General precautions to minimise the risk of being scammed or getting a virus infection online
I would like highlight some security issues that have been seen by a number of people in recent days and weeks. The most damaging is a virus which encrypts your documents and pictures and makes them unreadable. This attack is almost impossible to recover from so you should be extra vigilant and take the necessary steps to firstly back up all of your important documents and pictures to an external USB drive or hard disk, and secondly be cautious when opening emails and especially attachments.
Below are the steps that you can take to minimise the impact and risk of your PC or laptop becoming infected and losing your documents and pictures:
- First and foremost, make a full backup of your important documents and pictures. USB drives can be purchased cheaply online or at Tesco’s, Argos etc and a 32G or 64byte one should be less than £20. This should be enough for most people’s personal documents and photos. If you have more information, then an external hard drive of 500Gbytes is around £40-£50.
- Most of these infections occur when an email is opened and an attachment is downloaded or read. Sometimes the email may be from someone you know who has had their PC or email account infected. Below are some basic guidelines:
If you are not sure of the sender do not open the email. Typically, you may get an email saying that “you have a delivery”, or that “your invoice is attached”. Even if you had made a purchase and the initial email looks legitimate you should be careful. There is also a common scam involving emails pretending to come from Paypal asking for you to confirm your details. Under no circumstances should you do this. Paypal, banks and legitimate financial institutions will never ask you to confirm security details in an email. They will typically ask you log onto their site and will not have a link in the email. Even if there is a link in the email do not follow it, but go to the site directly in your browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari etc)
- Best practice is to go to the official web site of the supplier, or in Paypal’s case to Paypal.co.uk. Any messages or any requirements to update details will be available on these sites, as will delivery details and invoices for orders.
- When you go to the “official” site, make sure whenever you enter personal or financial information the “green padlock” is present at the top left hand side of the browser window, or the site address starts with “https://www….. “ and not “http://www…
- If, given the above checks, you think that the email is from a friend or legitimate source and you do open it, check any attachment for its file type. This will typically be for documents “example.doc” or “example.docx” or “example.pdf” and for photos “example.jpg”
- If all checks look fine and you decide to open the attachment and a message comes up which says “Do you want to allow this program to makes changes to your computer?” you should say no and delete the email and inform the sender that they may have an infection.
- Make sure that your virus protection software is up to date and functioning correctly. The recommended free options are AVG and Avast. The best paid options, ie those which have the best reviews and best coverage are Kaspersky and Norton Internet Security 2016.
Unfortunately, there is no fail-safe method to avoid these threats but by being vigilant and following the above advice you can firstly minimise the risk and secondly if you are unlucky enough to get an infection at least your information and photos etc would be safe.
If you have any questions or if you would like specific help or advice on backing up or virus protection please call us.