Support - Security

Educating yourself and taking simple steps to protect yourself can prevent most problems users face when using the internet.

  • Malware/Adware – Find out what Malware/Adware is and how to prevent it from being installed on your computer.
  • Viruses – Viruses have made it into the news a lot lately. Both because of the ability of viruses to spread even more than they used to and users not being educated in prevent virus problems.
  • Privacy – Protect your privacy and sensitive information when conducting transactions online.
  • Firewall – Learn when to use a firewall to protect your network and computers.

If you need to talk to a customer service representative, please call us at (952) 215 – 3800.

Malware/Adware

What is Malware?

Malware is the general term for adware, spyware, or any other software that presents ads, or collections information on a users computer usage habits. Malware is usually installed with free software or installed by websites supporting free content. Sometimes malware is packaged with software that is intended to block the effects of malware.

The effect of malware varies from product to product, but generally they are not user friendly. Common behavior includes showing advertisements, collecting information on users browsing and computer usage habits, causing your computer to operate slower, make it difficult to remove or uninstall the software, as well as modifying your system to redirect certain sites and traffic to the software maker.

What you can do about it

  • Use a well know independent spyware detector such as Spybot Search & Destroy. Non-independent spyware software may just ignore malware from certain companies.
  • Be careful when installing free software. Read through the License agreement for any indication of other software being installed. Open source software will never contain spyware, but due to the fact that its open source, a user could take it and repackage the software with spyware. Download open source software from the official site.
  • If a website asks to install software, make sure its from a trusted source. While Macromedia Flash or Sun Java is necessary to view dynamic content, companies make try to install malware through the same method. If a site asks to install software say no unless you know that its legitimate.
  • Install the newest patches for your operating system. For windows go to http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com or turn on automatic updates. Mac OS X users run Software Update or download the updates from Apple.
  • Firewall’s will not prevent malware installations, malware is installed by users unknowingly.
  • Most spyware can install itself automatically on IE, use an alternative browser such as Opera and Firefox. But remember to keep these updated as they also have vulnerabilities from time to time (Though they do tend to release fixes sooner than Microsoft does with IE).
  • Most Anti-Malware applications will detect browser cookies as spyware. These are benign, they cant do anything to your computer but are used by advertisers to track repeat visits and browsing patterns when an ad providers ad is shown on a site. Cookies also have other uses and disabling them is not prudent.

Useful Resources

 

Viruses

What are Viruses

Viruses are computer programs that behave like real world viruses in a computer context. Computers contract viruses due to unaware users or exploiting security lapses in the operating system or software. When a computer is infected with one of these viruses, his or her computer can be tasked to send spam (Spam Zombie), give remote access to the virus maker, be used to launch denial of service attacks, become unusable, or lose data.

What you can do about it

  • Use anti-virus program and keep the updates to that program current. This will prevent most problems but not all. There is a bit of lag time between when a virus is released in the wild and when an update is available. This is usually a few hours to a day or two for most companies.
  • Keep your operation system and software current. No software is free from bugs and some bugs can be exploited to install software on a users operating system. Most providers patch their software as soon as they are aware of a vulnerability. However viruses exploiting that vulnerability may be out with days if not hours of the patch release (as well as before, if the provider has been slow to patch its software), so install patches immediately.
  • Firewalls can also reduce virus risk. Firewalls can block all traffic to certain ports, but it cant see what the traffic is. It will not stop virus traffic coming in on open trusted ports, but an application listening on that port may simply ignore it if its not the type of traffic an application takes.

Useful Resources

 

Privacy

Importance of Privacy

Protecting your information is important. It can be used by others from tracking your shopping/usage patterns to committing fraud and identify theft. While tracking by marketers is relatively benign, use of your information for fraud can be very serious.

Protecting Sensitive Information

There are several things you can do to protect your personal information.

  • Make sure sites you submit sensitive information, particularly sensitive information, are both trusted and encrypted. Look for SSL indicators, as well as make sure sure that the certificate is valid. Most browsers will show an error if the certificate has expired or is invalid.
  • Don’t follow links in unsolicited email. These emails may be fake and bring you to a phishing site.
  • Buy from well known and trusted retailers.

Purpose of SSL

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) serves two purposes when used on a website. The first to to provide a key to encrypt all information send back and forth over a connection. This keeps the data secure between your computer and the computer you are communicating with. The second purpose is to have a third party validate the site that they are an actual business. You can contact the certificate provider for more information about the certificate.

Phishing The act of phishing is trying to coerce information such as bank account, paypal or ebay logins through email and websites that appear legitimate, but are faked to get users to follow them. Sometimes this is even done with fake charity donation sites. The best thing to do to protect yourself in this situation, is to never follow links from an email to a site, but access the site directly yourself. Also you want to make sure that the site is using an SSL certificate that has been granted to the company that owns the site.

For more information about phishing, refer to this article.

 

Firewall

What is Firewall?

A firewall is a filter through which all the network traffic goes through. Traffic gets filtered based on rules to where the traffic is coming from and where its going. A firewall can be configured to be very open, blocking only bad traffic or closed with just the necessary ports open for more security. A poorly configured firewall will prevent legitimate traffic from going through.

Types of Firewalls

  • Hardware Firewall – This is a device through which all network traffic is filtered. This is generally used in networks of 10 or more computers in conjunction with a router.
  • Software Firewall -All your traffic may be filtered through a linux or windows based router, you can install a firewall software on this to become a firewall as well.
  • Personal Firewall – Personal firewalls are firewall software that runs on your personal computer. This can be the Windows built in firewall or a third party firewall solution.

Resources

If you need to talk to a customer service representative, please call us at (952) 215 – 3800.