Viruses and hackers are not only a nuisance but also a legitimate threat to the safety of your digital information. Identity theft, unsanctioned credit card purchases and a busted hard drive are all possibilities when your computer is vulnerable to an interloper. So far, 2012 has been a busy year for hackers and anti-virus software creators alike, with some of the most virulent and harmful viruses released – as well as powerful software created to limit their affects. Whether you would like to protect your personal computer or safeguard an office-worth of information, these tips will help keep your information secure.
Protect Yourself Against The Worst Viruses of 2012
Source: Kaspersky via ceoworld
This computer was discovered by a Russian computer lab and has been a source of concern primarily in the Middle East – specifically in Iran, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Similar in form to the Stuxnet virus (which attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2010), the Flame virus uses log data from emails, internet chats, screenshots and microphone use. It is the most complex malware yet recorded, and the first known virus which utilized Bluetooth to send commands. The virus was so well entrenched, that it may have been active for up to five years before it was discovered.
Belgian Computer Crime Virus
This virus worked by locking down your computer and falsely claiming to be the police department. It then asked for 100 Euros or Pounds to unlock your data. Originating in the EU, this virus has since spread globally. The virus claims that your IP address is suspected of visiting child pornography websites, and will only unlock after payment of a fine. The virus not only demands a fee to unlock your computer, but also gains remote access to your PC by adding trackers to your files which launch the virus anew when you start Windows.
This virus attacks the Windows OS and has been implicated in cyber espionage in the energy sector. It spreads from computer to computer through shared hard drives. It compiles a list of files from one computer and sends them to the hacker. It can also overwrite the reboot mechanism, preventing a computer from booting up.
While these viruses were primarily used as a form of digital espionage and interference against major government networks, they underscore a trend of enhanced viral capacity and an evolution to stronger, more hidden internet viruses, which can easily find their way into your PC sooner than you think.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Here are some ways to stay safe.
Keep Alert and Maintain Common Sense
The first line of defense against viruses and hackers is self-awareness and common sense. Downloading free films or music online is a tempting way to get premium entertainment at no cost – but while a film or music provider may appear legitimate, it is simply not worth the risk. Not only are most free downloads illegal, but they often hide malicious software which can cause unwanted file disruption at least, and completely disable your OS at worst. Viruses can also leave trails, which provide access to your files, emails and contacts, enabling a hacker to be privy to financial, professional and personal information stored in your files or emails. In addition to downloading material, be wary of emails and attachments from unknown senders, and ones that appear spammy or suspicious.
Turn on your Firewall
An internet firewall serves as a safeguard between you, the websites you visit and the programs you choose to download. It informs you when unauthorized intruders are attempting to access your files through your internet connection.
Update your Software
Keeping your software up to date is particularly important for open operating systems, such as Windows, as it is the outdated components of your software which are targeted for attack. Updating your software – including Adobe, Photoshop, Word, and your internet search engine –can save you from falling victim to viruses which feed off of weaknesses in old systems.
Antivirus software will not only alert you to changes on your computer and to software which is attempting to change your computer, but it also scan your files on a regular basis in search of any inconsistency, suspicious updates or cases of external tracking. Keep your antivirus up to date so it can detect the latest form of different viruses, which are becoming more sophisticated with each incarnation. Beware of fake antivirus programs which pretend to be protecting you against viruses, while in reality actually creating a channel for their entry.
Backup your work
The best way to prevent a loss of information is to back it up. Methods of backing up files vary greatly, from a simple USB stick to an external hard drive. If you are backing up a large amount of sensitive information or files from multiple computers consider a more secure method such as a virtual desktop. A virtual network will prevent a virus from spreading to all of the computers on a network because it is on a separate network itself. It is important that you make your server as strong as possible when you employ virtual desktops.