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Category: Rants Published on Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Symantec Says Cybercrooks are Gaining on Us

Remember when your folks complained that they could yell until they were "blue in the face" and still not get through to you? Well, I'm starting to develop that complex.

For the past 20 years or so, I've been warning readers about the scourge of the Internet. Those predators that are out there that want your personal info or will gain access to your most critical files at the click of a mouse.

But, did you listen. Nooooooooooooooo!

According to the latest Symantec Global Internet Security Report there was a 51% increase in malicious code in 2009 when compared to 2008. This means these evil doers aren't going away. There has also been a seven percent increase in phishing attacks.

After obtaining your personal and banking data (including credit card account numbers), these cyber criminals then offer your info to anyone that will pay as little as eight cents for the privelege of charging items to your credit card.

But there are many ways to stop these guys (here comes the preaching).

-- Make sure you have installed and updated the latest and greatest security software on your PC. These not only offer virus protection, but will protect you from spyware, malicious websites and other Internet interlopers. Check out products from Symantec, McAfee, Kapersky, Zonelabs and PC Tools.

-- Keep your security software up to date by either setting it up to load and install updates automatically or clicking on the update link in the software. Some of these products will notify you when updates are available.

-- Make sure you have downloaded the latest security updates for your operating system and other programs. Microsoft and Apple continually post these updates, which can either be automatically installed on your computer or be installed by clicking on a prompt notifying you that they are available. There's also a System Update utility in Windows that can be used to download and install the latest security fixes.

-- Use a digital wallet or other device to store your credit card information. These are included with Symantec and McAfee products or can be downloaded separately from software developers such as RoboForm or eWallet. These tools can also be used to automatically fill out forms on the Internet requesting general background info (name, address, etc.).

-- Use an external device, such as a SmartSwipe($99.95)credit card reader, to enter account information into online forms when making a purchase. These devices read the magnetic stripe on your credit cards and encrypt and upload the information to the form used to make your purchase online. Since you aren't typing in the information or storing it on your computer, there's no way a cybercrook can steal it.

-- Don't click on any email attachments or links that come from folks you don't know or trust. Especially avoid notifications of attempted package deliveries your weren't expecting, suspicious e-cards from companies such as Hallmark or video files that may download a virus to your computer.

-- Use a Web browser that will cut down on vulnerabilities and make sure you religiously download any security updates for those browsers and are using the newest versions. Ironically, according to the Symantec report, the most vulnerable browsers were Mozilla based, such as Firefox. The least vulnerable browser was Opera.

This, folks, is only the tip of the iceberg. If anyhone out there is listening (reading?), please let me know of any experiences you've had with cyber interlopers and any remedies you've applied. And don't say "buy a Mac!" They've become just as vulnerable to attack as any other computer.

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