Why you should care about computer security

Here are some sobering quotes to consider:

  • “As the global financial crisis continues, we expect criminals to take advantage of the panic and fear among consumers worldwide and increase their targeted phishing attacks in the coming months.”
  • “Phishing attacks spiked significantly following the announcements of various bank failures in late September. While there was no strong trend towards using any one specific bank or failure, overall increases in phishing activity in the days following each major announcement were recorded.”
  • “Acquisition of innocent machines via email and Web-based infections continued in Q3 at about the same pace measured in Q2, with over 5,000 new zombies created every hour.” Note: a “zombie” is a computer which has been infected by viruses or other bad programs, which allows hackers to remotely manipulate or control the machine and use it for their own purposes. A Very Bad Thing to say the least.
  • Source: http://www.securecomputing.com/pdf/SCC-InternetThrtRprt-Oct08.pdf

There is an enormous amount of malicious content out on the web, just waiting to be installed on an unaware user’s computer. In the best case scenario, you may only see some annoying pop up ads for sites touting items such as Viagra knock-offs or pornography. In many cases, however, the result may be far less obvious, but far more nefarious.

I do not pretend to be any kind of true expert in the world of computer security. What I am is someone who is highly security conscious (some would say bordering on paranoia), who would like to help those who are less technically savvy to reduce their risk of being a victim of cyber-crime.  With computers  becoming more and more a part of our daily lives, keeping your computer safe is every bit as important as locking your doors at night.

This post is the first in a new weekly series I’ll call “Information Security Made Easy”. Every Tuesday or thereabouts, I’ll be posting tips or short how-to articles containing steps that normal users can take to better defend themselves against this new breed of crime. Every post will have a difficulty rating, ranging from “Grandma” to “Geek”, indicating how hard the recommended action is. In many cases, the tips I’ll be writing about may make your ability to freely browse the internet a little more difficult; if that’s the case, I’ll tell you so, frankly and clearly. Only you can decide if the trade-off is worthwhile.

If anyone has tips they think are worthwhile, please feel free to e-mail me at josh at awanderingmind dot com.  On that note, here’s your first tip: use a dedicated e-mail address whenever signing up for a website or entering your information.  That should help prevent your normal address from being bombarded with spam.