The internet has made it possible for people to stay connected to their friends and family, to access information almost instantly, and to conduct business without ever leaving their home or office. In a way, the internet has made the world a much smaller and convenient place. Unfortunately, along with the luxuries of the World Wide Web, are also the threats that it presents.
The Five Largest Computer Threats:
- Computer Viruses: A computer virus is a undesirable program that gets into a system and changes the way the system operates. Viruses infiltrate a computer system, then duplicate and operate, unbeknownst to the user. Generally, a user will only detect a virus when the system has already been damaged and the computer has begun to malfunction. Viruses can be picked up through sharing music or videos, visiting a specific website, opening unknown e-mail attachments, or downloading new software or programs. This is why it is important for computer users to obtain anti-virus software that will scan all incoming files and protect a computer from these threats.
- Spyware: Spyware is a program that monitors a user’s computer activity or installs programs, in order to gather information or procure a profit. Spyware is unnoticeable to computer users, which helps it to effectively steal important or personal information without a user eliminating the program. Spyware is usually installed when a user downloads software, like browser add-ons, tool bars, or free programs, or when a user visits a website that asks to automatically install a program.
- Phishing Threats:Phishing refers to the stealing of personal information. However, instead of stealing information through a program, this is usually done by a real person. Phishers are scam artists that attempt to steal information, generally in order to steal money, by tricking internet users into supplying them with personal information. This is usually done through fraudulent businesses, services, e-mails, websites, or online chatting. While anti-virus software will not protect against these types of scams, common sense, as well as very selectively giving out information will.
- Trojans: A Trojan, or Trojan Horse, is a program that performs a certain desired function, while also performing undesired functions. For example, a user may download a game to their computer, which they are able to play, but that also installs unwanted toolbars or advertisements. Trojan horses will sometimes also give other people access to the user’s computer, allowing them to steal personal information that can be used to commit identity theft or other illegal activities.
- Hackers: Hackers are people that break into other’s computers through the use of programs, malware, or by directly accessing their system. Hackers can steal personal information, destroy files, and even damage a person’s computer while accessing the system remotely. Hackers usually find their victims through fraudulent e-mails, instant messages, or through misleading websites or services. The best defense against a hacker is an effective firewall, anti-virus software, and enough internet savvy to stay away from scams or services that sound too good to be true.