How to Protect Yourself from Online Threats

Jun 15, 2016


Looking back on security

I can recall back in my early days working on personal computers in a small "mom and pop" computer shop, installing a copy of Norton Antivirus was the end all-be all solution for about 75% of machines. Businesses had Symantec Antivirus Corporate Edition and nothing more. Nothing more, nothing less. There has always been the need to educate end users on how to keep their computers and data safe at home and at work: stay away from bad websites, don't open emails from people you don't know, and don't download any unknown files (usually .exe files). Then there was the threat of pop-ups, and what was known then as spyware (additional software that would secretly install on your computers and basically "spy" on everything you were doing). We discovered that this was far more difficult to prevent than viruses. More often than not, it was the kids and teens that were surfing the internet and the parents put the blame on them. Vendors then had to enhance their products to include spyware protection in addition to antivirus, thus creating an additional layer of protection. Now that I am a parent of a 7 year old daughter, I choose to be very proactive in how we stay safe. When using theese types of solutions, I will feel better when my daughter starts using the internet more frequently, and I can ensure she is safer when browsing online. It is one less thing for me, as a dad, to not have to worry about.


Present day malicious software is among us

Hence the term "malware" that we all have heard over and over again. However, with the emergence of newer threats called ransomware, and also botnets, networks need to have multiple layers of protection at the user level and at the network level to protect more than one user. Let's face it, we all have multiple devices in our networks: tablets, smartphones, laptops/desktops, home media servers, etc. At any time, one of us (or our kids) could just be browsing the internet harmlessly, and malicious software hiding in an ad on a page could easily trigger a download. Also as mentioned before about opening email, the threat of ransomware could be hiding in email .zip files as attachments (which we all know not to download, right?). When that happens, ransomware is now on the user's machine scanning the entire network for accessible shares, then encrypts the data, and prompts the users to pay to have their files unlocked. Botnets on infected devices will constantly "phone home" and flood the network with any number of requests automatically decreasing performance significantly.

How can we now protect ourselves?

Let's take a look at some things we can do proactively to keep everyone safe:

  • Ensure your devices have an antivirus/antimalware solution; in this case don't combine multiple, one will do the trick
  • Cloud security services also go hand in hand with the antivirus/anti-malware solutions
  • Enable Windows Firewall and leave User Account Controls on. These are standard practices. You can find out more info HERE. Microsoft has put in substantial efforts to provide this information
  • Educate our families and end users of the importance of safe browsing habits

It's easy for kids to find themselves in dangerous situations online. Fortunately, parental control software like Net Nanny ® provides solutions to make sure your kids are safe on the internet.