By Peter Rooney
Topic of the month: Safety
There are many scams online, but perhaps the most insidious is the “Scareware” scam: “Your computer has been infected, but we can help.”
How it works: A window pops up about a legitimate-sounding antivirus software program like “Security Tool,” and alerts you that your machine has been infected with a dangerous bug. You’re prompted to click on a link that will run a scan. Of course, the virus is found—and for a fee, typically about $50, the company promises to clean up your computer.
What’s really going on: When you click on the link, the bogus company installs malware—malicious software—on your computer. No surprise, there will be no cleanup. But the thieves have your credit card number, you’re out on money, and your computer is left on life support.
There are many online sites where you can find out more about the myriad internet scams or “cyberattacks.” One worthwhile, “Have You Been Hacked? Recognizing and Preventing Cyber Attacks,” can be found at www.lifewire.com/cyber-attacks-4147067.
It being hurricane season, you should also be aware of fake charity sites, exploiting disaster victims. Quoting an AARP article, “After every natural disaster and manmade catastrophe, we see an outpouring of generosity …along with the inevitable scams and frauds.” AARP offers a guide on how to recognize those scams. Before donating to a charity, take time to authenticate it. In addition to the Wise Giving Alliance, charity names and reputations can be vetted at Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and GuideStar. You can also contact the agency in your state that regulates charities. Be suspicious of charities not listed or with questionable track records.
As far as defense goes, Microsoft’s latest Operating System comes with Windows Defender. For extra security against viruses, there are both free and for-purchase software available. Top-rated free software programs include Avast and AVG. Here’s a review you might find helpful in choosing anti-virus software: https://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-antivirus,review-2588-5.html.
(Regardless of a high rating given to Kaspersky software, the Moscow-based company has been linked to stealing sensitive information from American intelligence sites.)
One tip: don’t try to run two anti-virus software programs on the same computer. It can be like two scorpions in a bottle.
If you are someone who wishes to protect online privacy, you have many options. The Google Chrome browser now comes with an “incognito option” as does the Mozilla Firefox Focus browser. This means it deletes your browsing history, cookies and site data, as well as information you might have entered in online forms. However, your activity might still be visible to websites you visit, your employer, and your Internet Service Provider (ISP). There are other browsers out there which are more comprehensive, such as the Tor Onion Router (TOR). TOR is free software that directs Internet traffic through more than 7,000 relays worldwide. TOR conceals your identity and encrypts your query.
For more information on privacy, search for the article “How to increase your privacy online,” at www.TheVerge.com.
This article is part of a monthly column by the New York Amateur Computer Club (NYACC), one of the oldest computer clubs in the world, and is intended to help you turn your computer into a friend. Each month, NYACC explores a technical topic and attempts to answer readers’ questions about computers. See more and contact NYACC directly at www.nyacc.org.