You may have the impression that there’s only one basic activity that puts you at risk when using a computer on the internet, and that as long as you don’t do that one thing, you’ll be safe. I hear this idea from many people:
Usually said with a self-reassuring expression that signals they have common sense, and avoid putting any financial information online. After all, if you never type your credit card into a computer, they can’t get it, right? The problem is a little more complicated than that. A lot more complicated.
I making my living removing viruses and malware from computers, and for most of these cases, I usually do this sitting side-by-side with the person responsible for the mess I’m cleaning up.
While it is true that no one can steal what isn’t there, there are a lot of valuable assets on your computer that you may not be aware of. Brian Krebs, a former Washington Post staffer who writes on cyber crime and other internet security topics, has published an excellent list of ways your computer can be used by cyber criminals to their advantage. His article, The Scrap Value of a Hacked PC, lists many more motivations for cyber criminals.
According to Krebs, your financial information is only a small fraction of the whole picture. Cyber criminals have many methods for benefiting from your computer, including turning it into a web server used for distributing pirated software, pornography, and online gaming characters. Secret web servers can also be used to host phishing sites such as fake bank pages. This is especially troubling, because you can’t see this happening at all on your screen. The only symptoms are the send and receive lights on your modem flashing, and the hard drive light flashing, if your computer is so equipped.
So it’s important to be careful, even if you don’t do any online banking. Don’t assume safety… be safe on purpose! If you’re worried about online security, we’re happy to help. We can clean up your computer, provide good security, and train you to avoid problem areas on the internet. Give us a call… we’d love to help!