How to beat 2012’s web threats (Part 4)

3/30/2012 9:11:28 AM

How to beat 2012’s web threats (Part 4)

Watching videos

Description: Googling

Downloading video content, whether or not it’s of an adult nature, will often leave you open to attack. There are dozens of different media players, yet most will require you to download a separate add-on or codec. This is where the problem lies, and Adobe Flash has long been a favourite vehicle for hackers to infiltrate your machine - always ensure you’re running the latest version.

Any new technology brings new dangers, yet most are simply tweaked versions of the threats that have kept us on our guard for years. As we’ve discussed in this feature there are many things you can do to keep safe online, with the most important being to use your common sense and remain alert at all times.

The important message for new users is that staying safe online goes beyond installing an internet security suite on a new PC and promptly forgetting about it. Such products are useless unless they’re regularly updated - every day, if that’s how often you use your computer to get online.

Malware is getting smarter and now targets specific platforms and users. The biggest threat for 2012 is expected to be directed to smart phones, with more of us using them to get online. Just like on a PC, we need to install security software on our mobile phones and use our common sense when downloading software. We’ve never had to worry about mobile security in the past, so how many of us will be caught out?

Next year could well see the first widespread, damaging attack on mobiles. And if you sync your phone with your computer, here’s another potential avenue of attack. Keep an eye on these forthcoming threats, but don’t forget about the traditional viruses, worms and adware either.


Setting up your new computer

Description: Security Setup

Many people will be unwrapping their first computer this Christmas. If this Is you, welcome to a whole new chapter. PC ownership Is rewarding, but it requires vigilance to stave off the sort of threats we’ve outlined elsewhere In this feature.

If it’s a friend or family member getting their first PC - or the first one for which they have primary responsibility - and you’re the nearest thing to tech support they know, good luck. There are bound to be many questions along the way.

Assuming the machine is for someone else, find out what they will use it for. Ideally, you should help them set it up rather than do it for them. This time last year, we put a brand-new PC online with no malware protection to see how long it would last before it got infected - less than 10 minutes was the depressing result. Within 4 hours the PC was unusable.

Start with the machine’s own security and password protection. If it’s going to be used outside the home then set up a password. Next, check the PC’s Wi-Fi settings and switch off automatic connection to available networks. If it’s a secondhand computer, also run a full malware scan.

Security software

Choose a free or paid-for antivirus product. New machines often come with a trial version preinstalled, although they don’t have to use this. Turn to page 139 for our Top 5 security charts. You’ll also find a useful round-up of our recent security software reviews at

Most security software identifies malware by comparing files against a list of known threats. This list is frequently updated with new signature files, so the software must be updated periodically. The best security products will also detect malware that’s not on this list based on its behaviour or user intelligence.

Internet security suites include several other useful tools besides an antivirus, including a firewall and anti-spam.

Browser choice

Some web browsers are more secure than others, although none Is perfect. Many inexperienced users don’t know there are alternatives to Internet Explorer, plus good reasons other than security to try them out. Find out what type of browsing they’ll mostly be doing and suggest an appropriate web browser.

Once they’ve chosen their weapon of choice its security settings must be configured. Again, ask them what they’ll be doing with the machine in order to decide which settings should be allowed. Make these changes with them, just in case they need to alter the settings later or on a different machine.

Programs and memory

Software updates aren’t all about patching security holes - some can improve compatibility or help prevent freeze-ups. However, there’s no point in keeping the antivirus up to date if they leave holes in their programs and Os for malware to enter through.

If the computer owner intends to use USB memory sticks or plug in other portable storage devices for backup (which is essential if they’re to avoid losing their precious data), show them how to scan these peripherals for malware.

Social media

Facebook is likely to pose an ever-increasing threat to security in 2012. Given its vast number of members, Facebook is a big target for criminal gangs.

Whatever their privacy settings, tell the new computer owner never to put anything on Facebook that they wouldn’t mind everyone seeing - and that means their boss and their mother.

For advice on Facebook security and privacy settings, head to our website at

Also talk about what other online services they will use and inspect the settings on those sites too.

Mobile phones

If it’s a mobile phone- rather than PC-shaped gift sitting under the Christmas tree, note that the same security measures must now be taken on phones. See for advice.


Get Safe Online ( is a good place to point the novice web user. And there are lashings of advice on our own website, too (

Major security vendors, such as Symantec, F-Secure, AVG. Bitdefender, Panda, Trend Micro and Webroot, offer some very good advice. Just remember that they’re not independent.

When spam and phishing messages land in their inbox, encourage novice users to play detective. Googling the text within an email should tell them whether it’s to be avoided quickly enough. is another useful site.

(PC Advisor 02/2012, page 82-88)


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