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Virus, Worms, Trojan Horses, Phishing – what are they and how do I protect my computer?

Isaac

Question: I hear a lot of terms like Virus, Worms, Trojan Horses, and Phishing used a lot these days on the news and on different internet sites. What are these things and how can I protect my computer from these them?

Answer:

Lately, it seems like there is no shortage of confusing and frankly, rather ominous and scary sounding terminology when it comes to computers. This has not been made any easier with the advent of computer viruses with strange terms like “worms” Trojan Horses, and “phishing” it seems like we can’t even spell things right much less navigate safely around the internet, so how does one “break the code” and decipher exactly how much of a threat these things really are? The good news is that it’s not really that difficult. The next four articles will attempt to go over and define a few of these terms and hopefully make them more understandable.

Part four of a four part answer

In the last couple weeks we have learned about Viruses, Worms and Trojan Horse programs, This week we will will be dealing with something different, the term Phishing (pronounced the same as Fishing), this isn’t so much a virus as it is a practice, although many modern viruses are made for this purpose. Much like how it sounds, phishing is the practice of trying to gain access to someone else’s private information usually by means of “bait” most commonly coming in the form of a forged email that looks like it comes from an official site such as your bank or from a service such as , PayPal, or eBay, usually claiming to be addressing a problem with your account and a link to a website provided for you to navigate to. Once you click on this link it will then ask for your password or account information but unfortunately the website you have been now sent to is nothing more than a mimic made with the purpose of stealing the information that has been asked of you. This is then used by the offending party to gain access to your account information and the damage done is most simply put , identity theft, be it stolen credit cards, bank accounts or other sensitive information. The bottom line, of course is that in a perfect world, there would be no such thing as viruses, worms or Trojan horses but the sad reality is these things do exist and we do have to take measures to protect ourselves and our computers from them, the best thing to do of course is keep an antivirus software installed on your computer and keep it updated to the most current definitions. Also any security updates that the maker of your operating system announces thru legitimate channels should also be downloaded and installed as they are released and you are notified of them. Even with all of those measures enacted and in place, the only protection from phishing and even viruses is discretion, if a site or link looks suspicious or you suspect it to be a problem, your best bet is to directly contact your bank or credit card company using more old fashioned means such as the telephone to verify or refute a suspect email. This will ensure that you have taken the best possible means to protect yourself from these dangers and pitfalls. Of course you should also feel free to contact your ISP with any questions pertaining to computer security and viruses you may hear about.

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