Listen Up

According to this article on SecurityFocus the country which is represented by the highest percentage of infected computers is…. the UK!

These figures from July to December last year, show that over 25% of all PC’s infected with known “botnet” software – i.e. spyware programs that allow an uncsrupulous third party to control your PC without your knowledge, make it commit “cyber crimes” from your internet IP – which can be traced to you by your ISP – and probably allow them to steal your personal information straight off your PC (e.g. credit card details as you type them into any internet shop)

This survey only appears to include parasites that make your PC act as part of a botnet – time on these vast networks of “free” processors can then be sold by the criminal who is controlling the net, to other criminals for nefarious purposes, ranging from sending spam emails to millions of net users from “innocent” PC’s, through to performing denial of service attacks as part of blackmail campagins against big business.

It doesn’t include spyware, trojans, viruses which aren’t part of a botnet – these are just as bad – displaying random adverts on your PC (more than likely for pornography and black-market medications) – or stealing your personal details by recording every key you press. No matter how safe and secure the on-line shop is, if there’s a little program running on your PC tracing each and every keypress, your credit card details can be stolen before they even get to the store – and neither you, nor the shop will know anything about it before you get your credit card bill.

By not taking a few simple steps, you are very likely allowing criminals to take over your PC and use it for committing crimes which can then be traced back to YOUR internet connection – not just your ISP, but then can tell who’se account was connected to which IP address at the time of the crime.

The steps are simple, and it’s so frustrating how many people don’t take them.

  • Install AntiVirus Software from a reputable provider (I use F-Secure)
  • Install Anti-Spyware Software (plenty of free packages around, including Search and Destroy, AdAware, and the Microsoft AntiSpyware Beta)
  • Set the above to update regularly (ideally several times per week – once a month is not enough)
  • Use these packages to actively scan your PC regularly (at least weekly) – don’t rely on the “resident checks”
  • Never run attachments from emails without manually scanning them first
  • Never click a link in an email which appears to be from your bank/ebay/paypal etc – these are typically “Phishing” attacks where someone has set up a fake version of the website to lure you into giving out your secret information
  • Use a Firewall to close the door to your PC being infected remotely (I have a hardware one, but software firewalls like Zonealarm are often effective

Stop criminals using your PC. Take these basic steps and make the internet a better place for us all.

Now, those of you who’ve read this and are thinking “I’m safe, I’m a Mac user” – I expect if the Mac Mini does as well as Apple wants it too – the Mac will soon become a target for criminals too – although it’s Unix based operating system makes it inherintly more secure, if they can trick you into installing something, they’ll find a way.