How can I protect myself online?
Simply observing a number of ground rules increases your safety when you are online.
1. Computer software should be updated regularly. Software manufacturers release updates that close known security holes, making it more difficult for attackers to find a way into the system.
2. Installing an anti-virus program helps the computer protect itself against malware and keep it free of viruses. But the same applies here: the software must be kept up to date, because cyber criminals are always refining their methods of attack.
3. You can reduce the amount of spam you receive by using software that blocks or filters unwanted emails. And if a spam email contains a link that you can click to unsubscribe from the mailings, never, ever click on it! If you do so, you are only confirming that your email address is valid, which will lead to even more spam in your inbox. It is also a good idea to ensure that you don’t give out your email address to all and sundry. You can read how to secure your emails here.
4. Never open an email if its sender appears suspect. And do not click on links or open attachments in emails from senders you do not know or whose trustworthiness cannot be guaranteed.
5. Never send account or credit card details over an insecure connection. The URL should always begin with ‘https://’. This shows that it uses a secure protocol.
6. You should remember user names and passwords and not store them on the computer, especially not all contained in one document. You can find some tips on choosing secure passwords here.
7. Be careful when using public computers. You never know whether malware is installed on them, for example a keylogger that records all of the keys that you press. It is also best if you avoid inserting USB sticks into public computers. Remember: it was a USB stick that transferred the Stuxnet worm from an Iranian nuclear plant onto the wider internet.
8. After performing data-sensitive tasks such as online banking or shopping, ensure that you are properly logged out of the website before closing and then restarting the browser.
OK, I should ensure that my computer is properly protected. But how can I be certain that malware isn’t already installed on it?
You should ensure that a good virus scanner is installed. It recognises malicious programs and new modifications to known malicious software. Virus scanners can even find malware that is hidden in file attachments. But in this instance, the motto ‘two are better than one’ doesn’t apply. If you have two virus scanners running, they will more than likely hinder each other in their searches. Just one regularly updated program should be enough.
Are there any first aid measures that can help if my computer is infected with malware?
If your computer starts to exhibit a life of its own, you should become suspicious. Here are some typical indications that a computer is infected with malware: windows open randomly, the cursor moves all by itself, the computer suddenly seems to run much slower than usual or unauthorised payments have been taken from bank accounts.
Your first action: pull the plug! The computer should be isolated from all network connections. Therefore, the router should also be turned off. Because malware programs transmit their data over the internet (for example, snooping software such as keyloggers) or receive their instructions from the internet (such as a botnet being used in a DDOS attack), disconnecting the internet connection is the first stage in regaining control.
If you suspect that you have malware on your computer, you should run the latest version of your virus scanner. It detects trojans and other malicious software and is able to remove them reliably. If you are suspicious of any particular program, you should uninstall it immediately. In some cases, you may only eliminate the malware’s carrier and not the malware itself.
Before the virus scanner moves from scanning the hard drive to removing malicious software, you should ensure that your most important data is backed up. The experts from netzwelt.de recommend that you also scan the backup media for malicious software, otherwise you could simply reintroduce the virus.
When you have done this, you can then begin removing the malware. If this doesn’t have the desired effect, you should then engage the services of an expert. Or you could do your own research on the internet: try and find out which malware it could be and what further steps are necessary to deal with it. In the worst case scenario, the entire operating system should be reinstalled. Although that is indeed time-consuming, it’s not the end of the world. And when you’ve done, you are free of your uninvited guests!