Are You a Malware Magnet? 4 simple steps can make all the difference

It’s update time. Operating systems (like Windows and Mac) and browsers (IE and Firefox) have just come out with significant patches to existing versions, or created entirely new versions, to fix security flaws and add features. And while you may be able to live without the new features, you need those security fixes NOW.

It only takes minutes for an unprotected, internet connected computer to be infected with malicious software that may damage your device, steal your information and identity, add bogus charges to your internet bill or credit cards, turn your machine into a bot   that is remotely controlled by criminals sending out spam, scams, and malware,(See What are Bots, Zombies, and Botnets? for more information), pose a threat to the safety of your friends and family, and even the country.

Sound bad? It is. If any of the following statements sound familiar, you are a malware magnet.

  • Your anti-virus and anti-malware tools haven’t been updated since you bought your computer.
  • You’ve ignore those pesky popups telling you that your computer, browser, or programs need updating to get the latest security fixes installed.
  • You love chain emails, and answering survey’s and quizzes.
  • You respond to spammers asking them to stop spamming you.
  • You trust links you come across in emails, Twitter & Facebook and in online ads.
  • You don’t know a phish from a fish, a worm from a grub, or what malware is.

3 simple steps can make all the difference. 1) Start by ensuring your computers are up-to-date with all available patches, fixes, and upgrades. 2) Then ensure your browers are up-to-date with all available patches, fixes, and upgrades. 3) Confirm your security software is up-to-date with all available patches, fixes, and upgrades. 4) Now, strengthen your spam filters – on your email and through your actions.

  1. Update Operating Systems: If you do not have your operating system set up to automatically update, follow these steps to get updated – then choose the option to have this automatically done for you in the future.
    1. For Windows users:
    2. For Mac Users:
  2. Update Browsers: If you aren’t already using the latest browser version, update your browser:
    1. Download Firefox 4 here.
    2. Download IE 9 here.
  3. Update Security Software: Open your security software program on your computer. You should be able to instantly see if your security software is working. I happen to be using McAfee’s tools at the moment, and this is the message I see, but every program will have a simple way to show you whether you are up-to-date or not.

    Don’t have security software?  Get it now. It doesn’t have to cost a penny, but you’ll never be secure without it.  Start with TopTenReviews’ AntiVirus Software Review for a great comparison of products by features as well as by reviewer and user comments.

    If free is more your style, consider either of these highly regarded options:
    AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 2011
    Microsoft Security Essentials
  4. Strengthen your Spam protection: This takes setting your email spam filters to an appropriately high level, and some smartening up on your part. Safe, responsible computer and internet use does not require you to have a PhD in engineering or computer science, it just requires precaution and a few skills.
    1. Strengthen your settings:  Here are examples of Hotmail and Aol Mail filters, search online to learn how to change settings if you’re using a different service.

    2. Smarten up about Spam: Spam comes at us from all angles; in the mailbox in front of your home (junk mail) in your email inbox, via IM, social networking sites, chats, forums, websites, and sadly, now also on your phone. Learn these  14 Steps to Avoiding Scams, and practice on some of the examples (scroll further down the page) to see how well you can avoid the common consumer pitfalls scammers want you to stumble over.

To help you stay safer year-round, we’ve worked with Microsoft to development a free, Internet Safety Calendar application that you can download to your Internet Explorer browser (Note: only IE is supported at this time).

Built by LOOKBOTHWAYS, the calendar provides relevant monthly advice to help you increase your online safety and the safety of those you help protect. The calendar also includes recurring reminders for those safety actions you know you should be doing, but that frequently get forgotten in the rush of day-to-day activities.

Each month, the calendar will send you a note reminding you to check the calendar for important online safety advice, but you can also view the app at any time by selecting Online Safety Calendar under the Tools menu.

Even with these steps, you might not be able to dodge every last aggressive malware, but you WILL be much safer.

Linda

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