By The Computer Guy / Online Safety / / 0 Comments

Being Safe Online: What to Know and How to Take Caution

Do you go online on your PC? Are you being safe online? How do you know if you’re being protected while browsing the web?

 

Contents

1. Introduction

2. Taking Caution

  • Pop-Up Advertisements
  • Scam Emails
  • Downloading and Torrents

3. Is your Software Outdated?

4. Programs That Help Being Safe Online

  • Windows Defender
  • CCleaner
  • Subscription Programs

 

It can be hard to know if you’re being safe when online if you have never been told how! The one thing a lot of people who come to us ask is if there are any extra measures that can be taken when online to protect your personal files from being attacked by Malicious Software (Malware for short).

Unfortunately, there are people online that aren’t just there for the cute cat videos and shopping. There are emails with a virus that can lock or damage your computer, and believe it or not that panel that came up on the side of the page saying you won a new iPhone, isn’t true.

 

However it’s good to know that there are steps you can take to make sure you’re being safe online.

 


 

Taking Caution

Our last post, “Online Scammers: Protect Yourself from their Nasty Tricks“, covered some bases mentioned in this section. If you’d like to read more on this topic be sure to have a look at it!

 

Even if you’re being as careful as you can be online, it’s easy to get caught out. Here’s a few things to know that’ll help you protect your info online!

Pop-Up Advertisements

Advertisements are everywhere online, it’s how websites make money, how companies promote their products and the way a consumer can find new goods. All around it doesn’t seem that bad, it’s just like ads on the television, right?

Well, not exactly.

Most online advertisements will allow you to click and open the website which the goods or services are being sold. However the link attached to the ad can also take you to a website that contains harmful material.

Some internet users may remember screamers, which was a practical joke on the internet for a while. In short, a video or website would seem calm and user friendly, then out of nowhere a disturbing image accompanied by a loud screech or unpleasant noise would appear. This was usually with the intention to scare whoever opened the link but was overall harmless. Well, this is somewhat similar to ads with malicious intent. Instead of a scare and raised heart rate however, you may get a virus or malware on your computer.

Good examples are the panels that sometimes appear saying that you’ve won a phone or some other fantastic prize, with the hopes you’ll fall for the lie and click the ad. There are even some that appear to look like a Windows pop up saying you have a virus and you can ‘click to scan’.

Here are some examples of what these pop up ads may look like:

Being Safe Online        Being Safe Online         

 

A good thing to note also is that Microsoft will never prompt you call a number or call you on your phone saying they’ve detected a virus. Most of these are scam call centers with the intent to get your passwords or credit card information.

 

 

Scam Emails

Most people will use emails to send photos or files to friends, catch up with family or even talk to a pen pal overseas. Millions of emails are sent daily across the globe, further helping us communicate. Some companies even send out promotional emails to alert a customer or member of a sale that’s currently going on. Unfortunately, some emails contain files that can lock your computer, or even damage it.

Have you ever gotten an email from an insurance company asking about payments even though you aren’t with them? What about an email from Australia Post saying you have a parcel and it’s waiting for you? Even an ‘overdue electric bill’ from some organisation you’ve never worked with.

Well, most of these are scams.

A majority of the time, opening these emails won’t instantly kill your PC and files, but downloading or opening attachments and links will. It’s strongly advised that if you get an email that seems suspicious, even if it’s from a friend or contact, to instantly delete it. If a friend sends you files you weren’t expecting or a link you don’t trust, message them to ask if it was them or delete it. If it turns out to be something they did send, then they can always send it again! It’s better to be safe than sorry.

 

A Few Things to Note:

  • AusPost Never Email! They’ll usually mail you a physical card if there’s a package for you to pick up!
  • If you get an email from a company you’re with that still seems sketchy, call their official customer service and check it was them!
  • DO NOT REPLY to scam emails. It’s best not to open but a lot are randomized. They’ll send emails to every address they can come up with. Replying confirms that they found an active email and results in them sending more or sharing the email.
  • Don’t give out your email to random websites.
  • Block email addresses that send you scams or advertisements

 

Downloading and Torrents

It’s no secret people like to torrent and download the latest movies and TV shows. Whether it’s the last episode of Game Of Thrones or the biggest Blockbuster movie, a lot of people seem to want it NOW and they also typically want to avoid paying for it. Remember that video clip that would play at the start of every DVD you borrowed? ‘You wouldn’t steal a car. You wouldn’t steal a purse.’ And so on? It may have been overlooked a lot but it’s correct, that distributing copies of movies and torrents are classed as stealing.

 

“TorrentFreak found Australians represented 11.6 per cent of downloads, outstripping the United States at 9.3 per cent, and the United Kingdom with 5.8 per cent.”

-News.com.au

 

The best advice when it comes to downloading torrents? Don’t.

 

Besides the fact that it is in fact illegal, easy to track and carries fines, it also puts your computer at great risks. Downloading files of movies and TV Shows from an online site, or even streaming them often bring the risk of downloading malware into your computer, not to mention the absurd amount of pop-up ads which appear.

Sure, your friends may have said they use this one website and ‘it’s so good! There’s no viruses and its secure!’, but how true is that? How do they not know there aren’t hidden viruses? How do they know it’s not going to suddenly change to harm your computer? This goes for game downloads, tool bars, fake programs that claim to speed up your PC and adult entertainment sites as well. All have a chance to harm your computer through pop up ads and malware.

Full News.com.au Article: Read Here

 


 

Is Your Software Outdated?

Now of course if your computer is just for writing documents or playing chess, you may not even need to go online. Though as of today, a vast majority of the population use online websites, emails and games. The internet is something all modern computers are capable of accessing, however sometimes it’s better not to.

Most people are familiar with Windows and the different versions that come out, like Windows 10 and Windows 7. However as Microsoft is always making new software and it gets to a point where they no longer actively support their outdated software.

Windows XP was brought into the market in 2001 and is still vastly used today by businesses who require older software to run machinery. However for the day to day user it’s advised that if your PC is still on XP that you upgrade to Windows 7 or higher. Microsoft withdrew their free support for Windows XP in April, 2014. They did continue the security updates for another year on XP however that support was terminated in July of 2015.

This means that there will be no more security or software updates to the operating system, therefor making it extremely vulnerable when used online. With no updates or active support it is easy for people online to access your computer, and possibly any personal information you may have on there.

 


 

Programs That Help Being Safe Online

 

» Windows Defender

Most PC’s now are on Windows 10, which comes with its own form of Malware protection known as Windows Defender. This program is free with Windows 10 and is designed to help keep your PC safe with options to scan your computer for malicious files.

Windows defender actively monitors your device to ensure it is safe from threats. It includes scans for virus and threat protection, the health and performance of your device and firewall/network protection. It also includes options to run quick or full scans on your PC if you feel your files may be at risk.

 

 

» CCleaner

A free program designed to actively clean your PC from temporary and junk files with the intention to improve your computers performance.

What are temporary files?

Temporary files are generally created to store information while a file is being created online or through a program. This is what can be recovered if something goes wrong and the program closes or your computer turns off before you can save. Have you ever used Microsoft Word and it has some documents you’re able to recover even though you didn’t save them? Those are generally extracted from the temporary files!

Some temporary files however won’t delete themselves. For example when you view an image online, a temporary file may be created for that image, but it won’t be deleted when you close the webpage. These aren’t large files however the space they take up can add up pretty quickly. This is where CCleaner goes through to delete the no longer needed temporary files, and cleaning up more space.

 

» Subscription Based Programs

There are a number of paid anti-virus and scanning programs available. Most work off a yearly fee and can supply anti-virus protection software for one or multiple computers. This works well as an extra measure though they aren’t crucial to have. Some programs are extremely reliable while others are not. A lot of the time the ‘free’ versions of anti-virus software can include advertisements. They can also clash with programs like Windows Defender. It is recommended that you consult a technician to see what software would be best for your personal computer.

 

 

Useful Links

 

Microsoft Official Updates

Windows Defender Info

Microsoft Official Support

Our Services

 

The Computer Guy 2017

scammers
By The Computer Guy / Online Safety / / 2 Comments

Scammers are getting increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get your money or personal details. Their ultimate goal is to exploit their target though morally wrong means such as lying, tricking or harassing until they get what they want. Avoiding users with malicious intent isn’t easy and there are always going to be people like that online, but it’s good to know there are ways to protect yourself

 

Scams target everyone

Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels across Australia. There’s no one group of people who are more likely to become a victim of a scam, it’s fair game. Scams succeed because they look authentic and catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it. They exploit the desire to be polite, respectful and generous, as well as the adrenaline and excitement people get when they are informed they’ve won something. Scammers often do an act known as ‘phishing’, which simply means that they only want your bank account, credit card details and passwords.

 

 

Types of Scams

These scams come in all shapes and sizes. Ranging from a pop up window saying that you’re their 10,000th viewer and have won a new iPad, to impersonators pretending to be Microsoft and saying they have found a virus on your computer. Since there are so many places you can come across a potential advertisement or email that is dangerous for your computer, it’s easy to mistake them for something legitimate. As time and technology progresses, scammers are becoming more perceptive and crafty with their scams.

 

 

 

Phone Scams

 

Sure, everyone has had a tele-marketer call their phone asking if they want to buy a new mop, and it’s common knowledge now that you can just hang up, or joke around with them if you aren’t interested because why would you listen to this person up-sell a $50 mop when the one at Kmart down the road has one that does the same thing for $15? Seems easy enough to avoid and not fall for, right?

Well what if you got a call from someone saying, “Hello, I’m a representative of Microsoft and we have detected a very harmful virus on your computer.” A lot of people may panic. Imagine being told your precious computer full of family photos and documents, is in danger. Of course, a natural first reaction is to ask them to fix it, and that means giving them access to your computer.

They may ask you to go onto your computer and grant them permission to access it, and you might see some screens pop up or some coding. The way it looks from the surface seems completely legit; and that’s why so many people fall for it. Unfortunately, they lied about who they were and by giving them access, they can now see everything on your device. Every saved password, every file and every program.

After they have ‘fixed’ your computer they will ask for a credit card to pay for the ‘service’ provided. If refused money some will lock the computer  until money is given. Some may even ask for multiple payments, requesting a moderate amount at first, then later demanding more be paid.

 

However avoiding these scammers is no different to a tele-marketer, and it only takes one simple step to avoid these. Hang up the phone.

 

 

Some good things to know about phone scams:

  • Microsoft themselves will never call you. If you have an issue or question, you have to call their customer service and not the other way around.
  • The only time you may be alerted of dangers on your computer is by anti-virus software such as Windows Defender.
  • Scammers cannot do anything until you grant them access
  • NEVER give out personal information to someone online or over the phone
  • If a scammer accesses your details, change your passwords as soon as possible
  • When you’re unsure if your computer is safe or has a virus, take it to a professional

 

Email Scams

While some are more obvious than others, email scams have been around for a while and are still insanely common. They start as advertisements about ‘The New Diet Pill that Has All The Doctors Mad!’ and a woman who is ’70 but looks 30 thanks to a miracle cream’, simple stuff that some people believe but is easy to spot out when it’s a fake. Then they escalate, saying there’s a ‘package at the Post Office so download the receipt to go collect it’, and even emails from insurance companies and Paypal saying you have overdue bills. As legitimate as they seem, these emails either want you to type in your credit card details or accidentally download a virus inside a document they send. The viruses generally look for your passwords or account information, and can even be ransom ware.

 

There are always ways to avoid getting caught

Before opening the email consider these questions:

  • Who sent the email? Does it seem sketchy?
  • Are you affiliated with the company who emailed you?
  • Are there spelling mistakes? (Scam emails usually have typos)
  • Is the text generic? (“Hi valued customer!” instead of your name)
  • Have you received an email from them before?

 

If the email is a spam email, delete it straight away. Replying to these accounts confirm that you actively use the address they messaged and may result in more spam being sent to you.

It’s never a bad idea to do some research on companies that email you out of seemingly nowhere. For example, AusPost don’t send emails if there’s a package for you to collect but instead they mail you a card. The only time PayPal send emails when changes occur to your account/their policies or if you send or receive payments. If you get an email you’re unsure about, go to the company website and call their customer support.

Emails from a friend are always nice and usually extremely trust worthy. Though you may just send letters to catch up, documents for work and school or pictures there’s always a chance that it’s not safe. Some scammers try to target your email with the purpose of using it to send messages to your contacts and phishing them for information. If you ever are sent an email from a friend that looks shifty don’t be afraid to ask them if it was them, or just delete it.

 

                   

 

Pop Up Scams

Pop Up Scams tend to work based on the shock factor. Similarly to phone scams, some sites may open a link to pages that claim there’s danger. Some can be very difficult to close, or begin downloading some form of software to your computer. A lot of these are accompanied by flashing colours and loud noises such as sirens or a voice recording. Tactics like these are what scammers use to start your ‘fight or flight’ response in the hopes that you’ll panic. The outcome is usually either clicking a link to fix the problem they stated was there, or not being able to close the tabs in time before something is downloaded.

These may also be dangerous to people who are sensitive to loud, disruptive noises and flashing lights. While they’re used without warning unfortunately there is little repercussion for sites using these tactics. 

 

Pop Ups are generally easy to avoid, however some of the following may cause them to appear:

  • Downloading or Torrents
  • Playing Games on an Unsafe Website
  • Streaming Movies and TV Shows online
  • Using Online Video Converters
  • Adult Entertainment Websites

 

Secure Services like Netflix and safe downloads from official websites (such as Adobe or Microsoft) will NOT cause Pop Ups to occur.

 

      

 

Protect yourself

Most scammers avoid questions that can catch them out and prove they’re illegitimate. Just asking questions, like requesting their address, can catch them off guard as most are based overseas.

 

It is illegal for a foreign business to sell overseas investments to Australians if they do not have an AFS licence. Australian companies also need an AFS licence to legally sell investments in Australia.

-ASIC

 

Taking caution never hurts. The more users proceed with that extra bit of caution when online the less scammers can catch out innocent people who may not know how easy it is to get scammed. The biggest advice that anyone can give about online safety is to never assume that you can trust what you see.

 

 

Not everything you see on the internet is true.

 

 

Useful Links

 

About Phishing

Types of Scams

Report a Scam

Online Fraud 

 

 

The Computer Guy