Tag Archives: protect privacy

How to Protect yourself from Ransomware: 5 steps

It’s astonishing how far hackers will go to make a few dishonest bucks. One shady scheme that has recently become more prominent is malware that is called Ransomware.

So what Is Ransomware and How Does It Work?

As the name implies, ransomware is a virus or worm that locks you out of your computer or files until you pay money to some shady hacker for the code that will supposedly unlock it. Ransomware usually works in one of these ways. You get infected and …

•    It encrypts the files on your computer’s hard drive.
•    It locks your computer and requires that you enter a password to unlock it.
•    It prevents you from using your web browser.
•    It accuses you of doing some illegal activity and tells you that you need to pay a fine.

The model for a ransomware alert
The model for a ransomware alert

Pretty nasty, right? For a lot of people, they’d almost rather have a bug that damages their computer than threatens their data.  That’s because, in many ways, the landscape of user computing has changed.  Computers, while not cheap by any measure, are far less expensive than they used to be.  What matters to people then is the time and effort spend in making stuff: documents, projects, photos, video. As infuriating as it is, ransomware represents and evolution in an old scam. Leave the hardware out of it, it’s kidnapping for your data.

So, how does ransomware spread? Sadly, the means by which these viruses get around is the same as it’s always been, so it’s more important than every to start practicing better behaviors. Usually computers become infected when you do one of the following:

•    Open an unsolicited email attachment, even if you think you know the sender.
•    Click on a suspicious link in an email.
•    Downloading something from peer-to-peer networks. Continue reading

Private Browsing in the Top 5 Browsers

Whether you’re paranoid about the security of your web history, think it’s creepy that advertisers can stalk you around the Internet, or just don’t think it’s anybody’s darn business where you go and what you do online, there are ways to protect your privacy. Each of the five major web browsers has its own method of private browsing, designed to keep some busy bodies from finding out what you’ve been up to online.

What Private Browsing Does and Does not Do

Private browsing mostly allows you to surf the Web without keeping a list of the websites you visit, usually called a history. Some browsers’ private modes also prevent websites from placing  tracking cookies and/or temporary Internet files on your hard drive (also known as caching) that keep track of your online habits.

Browser History

calendar_history_iconPrivate browsing prevents a record of where you go from being saved to your computer, but it doesn’t erase your browsing history from existence; your ISP will always be keeping tabs of some form or another as to where their clients go.  What’s more, if you’re working in a closed network (like the one your work computer is using), it’s probably monitoring your traffic in some way. So if you want true anonymity on the Internet, private browsing won’t do it. The good news is that there are plenty of anti-tracking, IP address-hiding, identity-masking add-ons available, many of which can lock down your privacy on a level that extends beyond your PC.

Cookies

cookie_iconPrivate browsing also deters targeted ads by disabling cookies.  Cookies are text files that are stored on your computer when you visit a certain site. When you go to that site again, it reads your cookies and recognizes your computer. That’s why you get “Welcome Back” messages on sites you visit often.  It’s also why you’ll see advertisements for stuff you searched for a day ago appear on websites you’ve never been to . . . they can read cookies too.

Private browsing stops that. It disables cookies so that no matter where you go, you won’t be recognized. That’s great to cut down on ads, but it also means that in private browsing you’ll always have to log-in as no website will remember your saved password in a private session.  And while the websits may save a new cookie to your computer, it’ll be deleted when you close the private browsing session. Continue reading