Importance of Renewing Your Security Software on a Regular Basis (Part II)

Let’s start by refreshing all that we discovered in my previous blog, where I was telling Reena about harmful malwares and the necessity to install a comprehensive security solution.

A computer virus is a code that is designed to enter a computer and affect its functioning. It’s a program that can replicates itself, causing the computer to become a zombie, spreading virus to other systems and allowing cyber crooks to access personal data stored on the device or even corrupt the system.

With the prolific use of smartphones and tabs, hackers and cyber crooks are designing programs targeting these devices.

So, if a computer, tab or smartphone is unprotected, there is a high chance for the device to get infected. It is therefore necessary to keep the “auto update” feature ON.

Today there are several security softwares available in the market and many vendors also offer them free online. There are two important things to remember in this context:

  1. Free antivirus software usually offer a very basic level of protection and may not be capable of identifying and isolating all kinds of viruses
  2. These solutions may not offer regular updates to protect your device against new malware

On the other hand, comprehensive security softwares offer a whole array of services, including blocking of spams and pop-ups, removal of spyware, detection of viruses, tracking lost devices, remote removal of data, password management, website advisor, parental controls etc.

You can compare your security software to a defence shield- protecting your gadgets from the onslaught of crooks, offering 24/7 protection to the device by preventing the entry of malware. It scans your mails and programs, checks websites you want to visit, and examines content of attachments or links to determine safety quotient. With an updated security solution on your device, you will be in safe hands for it will be like your knight in armour- clearing the way for you to proceed safely, whenever you go online.

Remember, you may miss out the signs of a malware but your security software will not.

Now I am sure you have realized that your security solution is quite like those ‘flu shots we take to keep the ‘flu virus at bay. If you don’t have any security solution running on your devices, do get one today. And preferably opt for a comprehensive solution.

If you have multiple devices at home, go for a product that offers cross-device protection,  so that just one purchase will be enough to protect all your devices, including desktop, laptop, tab and smartphone. The biggest advantage is time and cost saving. Moreover, you don’t have to set parental controls separately for all devices; you can manage it all from one place.

Before you install a new security software, you will have to uninstall any existing one else your device’s performance will suffer.

Dear readers, keep this in mind. Security software is not ornamental; it serves a very important purpose. It keeps your devices and your online involvement safe. While on the subject, when your OS provider wants to install updates, don’t postpone that either. Safety always comes first.

Stay safe online folks!!

Glossary

Zombie: A computer that has been compromised by a virus or Trojan horse that puts it under the remote control of an online hijacker. The hijacker uses it to generate spam or makes the computer unusable to the owner, and the user is usually unaware that their computer has been compromised. Generally, a compromised machine is only one of many in a botnet, and will be used to perform malicious tasks under remote direction.

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Keep Your Devices Protected – Regularly Renew Your Security Software (Part I)

“My security software tells me that the antivirus solution is about to expire. My son says we need not renew it if we are careful about our online activities. Or he can download a free antivirus. What do you think?” That’s Reena for you (if you are still not acquainted with her), she is the lady with a hundred-words-per-breath claim to fame (from my recent blogs)!

I turned to talk to her tech-savvy son but he was a picture of misery, all snivelling, shivering and achy.

“Veer has caught the flu virus. I don’t know how that happened and just before his final exams too,” whined Reena.

I grabbed the chance. “Your internet-enabled devices too can get infected with viruses, you know.  Despite all your precautions, one small carelessness can lead to malware entering the system and corrupting it.”

This got Reena worried. “We keep discussing terms like malware, hacks, virus and Trojans. Tell me what a ‘computer virus’ actually is and what it does.”

“Just like the flu virus that has entered Veer’s body, and is multiplying to cause trouble, a computer virus is a code that is designed to enter a computer and affect its functioning. It’s a program that replicates itself and can cause a computer to become a zombie spread the virus to other systems, get corrupted or even crash.”

“Oh dear! But if I don’t open email attachments from unverified sources then I am safe, am I not?”

“To an extent yes. With the advent of Internet, it has become easier for cyber crooks to spread the virus through spurious links or e-mail attachments. When an innocent user clicks on the link or opens an attachment and runs the program, the code gets activated.

That said, a virus maybe designed to take advantage of a weakness in the browser or Operating System or E-mail service being used. In that case, the code would be embedded in the email itself.

Virus or malware can also spread through sharing of removable media and downloads from the net. Especially when those downloads are free, like wallpapers, GIFs, cards etc.”

“You mean to say Veer’s collection of cartoon GIFs might carry a virus?”

“Maybe, unless he had verified the websites before downloading. If your security software was running, it would have identified and removed suspicious-looking codes. Sometimes it’s not evident that the computer has been infected. These computers, called zombies, wait for further instructions from the attacker to get activated.”

“That decides it! I am getting all our devices protected today,” declared Reena emphatically. “But which should I get- the basic antivirus or the comprehensive security software you mentioned?”

“Definitely the latter, for better protection, better control over all your online accounts and better management of device security and children’s safety.”

Watch out for my next blog to know more about comprehensive security software and cross-device protection!!

Till then, stay safe online!!

Want to know more about computer virus? Click here

Glossary

Zombie:  A computer that has been compromised by a virus or Trojan horse that puts it under the remote control of an online hijacker. The hijacker uses it to generate spam or makes the computer unusable to the owner, and the user is usually unaware that their computer has been compromised. Generally, a compromised machine is only one of many in a botnet, and will be used to perform malicious tasks under remote direction.

Trojan: Malicious programs disguised as legitimate software. Users are typically tricked into loading and executing it on their systems. One key factor that distinguishes a Trojan from viruses and worms is that Trojans don’t replicate.

Malware: A generic term used to describe any type of software or code specifically designed to exploit a computer or the data it contains, without consent. Malware includes viruses, Trojan horses, spyware, adware, most rootkits, and other malicious programs.

GIF: Abbreviation for “Graphic Interchange Format”- a bitmap image supporting both animated and still images

What Leads A Child To Connect With Strangers Online

At a recent Ladies’ get-together, discussion about the murky world of online grooming, cyber stalking, and identity thieves found its way to our lunch table. Everyone had a story to relate about Facebook friends turning kidnappers, handsome teens in chatrooms turning out to be adult men, children revealing personal details while playing online games and so on.

The women had different ideas about why children have no qualms about talking to strangers online and why parents remain in the dark about this behaviour.

This discussion led me to do some deep-thinking on this very pertinent, and in today’s context, very important issue. The online world is exciting and adventurous no doubt, and one can make many more friends here than in the real world, but there is also the associated risk of stranger-danger. Children know it and they consciously avoid strangers who try to befriend them in the mall or fairground but show little of the prudence online.

Why do children befriend, trust and follow strangers online?

The obvious reasons that pop right out are:

  • Children are curious by nature and are always on the lookout for excitement
  • Shy, lonely and socially uncomfortable children may find it easier to connect and chat online than face-to-face
  • Peer influence lead children to get interested in online networking
  • Despite being aware of cyber bullies, stalkers and groomers; children ignore these threats due to the lack foresight and experience
  • Those from disturbed families seek affection and company of online friends
  • Most kids react without thinking things through. They find it difficult to resist friendship invitations from people they find fascinating
  • Children with low self-esteem often look to online communities for acceptance
  • Overly critical and strict parenting style is also another major reason
  • Teens like to connect with other teens of the same/opposite sex

What can go wrong if children spend excessive time on social media platforms?

  • They will lose the desire for real life socializing
  • It will affect their ability to initiate and carry-on interpersonal communication
  • They will become less tolerant and remote in their attitude towards people
  • Reveal personal information to data thieves
  • Sitting targets for pedophiles, cyber groomers and bullies
  • Exposed to inappropriate content and language
  • Be groomed or indoctrinated by fanatical elements
  • Can initiate or indulge in cyberbullying themselves

Chances are high that your child is a rational, happy, confident person, secure in your love and appreciation. As I mentioned earlier, such children also chat with strangers, but it is with the intention of making new friends, something like the penpals of our time. They don’t look for appreciation or love or a confidante – they have someone at home for that. Clear instructions on online behaviour, cyber safety measures and monitoring are enough to keep them safe. However, it is advisable not to allow children to sign up on chat sites that have no age restrictions. Also, it pays to do a thorough check up of all the messaging sites the children are on – not all are safe. I had named quite a few in a previous blog. Many of you will remember that this is one reason cited by MSN for shutting down its free chat platform.

Should we be worried about this trend of ignoring the stranger-danger threat online? I think yes, especially when children don’t tell their parents about these friends and go out to meet them in person. The McAfee Tween Teen Technology Report 2014 revealed that 66% of the respondents felt more accepted online, while 71% admitted to interacting with strangers online. These are serious stats.

And if that does not offer enough reason to give your child the cyber safety talk, just read this article on the creation of a fake profile of a girl by Terre Des Hommes, a children’s rights organization, to investigate online predators and its astounding findings.

Often parents complain, “My child does not listen to me, especially when it comes to online activities.”

My contention is that children WILL listen to parents, they are conditioned to do so. They also accept that parents are better equipped to judge a person’s nature and intention than themselves. You have to be clear, firm and precise in your message to them. This requires for you to be aware of the related dangers. Be loving but set rules. Also, set penalties for breaking rules. You can begin with these three basic rules for tweens and teens going online:

RULE NO. 1: No interacting with strangers online, without the consent of parents

RULE NO. 2: No going out, to meet online friends in person, be it alone or with friends

RULE NO. 3: No sharing of name, address, phone no, pic, videos with anyone online

Tweens and teens require a lot of emotional support, ensure they get it all at home. A relation based on trust, love and frank communication will ensure children to confide and share their online issues with you. Be there for them. Be cyber aware for them. And teach them to Stop.Think.Connect!

Stay safe online folks!