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Protecting your computer

Protecting your computer

We've scratched our heads but then come to terms with such names as hackers and spammers. Now Police warn of a new breed of cyber criminals, 'Bot Herders'.

Waikato Crime Services Manager, Detective Inspector Peter Devoy said Bot Herders covertly infected computers, making them robots or 'bots' for short.

"Once they infect a large number of computers they can then gain covert control of servers with often catastrophic results."

These results can include the inability to use or access information on your computer, identity and password theft, fraudulent transactions and even your service account being closed down by Internet Service Providers (ISP).

"These people can install hidden software on your computer in several ways. First, they scan the Internet to find computers that are unprotected, and then install software through those "open doors," said Mr Devoy.

"Or they may send you an email with attachments, links or images which, if you click on or open them, install hidden software.

"Sometimes just visiting a website or downloading files may cause a "drive-by download," which installs malicious software and turns your computer into a "bot."

But there are some simple steps that can help reduce the chances of your computer being turned into a 'bot'.

Keep Your Firewall Turned On: A firewall helps protect your computer from hackers who might try to gain access to crash it, delete information, or even steal passwords or other sensitive information. Software firewalls are widely recommended for single computers. The software is prepackaged on some operating systems or can be purchased for individual computers. For multiple networked computers, hardware routers typically provide firewall protection.

- Install or Update Your Antivirus Software: Antivirus software is designed to prevent malicious software programs from embedding on your computer. If it detects malicious code, like a virus or a worm, it works to disarm or remove it. Viruses can infect computers without users' knowledge. Most types of antivirus software can be set up to update automatically.

- Install or Update Your Antispyware Technology: Spyware is just what it sounds like—software that is surreptitiously installed on your computer to let others peer into your activities on the computer. Some spyware collects information about you without your consent or produces unwanted pop-up ads on your web browser. Some operating systems offer free spyware protection, and inexpensive software is readily availaῢle for download on the Internet or at your local computer store. Be wary of ads on the Internet offering downloadable antispyware”in some cases these products may be fake and may actually contain spyware or other malicious code. It's like buying groceries”shop where you trust.

- Keep Your Operating System Up to Date: Computer operating systems are periodically updated to stay in tune with technology requirements and to fix security holes. Be sure to install the updates to ensure your computer has the latest protection.

- Be Careful What You Download: Carelessly downloading e-mail attachments can circumvent even the most vigilant anti-virus software. Never open an e-mail attachment from someone you don't know, and be wary of forwarded attachments from people you do know. They may have unwittingly advanced malicious code.

- Turn Off Your Computer: With the growth of high-speed Internet connections, many opt to leave their computers on and ready for action. The downside is that being "always on" renders computers more susceptible. Beyond firewall protection, which is designed to fend off unwanted attacks, turning the computer off effectively severs an attacker's connection”be it spyware or a botnet that employs your computer's resources to reach out to other unwitting users.

Mr Devoy said while it may be difficult to detect if your computer has been infected there are some warning signs.

"Your computer may suddenly operate more slowly or become sluggish.

"Or you may find messages in your outbox that you never sent or perhaps the most embarrassing, you may receive emails from accusing you of sending them spam."


END

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