Spam and Viruses and Hackers, Oh My: how to avoid them

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Spam and Viruses and Hackers, Oh My: how to avoid them

Postby PaulaO » 08 Apr 2011, 05:26

I've been working on these for a while now, in my head. I finally got around to putting it all down and sharing it with y'all.

The first one will cover the basics of email spam and common sense.

The second one will cover the basics of passwords and common sense.

I may have others covering websites and more on emails. And common sense.

See the recurring theme?

I encourage feedback. If I miss something, let me know.

I am going to try to not tout one particular program or service over any others, despite my biases (I despise Outlook and IE). Because of that, I will be using very few examples. If anyone needs it, I can provide what to do in Thunderbird and Firefox. Perhaps others can provide the information for the other programs.

(I will also "reserve" five post spaces to add things in as we go along.)
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Re: Spam and Viruses and Hackers, Oh My: how to avoid them a

Postby PaulaO » 08 Apr 2011, 05:26

There are ways to protect yourself from spam, email viruses, malware, etc. Of course, some of the best are the Anties: anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-whatever. Those are you first level of defense and anyone not using any or all of these is asking for trouble and will get it easily.

But what I want to talk about is how to be more active in your defense.

We all get spam email. It is as much a fact of life if you have any kind of email account. There are things you can do to ignore them and not accidentally fall trap to one. Here's the top 3, in my opinion:

First, know your software. Whether you check your email completely online (such as Yahoo or Gmail) or you download it (such as Thunderbird or Outlook), take the time to understand how it works and what defenses are already in place. The first thing to check on is message filters. You can use these to not just shuffle Stoopid Co-Worker's "pass this to everyone you know!" emails to a folder you can ignore, but you can also set up keywords that will put away spam so you never ever see it. Some already have "blacklists" you can take advantage of.

Second, set up different email accounts. Have one for Facebook, one for your Yahoo groups, one for official stuff like banks and bills, one for family, etc. That way, when your family account gets an email that says "Your Chase Bank Account has been compromised" you know immediately that it is spam since that's not the email address they use. Yeah, it can be a PITA to keep track of them all, especially if you only check email online. Another option is what my brother does. He just keeps changing his email address. He has one and when the spam gets to be too much, he deletes that account and starts another. However, this hasn't prevented his computer from getting infected.

Third, check that link before you click on it. With Thunderbird, if I hover my mouse over a link, it is shown at the bottom bar in the program's window. Check to see that both links are the same. Sometimes, at first glance, they look valid but look closer. But, generally, places don't send you emails that tell you to fix your hacked account by signing in. Your bank would most likely send you a letter, not an email. And PayPal now doesn't even have links in their emails. Make sure your anti-virus software is checking your email as you download it. It usually will mark an email's subject line with something like [VIRUS] or [SPAM]. Right click attachments (even if you are sure it is safe!) and see if your anti-virus has an option to scan before opening. It should and if it doesn't figure out how to set it or change to another. Actually, check to see if it automatically scans it before it opens, even without you right clicking.

There's more, of course. Like never open an attachment from anyone you don't personally know. Very few companies send invoices as attachments and the post office or other package company won't contact you via email to tell you to fill out some form in order to receive your lost package. If they need you to fill out a form, they'll send you to their website to do it. But, really, when's the last time you gave your email address to the post office or package company? Use common sense.

In reverse, don't send attachments without explaining what it is. Don't send emails with nothing but a link. If you absolutely must forward an email because you want to see if the bunny really does appear, delete all the other email addresses first and use BCC.
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Re: Spam and Viruses and Hackers, Oh My: how to avoid them a

Postby PaulaO » 08 Apr 2011, 05:27

Passwords are those bits of information that keeps your personal information personal. Such fragile, delicate things yet most of us don't give much thought to them.

And that is our biggest mistake. Here's an example:

My brother and his family play World of Warcraft. So to keep it simple between their accounts, they kept the passwords very similar. Too similar. For example, it would be like password1, password2, password3, etc. Some websites used to ask for that username and password in order to access information about your game characters outside the game (like for gear comparison and such). Hackers saw the buffet being laid out for them and it became nasty fast. My sis in law logged into one of these sites just once. The next day, she went to play the game and found her main character missing. As she was panicking, my nephew went to check his character and was having trouble logging on. They then realized he was already logged on. Because the hacker realized their password system and was systematically cleaning their stuff. Granted, they lost no real money (actually, Blizzard gave it all back) but it was a very tense 24hrs as my brother quickly changed their game passwords and cancelled the debit card used to auto-renew their game time.

I spent about an hour gathering password-setting information and forwarding it to my brother. He then came up with much different passwords and spent the rest of the day changing all their other passwords (bank accounts, etc) because they were basically set up the same.

And now I will share what I gleaned from those links with you! Don't you just feel lucky and loved?

First, some don'ts. You'd be surprised how many people still do these.

    NEVER use a birthdate as a password. Or anniversary date.
    Never use your name, your pet's name, or some other such thing.
    Never tell anyone your passwords unless you trust them, they live in your house, or they are executors of your will (more on that one later).
    Never use the same password for multiple places. Like Facebook and the bank are two horrible places to share passwords.

Here's an excellent list of other don'ts. http://wolfram.org/writing/howto/password.html

Second, don't log in to extremely important sites in a public place. Even if your laptop has anti-stuff out the wahzoo, don't do it. Public wi-fi places are another hacker buffet and people continue to see it as potluck, adding their personal (and financial) information for the world to see. Which is why sharing passwords among sites isn't a good idea. So you log into Facebook (how dangerous is that, right?) not your bank but they share the same password. But how does the hacker know you use First Fidelity and not Second Trust? Because while the hacker was fiddling with your computer, it probably also got your contact list. Yes, it happens. A lot. More than we know or want to know.

Third, use your common sense. Facebook and Yahoo and all those very popular sites are notorious for hacking. And if you are like so many other people, your FB password (and probably email account) is the same for all your other sites and accounts. Pretend you are educating a child on internet safety. Are you being as safe with your own information? Most of us are not.

As I said in the previous installment, your bank would never send you an email telling you to click here and reset your password. They'd send you a letter. Even Facebook would probably never send you a message saying you got a message and the click here to retrieve it. But I get at least 3 a week and I'm not even that active! (but it always comes to my non-FB email address so I don't even open. Just flag as spam which deletes them.) Be smart. Be proactive and always on the defense.

Linkages for you: (although they basically say the same things)
http://www.microsoft.com/security/onlin ... reate.aspx
http://www.bsacybersafety.com/protectin ... rticle.cfm
http://christinecaseyab.com/blog/how-to ... sswords-2/

Now, back to what I said earlier about executors of wills. With so much stuff going cyber nowadays (remember when Cloud was something fluffy in the sky that may or may not look like a rabbit?), a lot of our information is being held digitally and not in real paper in a real fireproof safe. Several years ago, a friend of mine died suddenly. Her partner, with everything else to deal with, suddenly realized that she had no access to any of their online accounts because she didn't know any of the passwords. I sat down at E's computer and spent many hours going over post-it notes, scraps of paper, and her personal documents, gathering passwords as I went. Luckily, she was a 'birthdate or anniversay' type of password user so it wasn't as bad as we all thought. Still, it was a stress S. did not need.

As a result, I now have a set of protected files on my computer that contains every one of my passwords. I print it out each month and put it in the safe, shredding the previous one. Not only is it passwords, but it is account numbers, verification codes, game codes, how to set up my email accounts, etc., etc. Whenever I get a new one or change an old one, I update it immediately. Yes, it is dangerous for me to have this on my computer. But I consider it worth the risk. It is on the desktop only and if someone is breaking into my house and steals the computer, I am going to be changing everything anyway and what little they get out of that file would be gone within hours, long before they find, crack, and open that little file. The only reason I do it is because I live with someone who is not very computer savvy. That file will make it easier for her (or most likely others) to do what needs to be done. My brother knows of it and how to access it.

A simple spiral notebook would do just as good. Keep it up to date. But put it somewhere other than right by the computer! Not because it is out of the way of thieves, but that in case of fire, it will be safe. Let others know where it is and why. In case you are ill or deceased, it will no doubt come in very handy.

There are also "cyber wallets" but I think that is like tossing a gasoline onto a burning building in order to burn it down faster so the fire goes out.
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Re: Spam and Viruses and Hackers, Oh My: how to avoid them a

Postby PaulaO » 08 Apr 2011, 05:27

RESERVED
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Re: Spam and Viruses and Hackers, Oh My: how to avoid them a

Postby PaulaO » 08 Apr 2011, 05:27

RESERVED
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Re: Spam and Viruses and Hackers, Oh My: how to avoid them a

Postby PaulaO » 08 Apr 2011, 05:27

RESERVED
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Re: Spam and Viruses and Hackers, Oh My: how to avoid them

Postby deej » 08 Apr 2011, 06:02

Great idea Paula, I use AOL and yes they have a Spam filter in place. If they know it's spam they'll put it into a folder I can look at, but once I concur, I never see those people again. I also have the ability to add a spam filter, which I use often. Can't wait for the next installment. :-)


:oops: I just realized something, now that you've reserved the slots, they won't show as new when you finally use them??? You'll have to add a post that it's been updated.
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Re: Spam and Viruses and Hackers, Oh My: how to avoid them

Postby Baker » 08 Apr 2011, 07:07

Maybe she can add a wee post at the bottom of thos thread so that the thread gets flagged.

Common sense--why is it so uncommon?

Thanks, P. :-)
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Re: Spam and Viruses and Hackers, Oh My: how to avoid them

Postby PaulaO » 08 Apr 2011, 13:20

deej wrote:Great idea Paula, I use AOL and yes they have a Spam filter in place. If they know it's spam they'll put it into a folder I can look at, but once I concur, I never see those people again. I also have the ability to add a spam filter, which I use often. Can't wait for the next installment. :-)


:oops: I just realized something, now that you've reserved the slots, they won't show as new when you finally use them??? You'll have to add a post that it's been updated.


Yes, I will put a new post whenever something is updated.

As for AOL, I dislike it as much as Outlook. Because of the same reason, really. They are so very popular and therefore are constant targets for virus, spam, scams, and all that other nasty stuff. That is why AOL is allegedly so well armored.
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Re: Spam and Viruses and Hackers, Oh My: how to avoid them

Postby deej » 08 Apr 2011, 13:28

Well, (knock wood) I have never had an issue with AOL mail, but I do not use their search engine, nor does Lee. We use Firefox for that purpose.
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