Web Scams: Danger Ahead (Part 2)

Has your world been turned upside down by someone hacking into your email account – and your personal life? Mine has. And it was downright scary – especially when they are using that sensitive portal to infect your whole computer! The best lessons are hard won and I have certainly learned a few. Here are some helpful tips from social media gal to you.

Email hackers want your information and your contacts – for their own financial gain. As with Facebook, trust your intuition. If you see an email in your inbox that looks shady, then it definitely is – and delete it tout de suite! One of the easiest ways for a hacker to infect your computer, and access all your contacts and information, is through your email account. Once you open up that email – voila! – the virus is in your system. And those little rascals are very hard to get out. A few years ago, I opened up an email that was from somebody I did not know. I was suspicious but it looked legit. My brand new laptop was infected within minutes! All the icons on my desktop changed to one symbol and froze up. I could not open up the internet or anything. After I stopped shaking, I did a full system scan and a complete System Recovery to a time before the rogue email popped up. Miraculously, this worked, but prevention is always the best strategy.

I learned to trust my intuition. My suspicion was warranted with that renegade email and next time, I will listen to my gut and delete, delete, delete!

We all know that as antibiotics get more sophisticated, so do the pathogens. It is the same with computers. As people get smarter, so do the hackers. Hackers are using more and more subtle and clever ways of weaseling into email accounts. A few weeks ago, I started to get those dreaded “Mailer-Daemon” email failure notices about a wrong email address where I had sent an email. But these irritating messages just kept on coming, long after I fixed my error. I was getting “failure messages” in bunches up to three times a day. I did some research and found out that this is a new way for hackers to do their damage: After a legitimate “Mailer-Daemon” notice is sent, the villains weasel into that notice, copy it and send out lots more invalid ones. If the fake ones are opened, the virus enters and has a party in your operating system. So, I deleted all of the extra no-good emails, contacted Google about those imposters, and my computer was fine. Again, the delete key is your best friend! Too many failure messages?  Blow them all away with the tap of a key.

It is a cyber-chess game. My helpful hint is this: Always stay at least five steps ahead of the hackers. Anticipate their best moves and “head them off at the pass.” Always be hyper-aware and hyper-vigilant on the web. With email, do some research on the latest infection strategies and watch out for them. Anything that looks weird, like too many “email failure” notices, means danger. Do not open them up at any cost.

With social media engines like Facebook and Twitter, being very careful is the catchword for pleasant surfing and posting. For example, it is essential to use Facebook’s security features: You can make your account accessible to only a few people. But even with these tools, nothing is ever totally secure. Never say anything on Facebook or Twitter that can be used against you! For instance, employers regularly check the Facebook accounts of prospective employees. Recently, I found out that having good supportive friends on Facebook was a definite advantage. When someone was posting negative things about me on their account, my wonderful buddies notified me immediately and I was able to deal with it.

To conclude, the best offense is always the best defense. Back up your computer by putting all of your files, photos and documents on a USB device or another hard drive – just in case the worst happens. Learn how to do a “System Recovery” and a computer scan because sometimes it is important to fix an infection fast. Always install a very effective Ant-Virus and Anti-Spyware program on your computer.

When you are satisfied that you are protected, remember to have fun! Isn’t that what the Web is all about? Please reply with any feedback to our blog or further suggestions on how to keep safe and warm when surfing the waters of cyberspace.

By Doreen Marion Gee

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