February 08, 2011 - 12:00
Antivirus and security software specialist publishes six point guide to help consumers stay safe and avoid malware when surfing online
GFI Software, a leading IT solutions provider for small and medium-sized enterprises, today underlined its support for Safer Internet Day by publishing a simple and practical six-point online security and safety guide for children and their parents.
Today is Safer Internet Day, an awareness-raising initiative run by Insafe and co-funded by the European Commission, running in more than 60 countries across the world. This year the focus is on improving the safety of internet users in virtual environments from social networking sites to gaming communities, under the slogan "It's more than a game, it's your life".
“We once again offer our support to the Safer Internet Day initiative. The growth in online environments where users can exchange details and files has brought with it increased risks from malware infection, identity theft, fraud and cyber bullying, which is why we applaud the efforts of Insafe to make the virtual world safer for everyone,” said Walter Scott, CEO of GFI Software. “By following our simple six point guide, users can enjoy the benefits of the Internet more safely.”
GFI recommends the following six-point checklist to both children and parents to enable a safer online experience:
- Be sure that you update your operating system, browser and applications as soon as updates become available.
Microsoft issues updates on “Patch Tuesday” on the second Tuesday of every month. You should have automatic updates turned on and your machine running at that time. If you don’t, go into your control panel and run Windows Update. This also will update Microsoft Office and other Microsoft applications.
It’s been found that many of the Windows vulnerabilities that malware preys on have been patched for months, sometimes years.
Browsers other than Internet Explorer (which is updated through Windows updates) and non-Microsoft applications may need to be updated on their own. Look for a ‘Check for Updates’ menu option in all the software you use regularly.
- Be sure you are running an antivirus product like VIPRE that it is configured properly and is receiving signature updates.
An antivirus product should be set up to automatically download signature updates and should have “on-access” scanning turned on. The machine will need to be turned on and connected to the Internet when the signature updates are scheduled. Usually a scanner puts an icon on the Windows task bar at the bottom of the desktop. Clicking the icon usually shows what types of scanning are turned on and offers a selection for checking for updates. It’s not a bad idea to double check that every once in a while.
- Handle spam email and social media messages correctly.
You shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security by email that has been forwarded by friends. There has been malcode in the past that automatically sends infected emails from the machines of victims, unbeknown to them.
If you use web mail service such as Yahoo or Gmail, the service usually filters your email and sends the email that it is able to detect as spam to a spam directory in your email client (sometimes called the “junk mail” folder) If you haven’t received an expected email message, you’ll probably find it in the spam directory. You should check your spam directory periodically and ideally delete what’s in there without opening any of it.
- Learn to recognise phishing, spear phishing and fake application update scams. These malicious techniques are usually aimed at stealing the passwords for your social media, email or bank account.
Do not respond to emails that purport to be from your bank or other site you do business with telling you that you must “update your account information.” These usually include a URL and most certainly will not be the genuine site. Do not use that URL. Instead, if you want to update your account information, go directly to the social media, bank or merchant’s web site yourself by typing in the address, log in and perform the update.
Spear phishing is very deceptive. Such emails are often addressed to victims by name. Often they are sent to company financial staff or managers who would have access to company bank account login information. The scams usually involve attachments that install spyware on the victim’s machine to steal log-in information or find it in files. The spyware also can be installed by emailing links to malicious pages that download malware.
- Backup your important files, if not your entire hard drive.
Inexpensive external hard drives with a huge capacity (one and two terabyte drives are common) are now available. Many come with software that will automatically update the hard drive on your machine or you can download GFI BackUp Home Edition for free.
Online backup services allow you to back up your machine to a remote server via the Internet. There are services that are free for smaller amounts of data.
- Technology exists to help parents
There is more to online security than preventing malware infections, especially where children are concerned. There are various ways how parents can check what their children are viewing online, who they are chatting with and what files or programs they are downloading.
Parents should check the browser history on their machine regularly to see which sites their children have visited. Concerned parents should consider installing parental control software that enables them to impose a wide range of controls such as limiting what children can read or see online and which programs they are allowed to use. Internet activity can also be logged. These programs are very easy to use and worth the investment.
Insafe is the European Safer Internet awareness-raising network co-funded by the European Commission. It comprises national contact centres across the European Union and in Iceland and Norway, with partner organisations in Argentina, Australia and the USA. Insafe aims at empowering users to benefit from the positive aspects of internet whilst avoiding the potential risks. Further information is available at www.saferinternet.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
GFI Software provides web and mail security, archiving, backup and fax, networking and security software and hosted IT solutions for small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) via an extensive global partner community. GFI products are available either as on-premise solutions, in the cloud or as a hybrid of both delivery models. With award-winning technology, a competitive pricing strategy, and a strong focus on the unique requirements of SMBs, GFI satisfies the IT needs of organizations on a global scale. The company has offices in the United States (North Carolina, California and Florida), UK (London and Dundee), Austria, Australia, Malta, Hong Kong, Philippines and Romania, which together support hundreds of thousands of installations worldwide. GFI is a channel-focused company with thousands of partners throughout the world and is also a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.