill.
How Can I Prevent My Computer From Being Infected By A Computer Virus?
Buy a well known Anti-Virus Software such as McAfee or Norton and KEEP THE VIRUS DEFINITIONS UP TO DATE! Set it to scan email attachments and periodically scan your hard drives for infections.
Be careful of what you download from the Internet! Only download files and programs that are from trusted sources. Once downloaded, use your Anti-Virus software to scan them for viruses. Downloading music or videos from file sharing communities such as iMesh or WinMX, Etc. is a popular way of distributing viruses.
If you are using Microsoft Outlook, close the email preview pane (On the toolbar click “View” and uncheck “Preview Pane”). The reason for this is that some emails (with or without attachments) are infected with program scripts that will run when the email is opened. If the email message is viewable in the preview pane the email is technically opened and the script can execute.
Lastly, USE YOUR HEAD! If an email attachment or file download seems suspicious, DON’T OPEN IT!
Definition of Spyware –
Software that sends information about your Internet sessions back to the computer from which it’s launched. Spyware is often built into free downloads and works in the background without a user’s knowledge.
Why Do People Write Spyware?
It’s often used to create marketing profiles based on surfing habits. Basically it records when and where you have gone on the internet, what you have been searching for and reports its findings back to the company who created the program.
Why Is Spyware Bad And How Can I Prevent It?
Generally Spyware is bad because it is an invasion of personal privacy but another side effect is that it can slow your computer down to a crawl. Making booting up and running applications slower as well as using up RAM (memory) and hard drive space. Many of these pesky applications are extremely hard to get rid of.
Preventing Spyware infection is fairly simple. Firstly, at home use a web browser other than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. This browser is very susceptible to ActiveX and Java Applets and has been a major security problem since its creation. In other words, if you visit a website that is tainted with a malicious applet (mini bad program) Internet Explorer may download and install anything that the website wants you to and completely without you knowing it has happened.
Instead, try using Netscape http://channels.netscape.com/ns/browsers/default.jsp or Mozilla FireFox http://www.mozilla.org/ . Both have popup blockers built in and are immune to many of the problems that Internet Explorer has.