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Computer Security

Today is Friday the 13th, one of the most unnerving days for superstitious people like myself. You may be picturing the undead mass murderer, Jason, and his notorious hockey mask. I know I am. Those unlucky camp counselors had no idea what was coming when they tried to reopen Camp Crystal Lake a.k.a. Camp Blood. I’d like to think that if they knew what to watch out for and had the proper protection, they may have had a chance of surviving. Knowing what to watch for while online can go a long way toward keeping hackers and other harmful threats from killing your computer this Friday the 13th. But, if you prefer to live on the dangerous side, here are 5 scary things you can do to your computer on this daunting day.

1) Uninstall Your Antivirus: Antivirus software prevents viruses and malware from taking over your computer. A good Antivirus for PC, will also detect unknown or suspicious files and isolate them in order to protect your devices. Uninstalling your antivirus protection is like leaving your car unlocked with the keys in the ignition. You’re not even putting up a fight against cyber criminals who want to take over your device.

2) Refuse To Install Critical Updates: Malicious software is being released at all hours of the night… even when you’re sleeping. If you haven’t installed the critical updates, you’re leaving your system susceptible to malware that takes advantage of software vulnerabilities. Installing critical updates is one of the easiest ways to enhance the security of your computer by preventing or repairing known problems.

3) Download Attachments or Click Email Links From Unknown Senders: “Congratulations! You’ve been selected to win an all-expense paid vacation of your dreams! Click here to claim your prize!”You’d be surprised at how many people still fall for a classic phishing scam such as the one above. No matter how good it seems, never click an email link from an address you don’t recognize. While the above example may be a clear phishing scam, others are not so obvious. In August, the US-CERT (Computer Emergency Readiness Team), alerted users to look out for a spear-phishing email with a Missing Children Theme. The subject of the e-mail was “Search for Missing Children,” and a zip file containing three malicious files was attached. Be honest, would you open the attachments?Likewise, if you receive an email from your bank asking you to enter confidential information by clicking a link or opening an attachment, it’s a scam. A financial institution will never ask for your confidential information via an email.

4) Make An Online Transaction Over An Unsecured Connection

“Welcome to my files and account numbers. What’s mine is yours.”

Making online transactions on unsecured networks is the equivalent to leaving the front door of your house open to anyone who wants to come in and steel your precious property.

The convenience of online shopping has led to countless online transactions. However, public WiFi, the kind you find at a coffee shop, the library, or the network you steal from your neighbors can be hacked by someone with the right tools, exposing your passwords, billing information and other sensitive data. If you must use public WiFi, it’s best to use it for shopping research rather than buying. For instance, you can use it for price comparison, to note your must-have items, etc. Then, go back to those pages to purchase once you’re on a secure connection like your home, workplace, or a trusted friend’s connection.

5) Plug Into Unknown Devices

Whether you’re plugging a USB drive into your computer or a charger into your phone, plugging your device into an unknown source can have nasty consequences. As more people are using their smartphones to surf the web, download apps, and make purchases, hackers are increasingly targeting mobile users. Most attacks come through phishing emails and malicious apps, but hackers have figured out another way to take control of a user’s device. The myth that an iPhone is secure from attack was recently debunked when researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology demonstrated that a simple phone charger could be used to install malware on a device running the newest version of Apple’s operating system. With more and more free public charging stations popping up, you should be aware of the security risks.

How can you tell if your phone has been hacked?

While most viruses are programmed to stay hidden, there is a way to tell if a virus has been loaded onto a phone. If you have an iPhone, click on the “General” tab under “Settings.” You will see a menu with the top three options for, “About,” “Software Update,” and “Usage.” If you see a fourth option that says, “Provisioning Profile,” there is software running in the background that you should be concerned about. Check your iPhone now and if you see the fourth option, download a mobile antivirus and evaluate the situation further.

Even if you prefer to live on the dangerous side, I urge you not to do these scary things to your computer or phone today. It’s already an unlucky day, so don’t take any more changes. And remember… Jason lives. Happy Friday the 13th!