PC Safety101 by Michael Rasmussen and Jason Tarasi - HTML preview
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Why You Need To Worry About “Malware”
As a successful entrepreneur you need to communicate all day, every day, with your customers, suppliers, partners, employees, and others. You need to keep records. You need to have reliable access to email and the internet.Nasty little software programs are out there which will slow, snarl or even stop your computer and your Internet connection.
Some of them will track your activity, and some will even mine your personal or business information. This malicious software – or “malware” for short – is an every day problem that can, if left unchecked, render your computer worthless, harm your business, and potentially even harm your life.Have you noticed mysterious slowdowns in your computer’s performance, even when you only have one or two programs (apparently) running? Have you noticed a lag in your web surfing, even though you have a very fast broadband connection?
Almost certainly if you have, it’s because spyware or adware is taxing your system, slowing things down for you while sending information you may not want sent, to places you almost certainly don’t want it sent to.
The bad news is that this stuff is everywhere now, including coming from sites of reputable companies that you have chosen to do business with. There are probably dozens, maybe even hundreds, of pieces of bad tracking software and viruses lurking on your computer right now.The better news is that as in real life medicine, an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure… And the best news is that you can malware-proof your computer for very little money and without any special computer knowledge!
This report is all about understanding malware, its forms, purposes, and effects; and even more importantly the various ways you can employ to stop it, find it, and destroy it.
The answer to minimizing the presence of and eliminating damage from malware is a combination of settings, software, and surfing choices. While we do suggest you have a firewall, a firewall is really designed to stop other kinds of problems, like malicious remote access issues (people “breaking into” your system) and like wireless security is really a different category from malware.In this report we’re going to focus on malware specifically.
First let’s take a quick look at the three major categories of malware. In the biggest categorical sense, viruses and spyware represent very different basic issues.Viruses Make Your Machine Act Badly
The purpose of a software virus is to cause damage, either to your machine, or to use your machine in a coordinated attack on other machines or indeed, on the whole Internet.Viruses can generally be stopped before they hit your machine. Spyware Transmits Information about You Spyware is a buzzword that has many different facets and definitions.
Spyware is unlike a virus in that its purpose is rarely mayhem but rather information gathering, which may be for legitimate marketing purposes (as discussed in a few minutes), but more often is for purposes ranging from the irritating and invasive to the downright criminal.
There are many different definitions for “spyware” out there now, but we think a simple functional definition will help you understand the problem it represents best. Some kinds of viruses – such as Trojans, which are bad programs hidden in good ones – may actually meet the definition for spyware also, so it can be a little confusing.One widely accepted definition is a pretty good one, as used by Information Week magazine and numerous spyware websites:
Spyware is software that's installed without your informed consent. Spyware communicates personal, confidential information about you to an attacker. The information might be reports on your Web-surfing habits, or the software might be looking for even more sinister information, such as sniffing out your credit card numbers and reporting those numbers.That is about as good a summary as there is.
Of course while you read that definition and it sunk in, you probably started thinking “Hey wait a minute, how can that be, people can’t just drop little software bombs on my machine!”
Actually they can and they do all the time. A colleague’s computer was running slowly, in spite of good hardware, a fast processor and a T1 connection. We asked if she had run anti-spyware software and we got a quizzical look.We loaded a couple of scanner programs and found more than 1,300 infections! Most of these are far more irritating than they are dangerous, but they should all be dealt with, and we’ll tell you how. AdWare Can Be – But Often Isn’t – “Friendly” Spyware
Adware is the less-malicious cousin of spyware. Often “adware” is designed to simply pay attention to your browsing habits at certain sites or kinds of sites and tell a server someplace what kinds of ads and other information to include on the pages shown to you.
In this sense – the most generous view – it is a form of personalized marketing, and because these things started as ad-serving assistants they are called “adware” even now, when many of them track your behavior, which is one problem, and slow your web connection to a crawl, which for many of us is the real main problem.
If you order from a clothing company a few times a year, you may well not mind if there is a cookie from that company that makes sure you see the sale items you’re likely to be most interested in – but if that cookie is slowing down your ability to work, you may well want to get rid of it anyway.
Helping to distinguish between truly friendly cookies and other “spyware” and the bad stuff is something we’ll cover shortly.