You’ve heard it all before – practice safe computing. That means (to this writer and many others) keep your software patched and up to date, put a personal firewall on your computer (to control what comes in to the computer and out from the computer) and install anti-virus software (and keep it up to date with current definitions). And many folks follow this advise – good for you!
But there is an area that still faces challenges even with all of the other items done above – that would be your click behavior. Some people might put this in with other behaviors that we face everyday, or even in the category of social engineering. I’m certain there is some validity to these thoughts – however, click behavior I’m talking about has to do with you, your mind, your finger(s) – and how all that comes together to become more than a thought, it becomes the action where you click on … something.
Let me explain. We sit down to read our e-mails. Oh, cousin Aaragon sent me all the normal jokes and chain letter warnings – I just delete them. There’s a message from my friend Legalos, with a link to a news article. I click on that – oh my, that wasn’t the type of news I expected at all! Now I have this pop up saying my computer could be at risk because of (fill in the blank here, anti-virus, trojan, spyware, etc.). Click on the box!
And you’re had.
Often times, these ‘ads’ appear to be legitimate, or at least they look like they may be something that came from our installed protection software. Be very careful, many are not. A quick look at Wikipedia reveals interesting names like ANG Antivirus (not to be confused with the product I use – AVG Antivirus). Or maybe MS Antivirus (or one of the other names it is known by, like XP Antivirus, Vitae Antivirus, Windows Antivirus, Win Antivirus, Antivirus Pro, Antivirus Pro 2009, Antivirus 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 360, Internet Antivirus Plus, System Antivirus, Spyware Guard 2008 and 2009, Spyware Protect 2009, Winweb Security 2008, System Security, Malware Defender 2009, Ultimate Antivirus2008, Vista Antivirus, General Antivirus, AntiSpywareMaster, Antispyware 2008, XP AntiSpyware 2008 and 2009, WinPCDefender, Antivirus XP Pro, Anti-Virus-1, and Total Security). The name changes all the time, but the intent does not – to infect your machine and to get your money if possible.
Now how did this all begin? Oh, right – we clicked on something. So, are there ways we can avoid this problem? Certainly!
First, make sure you ARE practicing safe computing. Then, be wary of pop ups that are warning you of impending doom (don’t click OK on them). If you have that happen, perhaps you should learn to kill that window using Windows Task Manager (for you Microsoft Operating System users). Here’s an article on how to get Task Manager open (normally by pressing CTRL+ALT+DELETE, and then click Task Manager). From there you should be on the application tab, select the window you want to end (or shut down or get rid of) and click on end task. Below is a screen shot of this tool, I circled the tab at the top and the end task button so you could easily see what I’m referring to.
That could be an easy first line of defense. Another area is that of knowing that your click will take you somewhere – but it may not be where you think it is. My rule of thumb there is – don’t click. If you want to see it, type in the URL (if you are reasonably certain it is legitimate). There are times that you don’t know what the link leads to – you mouse over the text and see! Below is a screen shot (and click on it to get a larger shot that opens in a separate window).
Here, I’ve numbered these so I can better type to them. Number 1 is the address bar of my web browser. That tells me where I currently am, or the page I’m currently viewing.
Number 2 shows me with my cursor over a link on the page. When I put my cursor there, notice what happens in the bottom right of my web browser screen – it tells me where that link is going to go (if I click on it). That’s a nice clue to have, even when the link has a URL in there, I’m going to check the bottom of my browser to make sure it is going where it is suppose to go and not somewhere else. This even works in many computer-based e-mail programs (see below for one).
Clicking on that link is not taking me to PayPal…perhaps that is one I shouldn’t click on (actually, I forward these to spoof [at] paypal [dot] com so they can work to stop this type of abuse). So be smart and use these clues to your advantage.
Number 3 as shown earlier is part of my Web of Trust. In the second part of this post (will be up later this month) I’ll address this tool and others you may want to use when searching the web as you follow links in search engine results. Until then, thanks for reading!
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