As the Internet becomes more and more integrated into our everyday lives, we must all learn how to defend against new types of online attacks. While viruses remain a threat, today’s hackers commonly use vicious multi-layered attacks, such as a worm in a chat message that displays a link to a web page infected with a Trojan horse. “Worms” have been found that tunnel though programs, uncovering new vulnerabilities and reporting them back to hackers. The hackers then quickly assemble malware (malicious software) from pre-made components, exploiting the vulnerability before the majority of people can download a fix.
Below you will find the best tips that you can employ to protect yourself against these emerging sophisticated, multi-faceted threats.
What Can Malware Do to My PC?
Malware opens up backdoors on infected systems, giving hackers direct access to the hijacked PC. In this scenario, a hacker can have the infected PC upload personal information to a remote system, or to turn the PC into a remotely controlled ‘bot used in criminal activity.
Hackers are designing their attacks to target specific high-value victims instead of simply launching mass-mailing worms and viruses. These programs are being created specifically for data theft.
What About P2P?
Peer-to-peer (P2P) networking has become a launching pad for viruses. Attackers incorporate spyware, viruses, Trojan horses, and worms into their free downloads. One of the most dangerous features of many P2P programs is the “browse host” feature that allows others to directly connect to your computer and browse through file shares.
P2P can accidentally give access to logins, user IDs and passwords; Quicken files and credit reports; personal information such as letters, chat logs, cookies, and emails; and medical records you accidentally house in accessible folders on your PC. As with email and instant messages, viruses in P2P files are capable of weaving their way through as many users as they can, stealing information and delivering it to cybercriminals who forge identities and commit fraud.
Best Tips to Defend Yourself against Viruses and Worms
You must safeguard your PC. Following these basic rules will help you protect you and your family whenever you go online.
- Protect your computer with strong security software and keep it updated. McAfee Total Protection provides proven PC protection from Trojans, hackers, and spyware. Its integrated anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall, anti-spam, anti-phishing, and backup technologies work together to combat today’s advanced multi-faceted attacks. It scans disks, email attachments, files downloaded from the web, and documents generated by word processing and spreadsheet programs.
- Use a security conscious Internet service provider (ISP) that implements strong anti-spam and anti-phishing procedures. The SpamHaus organization lists the current top-10 worst ISPs in this category—consider this when making your choice.
- Enable automatic Windows updates, or download Microsoft updates regularly, to keep your operating system patched against known vulnerabilities. Install patches from other software manufacturers as soon as they are distributed. A fully patched computer behind a firewall is the best defense against Trojan and spyware installation.
- Use great caution when opening attachments. Configure your anti-virus software to automatically scan all email and instant message attachments. Make sure your email program doesn’t automatically open attachments or automatically render graphics, and ensure that the preview pane is turned off. Never open unsolicited emails, or attachments that you’re not expecting—even from people you know.
- Be careful when using P2P file sharing. Trojans hide within file-sharing programs waiting to be downloaded. Use the same precautions when downloading shared files that you do for email and instant messaging. Avoid downloading files with the extensions .exe, .scr, .lnk, .bat, .vbs, .dll, .bin, and .cmd.
- Use security precautions for your PDA, cell phone, and Wi-Fi devices. Viruses and Trojans arrive as an email/IM attachment, are downloaded from the Internet, or are uploaded along with other data from a desktop. Cell phone viruses and mobile phishing attacks are in the beginning stages, but will become more common as more people access mobile multimedia services and Internet content directly from their phones. Mobile Anti-Virus software for a selected devices is available for free with some McAfee PC products. Always use a PIN code on your cell phone and never install or download mobile software from a un-trusted source.
- Configure your instant messaging application correctly. Make sure it does not open automatically when you fire up your computer.
- Beware of spam-based phishing schemes. Don’t click on links in emails or IM.
- Back up your files regularly and store the backups somewhere besides your PC. If you fall victim to a virus attack, you can recover photos, music, movies, and personal information like tax returns and bank statements.
- Stay aware of current virus news by checking sites like McAfee Labs Threat Center.