Paranoia on the Internet Pays Off

paranoia 2By chance, I met a very interesting cab driver today; one who was extremely computer competent and far more security conscious than the typical computer user I normally meet informally.

What struck me immediately, was Mike’s sense of paranoia surrounding his use of the computer on the Internet, which extended to the installation of software from unknown sources, including software from “friends”.

I must admit, it was very refreshing to have a discussion with a security conscious user, who was very aware of the security issues surrounding the use of computers.

So, is it paranoia if they really are after you? Well I can assure you, if you are connected to the Internet – they really are after you!

The Internet is a world that is full of cyber criminals, scam and fraud artists, and worse. A world that reeks of tainted search engine results, malware infected legitimate websites, drive-by downloads and bogus security software. Believe me, this is a very incomplete list!

It is beyond dispute that the Internet now fits the criteria of a world that is not just perceived to be, but is in fact, personally threatening to uninformed or casual Internet users.

I’ve often felt that given the present dangers on the Internet, it’s unfortunate that we can’t buy paranoia at the local computer store, or that we can’t download it freely from the Internet.

Despite the best efforts of antispyware, antivirus, and other Internet security products, you still face substantial risks while surfing the Internet. Malware (a genetic term for all sorts of nasties), evolves so rapidly today, that staying ahead of the curve has proven to be all but impossible for security software developers.

While reputable Anti-malware software is often capable of detecting harmful and malicious attempts to compromise your computer, this is not always the case. Anti-malware programs that rely on a definition database (most anti-malware programs) can be behind the curve in recognizing the newest threats.

Some statistics suggest that a zero day malware threat (a threat so new that no viable protection against it yet exists), will only be caught 57% of the time by installed Anti-malware software. Personally, I believe that this figure is a gross exaggeration.

Given these conditions then, we all need to become infected with a mild case of paranoia when using the Internet. Being paranoid, suspicious, and untrusting while surfing the web, might not make you invulnerable to malware infections or worse, but it will certainly reduce the odds enormously.

The prime area where paranoia can play an important role in preventing you from becoming a victim of cyber criminals is in overcoming the instinctive human response to just “click” while surfing the Internet. That instinctive response poses one of the biggest risks to your online safety and security.

Curiosity, coupled with a conditioned response can often override self-discipline and common sense; so it’s not unusual for people to engage in some, or all, of the following unsafe surfing practices.

Downloading files and software through file-sharing applications such as BitTorrent, eDonkey, KaZaA and other such programs.

Clicking links in instant messaging (IM) that have no context or are composed of only general text.

Downloading executable software from web sites without ensuring that the site is reputable.

Using an unsecured USB stick on public computers, or other computers that are used by more than one person.

Opening email attachments from unknown people.

Opening email attachments without first scanning them for viruses.

Opening email attachments that end in a file extension of .exe, .vbs, or .lnk.

So it’s time for you to develop a case of healthy paranoia while surfing the Internet, and as a first step be actively aware of the following threats to your personal and computer security.

Trojan horse programs

Back door and remote administration programs

Denial of service

Being an intermediary for another attack

Unprotected Window shares

Mobile code (Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX)

Cross-site scripting

Email spoofing

Email-borne viruses

Hidden file extensions

Chat clients

Packet sniffing

Having developed this new sense of paranoia you will no doubt take the following actions to protect your computer system, your money and your identity:

Install an Internet Browser add-on such as WOT, which provides detailed test results on a site’s safety; protecting you from security threats including spyware, adware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, and online scams.

Don’t open unknown email attachments

Don’t run programs of unknown origin

Disable hidden filename extensions

Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched

Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use

Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible

Disable scripting features in email programs

Make regular backups of critical data

Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised

Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer

Install a personal firewall on the computer

Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet

Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments

Be proactive when it comes to your computer’s security; make sure you have adequate software based protection to reduce the chances that your machine will become infected.

If you are unsure if you have adequate software based protection on your computer, then check out “The 35 Best Free Applications – Tried, Tested and Reliable!”, on this site, and download free security software that is appropriate for your personal circumstances.

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9 Comments

Filed under Browser add-ons, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Paranoia, Internet Safety, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Software, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools, worms, WOT (Web of Trust)

9 responses to “Paranoia on the Internet Pays Off

  1. dar

    Well put,Prof Bill.
    The Fix would seem to be to abandon HMS Microsoft.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Dar,

      I hear where you’re coming from. For those that are capable, Linux would be a good choice – particularly Ubuntu.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Bill

  2. Wow Bill,
    Every one should have a copy of this e-book.
    Most probably, someone would try to sell this I bet.

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  6. mike

    bill very interesting web site i didnt recieve an e- mail pertaining to the anti virus program you had mentined to me with code. i figured that was to good to be true.,i do injoy your site very cool mike

    • In defense of Bill, I think you’re the first and only one who claimed not receiving the free SuperantiSpyware.
      I received mine although I got it from RamblinRick. It’s really Super.