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Computer security, am I just being too paranoid?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / August 31, 2012 9:45 AM PDT
Question:

Computer security, am I just being too paranoid?


I'm a novice when it comes to working with a PC but do know enough to
be really dangerous. Today, with our PCs being so vulnerable to cyber
attacks, hackers, and Trojan viruses, I, at times, feel a little
paranoid about what I put on my PC's hard drive that may be both
personal and financial in nature. I do run with Windows 7, have the
Windows firewall activated, and am using the Webroot AntiVirus software
but still feel like someone is looking over my shoulder. Aside from
the viruses that we can get when downloading items from the Internet
to opening an attachment in an e-mail, is there any way for a novice
to determine if their PC has been invaded by a genuine hacker who may
be watching my every move? Or am I watching too much TV? Any
recommendations or best practices you could afford me would be
greatly appreciated.

- Submitted by: Al H. of San Antonio, TX
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Internet Security....
by l8rb / August 31, 2012 11:24 AM PDT

In my experience is what you can afford. Freeware has a tendency to work just as well for most home applications, but paid programs can have automation options that are quite convenient.

Being able to specifically track a given intrusion has as much to do with your attention to detail as well as detailed knowledge of operations. The only things I would suggest is to add a personal firewall layer to what you have described, and be most attentive to where you go and who you transact with.

Beyond that, if someone is specifically targeting you, there's really not much you can do but clean up the aftermath and learn the lesson. The real issue is whether you are being targeted individually or just as a bulk effort.

Happy 'Netting!

L-8-R-b.

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IT Security
by spurlockda / August 31, 2012 12:56 PM PDT

Please don't take this wrong. One thing you have to understand is, are you worth the crook's effort and/or would you be someone whom a concerted crook would target. Most of the time, as L8 alludes to, the "attacks" that people experience are 'bulk' bots. They are designed to sequentially probe computers to see if they can find totally unprotected computers. Again as L8 said, most commercial 'firewall' applications will be enough to cause the bots to move on. If on the other hand, you are a tempting target and someone makes a concerted effort to attack your system, then there isn't much you can do easily. If you are such a target, then you can build a complex system that could include a standalone firewall coupled with the protective software. Some really blizzare ideas involve a hardware firewall connected to a computer that has nothing on it but an operating system then that connects wirelessly (through a secure router) to your primary computer which has a great software firewall/antimalware package as a front end. However, if you are such an important target that the NSA or the other three letter agencies want you, there is pretty much nothing you can do.

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Correct
by Hforman / August 31, 2012 2:42 PM PDT
In reply to: IT Security

You always have to "adjust" what you can lose to what the cost of protection is (not necessarily in dollars). For example, if you buy your spose a $10,000 necklace, would you put in a safe and a complicated alarm system that costs $25,000 just to protect it? There is also insurance. Howver, the poster did indicate that they do online banking. So, how much do they have in the bank? What are the limits on credit cards? You have to weigh all of this when deciding what to do. Banks and credit card companies usually will back you money-wise but at what level of proving that you didn't buy a mansion with your Visa card?

Remember that some phishing attempts are only looking for a few hundred dollars. A few hundred form you, a few hundred from someone else, and from someone else,....

Identity theft is something else. If someone can get your social security number, and a few other items of information from you, they can always assume your identity, even if you are dead or are a young child and there is no ending to what they can do to you and your credit rating. Give me yours and I can buy those mansions while you explain that the credit cards are not yours and the mortgages are not yours. By then, I'd have already sold the mansion for cash.

It is really nasty out there. If you have an identity, there are people out there who want to know you.

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Keep AV up to date and run virus checks daily
by windorah / August 31, 2012 2:02 PM PDT

I've found that I have very little trouble overall, I use free av software and keep it up to date. I run a scan every night and I'm careful about what sites I look at. I never open an email without a subject and generally only from people I know. I've had a couple of low level attacks but easily handled..

windy

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Yes, We are Looking Over Your Shoulder
by Hforman / August 31, 2012 2:30 PM PDT

I also do online banking and I used to also used to run Quicken. It does get scarey once in awhile. Here are some things I do for computer security at home and at work:

1) Remember that "security" is usually diametrically opposed to ease of use and convenience. Chances are, if your computer is not a pain-in-the-you-know-what, it probably isn't safe. Well, it's that way it is at work. At least is gives you the illusion of being safer.

2) Never put something that you don't want everyone to see up on the Internet somewhere. Someone WILL see it. Always read the terms of service and privacy statements to any site where you will be doing business or making tranactions. Don't just assume a site is safe or not safe just because they are a BIG company. Especially if their main business is "advertising" or you get their services for free. "Free" doesn't pay stockholders, employees or for technical things such as networks and servers.

3) Avoid keeping account numbers or credit card numbers on your computer unless they are well-encrypted. Consider full disk encryption for laptops and portable devices.

4) If you have a choice to keep credit card numbers on major online stores, do that if you are going to be a frequent shopper there. Remember, the odds are that the website won't get hacked and your data is probably encrypted on the site, but, if you keep typing the credit card information in to a website, eventually malware on your computerwill see your keystrokes. It is whatever makes you feel better but always look at the pros and cons of doing anything one way or the other way.

As for software on your PC, you can choose any OS that you are comfortable with but, NEVER assume that a particular type of OS is immune from malware. If you are making a choice, do some research on a malware site and look at NIST to see what the truth is. Don't listen to Fanbois as they are predjudice and don't read the right unbiased opinions. (I'll probably catch hell for saying this, watch).

For anti-malware software, take your time when choosing. Make sure ithe software is something you understand and feel comfortable. Read uop on what the software does, what the software doesn't do, and what the software is good at and what it is weak on. "Free" sound good, but is it really? Why would people and/or companies PAY for anti-malware software if it is free? One answer could be support. The other is because it may only work well in one area but not others. At work, we stick with Symantec and/or McAfee. Still, I don't think they do spyware as well as "Spybot Search and Destroy" and, for your own use, it is free but it is not a substitute for a/v software.

4) Make sure you have your "bases" covered! Anti-Virus? (Should also handle trojans and other things). Spyware? Run scans often with something good at spyware. Phishing? Avoid anything that mentions banks you don't do business with, especially those in Nigeria. Be wary of Princes and Chancellors contacting you. Even if you think an email from your financial institution looks VERY REAL, avoid replies unless the subject matter addresses YOU personally and shows some signs that it knows your account number. Even then, be careful! Do not click on an email "link" to login to your account. One way I test these, sometimes, when I'm in the mood is to click the link and put in incorrect information, just to see what happens.

5) Passwords and security questions: We have already beaten these topics to death but I would suggest using a STRONG password (sometimes they make you use one anyway) and change it when you feel "edgy". Security questions for major financial institutions do not ask you for your mother's maiden name because they want to know the answer or that your first hamster's name was "fluffy". This is to help identify you when you forget your password. If you get to choose your question and you worry about family members hacking your account, try to pick something they won't know the answer to and LIE about the answer (but keep the lies straight somehow). You don't even have to put in an answer that makes sense. For both passwords and security questions don't pick something that is in a dictionary or an encyclopedia or some book on babies names. You can always add numbers and/or special characters most of the time. Remember, though. You do trust YOUR BANK with your money and they probably have a lot of information on you from Google,... I mean , from your account application.

6) Be careful with what you say online. If you do your biography online, someone can find out your mother's maiden name, your first pet's name and what you do for a living and can even guess as to how much money you have when talking about your age and your job.

Routers and Network devices: NEVER use a default user ID or password that comes with a router or device. Always change it. It might be nice to administer your router remotely. Unless you have an extraodinary need, avoid the temptation. Don't let access to your router be seen from the Internet. Turn on WiFi security! Never leave a router insecure because some neighbor or someone driving by WILL find it and KNOW that it is not secure. Use the tightest security you can. Not only can someone USE your internet connection, but they might also see your other devices and be able to see computers. Yes, that means if you invite someone over, they will need a password to get in. Don't forget to change passwords.

7) There is NO SUCH THING as privacy. Everything you type in will be seen by someone. Don't think a chat is ever private. If you do something "illegal", you may see a complete transcript of your chat or tweet in a court of law (no, not saying you would say or do anything illegal). We still all know the story about two young Britons who were having private tweets about their upcoming trip to America (this conversation is happening in England, no less). When the got to the U.S. the Dept. of Homeland Security already had them wisked away and produced copies of their private tweets. Unfortunately, they used Brittish slang and said they were going to "destroy" America and that they were going to "dig up" Marilyn Monroe's grave. (DHS looked through their stuff trying to find a shovel). So, watch what you say because anyone could be looking. Especially if what you are saying can be interpretted more than one way. Kind of takes the fun out of it, doesn't it. So, if you are a member of some website like Google, Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else that you login to, read their privacy policies and terms of service.

Also, for your online banking: when you have time, login to your account. At this point "PRETEND" to be someone who has just hacked in and see what it is you can actually do. Can you see bank balances? Yes. Maybe no big deal to you. Can they move money back and forth between accounts (Savings vs. checking vs. MasterCard)? Yes. Can they send money to themselves. Maybe. Maybe not. Bill Pay? Maybe. You'll need to see what it is you can do and think hard before signing up with specific services. Then test out the security. Convenience can cause lack of sleep, you know.

So here are things I use on my machines.

Laptop: (Actually, a NetBook). I try to be careful what information I keep on there, especially work-related. Not all data is really YOURS. Some of it belongs to others. (Including pictures of boyfriend/girlfriends and your grandmother). I try to keep the laptop fairly clean of anything. Encryption: If you have to keep things that make you nervous about on a laptop, at least create an encrypted folder. There is software around to do that. Also, I use Truecrypt (that's a dot org) to encrypt the entire C: drive with the exception of the utility partition. Passwords: I have Roboform so, on my laptop, I use RoboformTo Go (portable).

Since I don't have a lot of anything on my laptop, I use a free product, AVG Free. If I suspect anything, I can always add more later.

Home PC (Desktop): OK, here I use, right now, McAfee, Spybot and IOBIT software. The McAfee was free from my ISP but, I am really considering putting in a suite from McAfee or Symantec, which I will have to pay for. It is not that expensive but you have to pay every year, these days. May catch it on sale somewhere.

By the way, don't run multiple anti-virus products as they can step on one another. Try to keep seperate functions, seperate.

Work: OK, this is easy. I use what they tell me to use BUT, I may throw in something else on top of that if I suspect that something is up. Machine acts funny or some window pops up and then goes away. I use Spybot Search and Destroy once in awhile. If I go to the internet except for a very few sites, I will need to use a user ID and a strong passord. Drives me nuts but there is a lot of data out there that I don't own, so we all put up with it.

Phone, and other portable devices: OK, I don't have a smartphone YET. That may change soon. If looking at software such as Symantec, they have software that will run on your portable equipment (phone, tablet, laptop) that will allow you to do stuff like turn on the camera to see who is using it, get the approximate location of the device, lock the device, put up an :"if found, please call...." message and even remote wipe it.

It all depends on you and what you are comfortable with. You won't be able to eliminate all the bad stuff out there, but you can MINIMIZE the chance that bad things will happen. Maybe if you are willing to forego some ease of use and convenience. Security is really a state of mind. Just remember that you won't be able to rely on anyone but yourself. Remember that banks and credit card companies offer some protection if you are using their sites but other places don't and will not take responsibility for anything that happens.

Howie

Not on Facebook or Twitter

Note: This post was edited by its original author to combine 2 posts into one. on 09/07/2012 at 12:36 PM PT

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I Agree, But Have Another Question
by 2dogday / September 7, 2012 5:59 PM PDT

Excellent advice, Howie. As a long time computer user, I couldn't agree more with all of your suggested precautions. However, now that so many people have laptops, my ISP is offering about a zillion different protective downloads--some for a cost, and others free with my middle-rate monthly payment. I am leery about adding any of these new protections, mainly because I am already covered by the expensive version of AVG; and also have some additional spyware for good measure. These have been comptatilble with my old desktop computer, and they do not slow it down, as some new stuff does. Now, my ISP wants to install identity protection--totally free of charge, one that is well known (used by banks, etc.). As I only buy merchandise from very safe, and prominent online stores, and use PayPal, I don't feel that I need this. Since my computer is old, I don't want to slow it or mess it up with some new contrivences. I have to admit that I do online banking, however--it is sooooo convenient, but is it worth adding identity protection on top of what the banks have? I know it would probably cause some sort of interferance--what do you think about Identity theft downloads Howie?

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I can't speak for Howie, but...
by JCitizen / September 8, 2012 1:23 AM PDT

I could not issue an opinion on the "identity protection" software you speak of, until you tell us what it is. I have used one very surprising software called Identity Finder. This software is expensive, and the free one really doesn't give you an impression of how well it works. They may have a trial-ware version now. The first time I ran it after purchasing it, this program scared the pants off of me!!! I had been using this old XP computer for years and I found my dearly departed mother's social security number as well as one of her credit card numbers, as well as several of my credit card numbers, on the hard drive! All of this was discovered in about 15 seconds or so.

Now the even scarier part about this, is the crooks can do this just as well with malware tools. However, if you run CCleaner to delete passwords and auto complete, or any other form filling information, in all your browsers this will prevent discovery of such data. The only really useful feature of this software was the fact that you can encrypt files, such as your tax returns, for instance, so that no one can lift the information and get your social security number or other financial data. ID finder can also find any telephone numbers or checking account numbers you may have inadvertently left un-encrypted on the drive. I feel you can use the ordinary search function to find the same info yourself. Windows professional, business, or ultimate versions since Vista, have bit-locker, which should be sufficient to encrypt your files or folders, with the regular embedded product.

For this reason, I can't recommend spending the money for such programs, but running them at least once, as an educational tool, to teach yourself where information can end up, and how to avoid exposing it to criminals, is well worth the one year fee. Just doing it yourself for free is probably good enough though. The good part about products like ID finder is they can find data you might not remember, and so you may not be able to search for, in exact search strings. As far as things like Life Lock or similar products, you would be advised to research their reputation - you'd be suprised what some small banking institutions trust; I don't trust Life Lock because I don't trust the founder of the company; so you might get the bank to explain how they determined this service can be trusted.

It is so easy to get three free credit reports from each of the providers, that you could do it yourself if you are not particularly lazy like I am. I let my credit card company watch it for a nominal annual fee, but if you go to each of the big three reporting agencies every four months and get a report online for free, it is just about as effective. I personally think congress needs to pass a law that they have to give you this as an email/snail mail report at least every month, but fat chance congress will ever do that.

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Wow, JC...
by l8rb / September 8, 2012 2:31 AM PDT

You were doing just great, even if seemingly promoting a specific program for your point...until you got to the end.

Do you really think a self-serving group of lawyers and businessmen disguised as politicians need to be concerned about making sure that a private company --who makes it's profits selling information to other private companies-- should give you that specific information that concerns you MORE often for free than they already do...I detest the term, but can you say "Nanny State"?

I am glad at least to see that you brought this up in a segment dedicated to paranoia, but I am concerned that you feel those particular children in D.C. have any care about your credit rating...except possibly the IRS! They don't even care that the banking system 'stole' your retirement funds! They are the only 'public' group I know that can (and DO regularly!) give themselves a pay raise on demand...on top of all the 'freebies' they get with the job.

I like a joke as well as the next guy, but a comment like that in today's environment is just scary!

Have a better day!

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Your right - I don't...
by JCitizen / September 8, 2012 2:55 AM PDT
In reply to: Wow, JC...

But without personally pressuring your representatives, you will never know. I hope to encourage that. Getting out and actually voting, whether your bored with the choices or not, is not only the patriotic thing to do, but a requirement for the free citizenry; even if you vote all the bums out! Laugh

I felt like my "fat chance" statement, pretty well summed up my opinion on that!

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The Responsibility Needs to Be With The User
by Hforman / September 10, 2012 12:12 PM PDT

People use free websites all of the time. Even if you promise an add-free and totally secure website if you charge for the service, nobody will really come (except idiots like me who paid for a lifetime subscription on something just to avaoid ads).

The problem with people in general as they are way too quick to "rationalize" things so they don't have to read anything like Terms of Service or Privacy Terms. Ease of Use seems to always trump common sense. Everyone wants to keep their customers data up on a FREE cloud service even if it means that the provider could sell that information or let their employees look at it. The consumer does not get a choice, does he?

As you pointed out. It all comes down to "laziness". Until something happens and then they don't accept responsibility.

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I should have clarified...
by JCitizen / September 11, 2012 8:54 AM PDT

not to go to "freebee" sites, which are mostly suspect, I imagine, to get credit reports. Going directly to each reporting agency site is free as long as you only hit each of them once a year. They can't charge you anyway. Thanks for that reminder; and of course I discourage the usual "free" sites, or advertisements. A simple search will get you a link to the FTC site. The Federal Trade Commission will not steer you wrong on sources for a free credit report.

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It All Depends
by Hforman / September 8, 2012 2:23 AM PDT

My ISP was giving away CA's Internet Security Suite for free (well, included in all the bucks you pay for high speed access). Now, they are giving away McAfee instead but only the simple Anti-virus. If you have the super-expensive version of AVG's suite (vs. just anti-virus), I would stick with that. However, if it concerns you, you can always temporarily try the other packages BUT, just be aware that multiple a/v products running at the same time. If you remove your protection and try some other protection, do a scan and see what it finds. At the same time, you can you can run a standardized test that you determine yourself (such as copying a few files of different sizes) to see if it slows you down. I haven't heard that modern stuff slows anything down. We run full-bore Symantec at work and you'd think it would slow things down but they added Insight and Sonar to avoid recanning files they know are clean and have not changed based on reputation, etc. Running a FULL scan in the middle of the day: that WILL slow down your system. Do that at night. The regular realtime protection doesn't seem to slow anything down much. I actually do a few full scans during the day if the logs tell me that something weird is going on and the user doesn't notice that much. At least my phone isn't ringing.

Identity Theft is a really serious thing. If someone can get ahold of some information about you that includes a social security number or a bank account number you could be in a world of hurt for a couple of years and it would take a lot of work to fix that up. As far as online banking, most banks use very high protection. Many people complain about security questions but that is only to protect you. I mean, your first pet's name. Fluffy doesn't need to worry about what your bank would do with that information. Most banks would never actually see the answer in clear text anyway. It gets encrypted and, if you need to answer the question later, your answer is encrypted with the same procedure and compared to the original encrypted answer. Match? You are OK. People should read the terms of service on any website where they will have some of your data and also the privacy terms as well. If you are on a website, try to see what happens when you "forget" your password. If they can send you your password in unencrypted email BE VERY AFRAID. It means if the web site gets hacked they will have your password. Most secure places allow you to reset your password only as they cannot see your password (if you are a system designer, please take note).

As for Identity Theft software, I'm afraid that I don't know a lot about that. I heard some questionable things about Lifelock. Not that they can't do their job, but you would be best to do a web search on any software before you add it where security is concerned. JCitizen has answered with some software he likes. He has given a lot of good information as to keeping a lot of old information off your machine and about securing your browser. I'd also look into private browsing features. You don't want to make using your computer a nightmare with too much stuff but do remember that not having protection can be more difficult if you need to spend 2-3 years fixing your credit.

You are correct that you probably don't need extraordinary steps to do online banking. Just a bit of common sense like:

1. Avoid banking from someone else's computer or at an Internet Cafe
2. Scan your computer for any malware periodically
3. Verify that your bank has some sort of online guarantee in case something bad happens that you don't lose money.
4. If something does happen, report it to the bank IMMEDIATELY.
5. Change passwords frequently and use strong passwords.
6. If you are worried about family or friends hacking your accound, be careful with security questions; don't answer honestly or avoid the one's that someone would know the answer to.
7. Call you bank and find out answers to any security questions you have.

Good luck.

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I Agree
by cardplay / September 7, 2012 10:12 PM PDT

Your response had some great advice, but left out one crucial bit of info. When you must have personal data and financial data available to use, such as for on-line banking, you can best safeguard it by not having it on your computer. I have a laptop that I use for on-line banking. I keep all of the financial records, along with all of my personal data on a separate hard drive, that is only turned on while I am connected to my banking program (as an example).

The same thing is true of my photo's. I will process the photo's on my laptop, and then immediately after turn on my separate hard drive and store them, eliminating them from my laptop. If I want to view my photo's, I disconnect from the internet, and turn off the WIFI on my laptop, then turn on the separate hard drive.

it can be a small bit of a pain to do things this way, but my data is sate.

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well siad
by waynearcelectcom / September 8, 2012 4:29 AM PDT

Hforman covered most of the bases but I NEVER bank on line - -

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On line security
by luigilammachi / September 10, 2012 2:08 AM PDT

If you put all of your information on a billboard in front of your house less people would see it than on-line.
Start by assuming everybody on line is lying in some fashion. Information that you put on-line today will be even more accessible in 10 years; 20 years. Machines don't forget and technology development never stops.
There are many many on-line users that can "access" your information but they have to look for it. If you put nothing "of interest" on your computer or on-line it is unlikely that you will attract attention.

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Are You Being Overly Paranoid About Your Computer Security?
by High Desert Charlie / August 31, 2012 2:30 PM PDT

Hey Al,

I don't think you're being overly paranoid at all. But there are a few realities about using the internet that we all need to come to grips with, and unless you're an accomplished IT Tech, you need to assume that certain elements of your web browsing activities are being watched.

I could go into an overly complicated reason about why, but it wouldn't really make any difference. Let's take Facebook as a good example. When you log onto Facebook, your computer becomes the focus of a special tracking device that is dedicated just for YOU!!! Now don't you feel special? So while you're logged on, every place you go, and everyone you click on, comment to, or any ad you select is tracked. Okay you say, I suppose that if I'm going to use Facebook I should expect that they are paying attention to what I'm doing and where I'm going. But what about after you log off of Facebook?

That's right Al, every site you browse to, every site you view, all of your browsing and shopping habits and everything else that is obtainable, is STILL BEING TRACKED BY FACEBOOK!!! And it's not just Facebook. I wouldn't be at all surprised in CNET didn't have some tracking going on as well. Information is valuable, and in the internet game, the more information you have about a computer user, the more power you have to influence how they use their computer, and how to use their vulnerabilities to exploit them. I realize this all sounds a little like big brother is watching, but the truth is THEY ARE. This same tracking activity provides you almost like magic, with ads for items you've been shopping for. If you've told someone you were single, you may be presented with ads for dating sites. If you've been looking at motorcycle sites, you may be surprised to suddenly see things about motorcycles in other browsing activities. It's not all bad, but it's there and it's not going away.

So you say you don't like that. Well, there's a way to turn off tracking somewhere in that maze of settings on Facebook and other sites, and if you look them up, you may be able to find find them. The bottom line is that most people don't. AVG has a new feature they call "Do Not Track" but I can't honestly say I know if it works, or if it does I don't know how well it works, with which Browsers, or how effective it may be. The point is that they saw the need for such a feature, which makes the whole thing RELEVANT.

Living in a world where everything is electronically "Available" comes at a cost. So here's my advice for what it's worth.

1. Anytime you enter sensitive information on the internet, make sure that your URL Address (that's the WWW address) starts with https:\\. This at least lets you know that the person your giving that information to is located on a secure server, and you are more or less protected regarding the data you send over that communication. If the site starts with only "http:\\" with no "s" -- the site is not a secure site and you should never provide sensitive information over such a connection. Not even your email address.

2. It's a good idea to use a different Browser for your sensitive business type activities and your pleasure or social types of activities. There's a lot less likelihood that your bank's tracking software is going to pose a threat. Fortunately, tracking doesn't cross between Browsers. So you can use one Browser for fun, and another for sensitive information. Of course by Browser, I'm speaking about Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Goolge Chrome, Safari, and others used to interface with the internet.

3. Never respond to email from sites that you believe to be secure. Hackers are very adept at cloning bank sites, credit card sites, and many others in the attempt to lure you into giving them your passwords and other sensitive information. If the message says there's an issue with your account, log on to that account the same way you always do, through their URL address from your browser. Never from an email link.

4. Remember that there is no amount of security that is impervious to attack and/or being compromised. From the looks of things, you've done well in protecting your computer from unwanted intruders. I'll just caution you to the fact that the most dangerous internet predators out there are the ones you can't see. They don't pop up on your screen and try to sell you anything. They don't claim you have 467 viruses that they can fix. They don't redirect your browser to unwanted sites. Instead, they sit in the background of your computer's file system and slowly and methodically send out information about every site you visit, every email you send, and collect every contact available on your system, and in some cases every keystroke you make and you never knew they were there. These are the predators that can do a lot of damage. Far beyond slowing down your computer, or making your system inoperable, they will wipe out your bank account, max out your credit cards and ruin your credit.

So Al, as the old saying goes, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean no one is after you. Keep your security programs up to date, keep your Windows Updates up to date, keep your firewall on, and never, ever, put anything on the internet that you wouldn't be okay with showing to your 6 year old granddaughter, your wife, or your Mother-in-Law.

Good Luck, and I hope this helps.

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Computer Security
by ghost7772 / August 31, 2012 8:31 PM PDT

First of all unfortunately no computer is 100% safe, if someone is bound and determined to hack your computer they will.
However there are a few things that you can do to discourage them from trying.

First having a GOOD Anti-Virus program and Spyware, and Malware program on your computer is the first step.

Two of the best Anti-Virus programs are AVG internet security and firewall, and ZoneAlarm Anti-Virus and firewall. They both offer free versions which do a good job, but there are things missing in the free versions, or you have to do things manually with the free versions that are automatic in the paid versions. I've been using both of the above mentioned for years, and after using the free versions went on to purchase the full versions.

Another thing is that most Windows OS versions only allow you to have only one Virus program on your computer, it is recommended that you have at least two Spyware programs, and Malware program installed. A lot of the internet security programs say that they take care of all (Virus, Spyware, and Malware) but they don't (I found that out the hard way).

One of the BEST anti Spyware programs is Safer Networking's Spybot Search and Destroy (which is free, although they do ask for donations, and it's worth spending a few dollars.) Unfortunately it's a manual program, as you have to update and scan your computer yourself. Another good Spyware program is Malwarebytes anti -Malware. (Which also offers a free and paid version. There is only a few differences between the two.), and Emsisoft Anti-Malware. This program lets you use it for 30 days so you can decide if you want to spend the money for it, then quits working unless you pay for it. IT IS DEFFENATELY WORTH PAYING FOR!

Another thing you can do to safeguard yourself from getting ripped off is, most on-line stores accept PAY-PAL for payment these days, so go to your bank, and set up an account that you'll only use to purchase things on the internet, and pay bills with. Each month, ONLY put enough money in that account to cover what you are going to spend. Then go to PayPall.com and open an account with them, after you confirm the PP account, make your purchases with PP, as then your purchases and money are covered by PP if something should go wrong.

About the best thing that you can do is BE SMART! Most people that get ripped off are people who open those e-mails that tell you that you won $$$$$ and all you have to do is give them your routing and account number thinking that someone's going to give them a lot of $$$$ for nothing.

Hopefully these suggestions will be of help to you.

Note: This post was edited by its original author to add line breaks posts. on 09/07/2012 at 11:57 AM PT

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Using Credit Card as Paypal Purchase Method
by SeagoatLeo / September 7, 2012 10:53 AM PDT
In reply to: Computer Security

I use my credit card to double insure that the item I'm purchasing will arrive and be in acceptable condition. For ebay purchases, that's ebay, Paypal and a credit card insurance. I set up my bank account specifically for Paypal with a limit of $500 in the account to cover my purchases (such as monthly diabetic test strips and other items). This limit prevents anyone including ebay or Paypal from ever causing more than $500 damage.

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PayPal????
by waynearcelectcom / September 8, 2012 4:37 AM PDT

I wish PayPal had an option where they e-mail you for permission to authorize the purchases - - - with a CC and fraud you are covered but with PayPal someone could clean out your bank account and they cover nothing -- HUM

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Only one problem with that...
by JCitizen / September 8, 2012 5:27 AM PDT
In reply to: PayPal????

If it is a man-in-the-middle attack, many times the crooks can control or otherwise block email alerts during the attack. So that wouldn't necessarily work.

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Regarding separate bank account
by Bazebolljim / September 8, 2012 2:41 AM PDT
In reply to: Computer Security

ghost7772 mentions having a second bank account for online purchases. I opened a credit card account several years ago to only be used for internet purchases. If you do that, I recommend you put a very low cap on the card. Mine is capped at $1,000, you might want to have it higher or lower. I had to insist on the low cap because they wanted to put it at $15,000. So far, using this card and PayPal has worked just fine.

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Has a change in your cerdit rating happened
by bus / September 1, 2012 1:24 AM PDT

If you have been hacked and not seen a issue with credit card fraud or identity theft you need to ask yourself what is this hacker after? Do you have a valuable email address book like for a church group or club? Are you a federal employee with access to valuable information or and employee of a bank? The general question is are you someone who is a high profile target that a hacker would be looking for? If you don't fall into being a target by a hacker than worrying about this hacker person is not productive.

Please understand that you are being tracked and your ISP is just one of the trackers. Your online habits are marketing gold so as long as there is information from what you do online you will be tracked as will all the rest of us. Even if you stop using all computers and any devices that connect to the internet, you are still being tracked when you buy something at a store, when you pay your taxes, and when you pay your bills. All these acts generate information that is stored and classified as who you are. This "you" is stored in financial institutions, governmental institutions, marketing companies, and insurance institutions. Your feeling of being paranoid should be based on this but not on the idea that one hacker is after you. Now the intuitions are the real targets of a hacker. That is were the path to gold is.

You can only do so much and if you do the basics you have at least not gone on in ignorance. The basics are use common sense, do the AV thing, check your credit reports, get insurance that helps you during an Identity theft event and get a service to monitor your financials only if you feel you can not cover this area yourself.

If you have reached the point where you are covering the computer in aluminum foil, then it is time for you to get mental help or at least do something relaxing. Our open society lifestyles cause our privacy to be worn away with each new convenience. Openness tends to lead to complacency and some paranoia is a good thing in that you stay alert but do the basics and use common sense. By the way don't forget to put holes in the foil to vent the heat from your computer.

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Most afraid of bank account info. and social security/credit
by SeagoatLeo / September 7, 2012 10:58 AM PDT

I am most afraid of allowing any bank account and social security/credit report info being available on-line. I protect myself by not using the internet for banking other than a special Paypal bank account and not receiving on-line credit reports. Whenever the bank offers free on-line services, I tell them no thank you, I don't want to reveal my accounting to hackers. I don't trust bank employees either but have to live with it so I keep updated account records daily (via phone log in).

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Paranoid?
by joecoolsvette / September 1, 2012 8:46 AM PDT
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NSA might as well...
by JCitizen / September 8, 2012 7:10 AM PDT
In reply to: Paranoid?

as in my experience, the Chinese already have back doors in the form of doped chips in your motherboard! If you become a target of interest for even industrial espionage, you are pretty much toast; but at least you will know something is wrong if you stay aware of your operating environment.

Emisoft was once asked by the German government to allow their spyware on the whitelist; and they refused. I got more respect for them, than any security organization so far! Plain I'd like to see NSA get past them! Mischief

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Paranoia
by Hforman / September 3, 2012 9:33 AM PDT

I guess I gave a few things to do but never answered your question. Being a bit paranoid is actually a good thing. It amounts to the emotion "fear" and fer can keep you alive or keep you safe, at times. You are NOT being unjustifiably paranoid. Back in the 1970's we had hackers. The same as now but they were mostly hitting on mainframes with the purpose of having fun and making a big joke well showing off their technical prowess. Then came the virus makers. Most of these would do something bad to your computer like wipe out your hard drive. Michaelangelo virus, anyone? Still these are just major annoyances. Some malware still was a joke like the ones that infected Microsoft Word so it would cause it to tell the user he or she was an idiot.

The Internet has been around a long, long time. It wasn't until we had the World Wide Web and networking technology that having a personal computer really took off. Now we have spam, we have trojans, we have Nigerian Princes and bankers. With online banking. With that, things have gotten serious. We have phishing attempts. We have spying. The current crop is to get the user to part with their money. As someone said, the more money or the bigger phish you are, the more of a concentrated effort will be made to part you from your money. However, most phishing and other criminal intent is more of the automated kind. Just drop a hook and see what bytes. SO, the bad guys don't care if they get $50 from you or $50,000. It is all the same effort.

Does all this mean you should pull the plug on your PC? No. Does it mean you should not do online purchasing or banking? No (unless you are my gf.) It means you should take precautions. Most of the posts here have good advice. You can also talk to people you know. And remember to be a little paranoid as it will help you stay safe. If something appears too good to be true, it probably isn't. If someone you don't know tells you that they picked you to help them get money out of some country, hit the delete key. If someone that you DO know emails you that they are in jail and needs money, be afraid. Be very afraid.

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The worst part is...
by JCitizen / September 8, 2012 7:14 AM PDT
In reply to: Paranoia

the banking malware that the criminals use now, is so automated, that they probably don't even need to get involved if your bank's electronic security is lax. Shocked

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Psychological
by Joseph ATO-BINEY / September 4, 2012 1:36 AM PDT

We have come of age so far as computer and IT are concerned. Heartbreaking advances have been made in these areas and I will be surprised if people are still in doubt or fear. This fear or doubt is common and acceptably understood because hackers, dialers, zombies, bots are everywhere and sophisticated. However, there is no need creating a monster where there is none. From your write-up you have done all that has to be done to basically secure your PC and your privacy. You asked whether you had been watching too much TV. The answer is emphatic Y-E-S!!!

Since Windows XP Windows firewall has been adequately robust to ward off any uninvited and unwanted guest. Nonetheless Windows firewall may be configured to add extra meat to its protection. That does not mean that the current settings (which I believe to be the default ones) are not good enough.

What you have to do in addition to what you have is to ensure that
i. the computer is up to date i.e. all the necessary, important and recommend updates from Microsoft in particular and other third party programmes are installed.
ii. the antivirus is up to date.
iii. you run programmes you trust.

Lest I forget, do not forget to scan your PC regularly. In addition, you may install PCTool Firewall Plus, very tiny, free but tough firewall programme which helps you decide which programme you allow or block from gaining access to you PC.

With these suggestions, I believe you can now sleep with both eyes firmly closed.

Joseph ATO-BINEY
IT Pro & Consultant
Winneba, Ghana

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Also Windows Firewall Control...
by JCitizen / September 8, 2012 7:27 AM PDT
In reply to: Psychological

I'm not sure if that is the exact name, but it has templates to make modifying the Windows firewall easier for newbies; if I remember correctly, it also makes it easier to allow outbound connections for necessary operations. CNET should have some user reviews for it, as it is available everywhere free.

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Never use Mcafee or Norton
by bobbloke / September 7, 2012 10:25 AM PDT

Beleive me I repair computers that have viruses and 99% of them are paid subcriptions from these two plus they slow computers down and that is why people bring them to me. "My computer is slow and I don't know why" The other 1% are from people who do not update their Av's. I have used AVG since 2001 but their are others out there you just have to try them yourself. But remember no site is ever secure.

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