Customers With Disabilities

How to Stay Safe on the Web

by Employee ‎10-11-2010 02:03 PM - edited ‎10-11-2010 02:18 PM

onlinemom.JPGToday's guest blogger is Monica Vila, founder and Chief Technology Mom at TheOnlineMom.com. Monica is passionate about empowering families to make good decisions about the use of technology and is an advocate of parents embracing technology by understanding both its benefits and risks. Monica’s website, TheOnlineMom.com, provides parents with a wealth of information on how they can harness the power of technology while keeping their families safe in the digital age.  Disclosure: Monica Vila and The Online Mom are paid partners of Verizon Communications.

 

The Internet is a great resource for family entertainment and education. But barely a week goes by without hearing about a brand new virus that is attacking computers and networks all around the world, or the latest phishing scam that has defrauded thousands of unsuspecting individuals.

 

Whether these attacks come from highly-organized cyber criminals or are initiated by amateur hackers, the threats are very real. However, it’s not all bad news. Companies like Verizon are working hard to protect their customers, and while the bad guys always seem to be one step ahead, there are simple, affordable measures that we can all take to help improve our security.

 

But first, what are viruses and phishing attacks? And what are some of the other cyber threats that regularly make the headlines?

 

Viruses. A virus is a program or piece of code that can have unexpected and usually damaging consequences. Viruses can corrupt or destroy files or data and, like human viruses, they can spread –from machine to machine and network to network. A virus can be delivered via an innocent-looking e-mail or file, or from an infected website. The harmful effects of a virus can be triggered immediately, or it can lie dormant waiting to be activated by some future event.

 

Phishing. Phishing attacks attempt to fraudulently acquire an individual’s personal information, such as passwords or credit card details, by masquerading as a trusted person or well-known source.  Phishing attacks are becoming more sophisticated, often using social networking platforms and realistic-looking websites to lure in unsuspecting targets.

 

Spyware. Spyware refers to a wide range of programs or applications that are designed to monitor or track activity on a computer. Spyware can be relatively benign, e.g., it can monitor web-browsing history for marketing purposes, or it can be installed with the intention of collecting personal information such as social security numbers and credit card details. Spyware can also be incorporated into some parental-control monitoring programs.

 

Spam. Spam is a generic term for unsolicited and unwanted electronic messages. Spam usually refers to e-mail but it can also include instant messages, newsgroup posts, and other communications. Spam is one of the main delivery mechanisms for viruses and phishing attacks.

 

How do you know if your computer is infected by a virus or spyware?internet_mom.jpg

Viruses and spyware can dramatically impact the performance of a computer, making it very slow to open and run normal applications. Users of infected computers might be subjected to endless pop-up windows or constantly be redirected to unknown or unwanted websites.  New and unexpected icons can appear in toolbars or at the bottom of the screen. Random error messages may start to appear or regular applications may “freeze” or fail to respond.

 

Get protection!

There are some simple steps that each of us can take to minimize the risk of being exposed to viruses or spyware: 

 

Some kind of security software is a must. The latest versions of Windows and Mac OS have a number of built-in security settings. Take some time to get know them and make sure the settings are at appropriate levels. Verizon’s Internet Security Suite adds additional protection against viruses, spyware, phishing and spam.

 

Also, avoid clicking on links or opening files from people you don’t know.  Those links and files could contain viruses or download malware into your computer.  If you shop online, make sure you buy from a reputable online retailer and look for a URL that starts with “https” and has the lock symbol before you enter any credit card information.

 

Finally, check website privacy policies.  Before you give out your email address, check how it is going to be used.  Does the website have a privacy policy?  Will they give or sell your e-mail address to third parties?  The more you give out your e-mail address, the more vulnerable you are to spam and phishing attacks.

 

Adopt these habits and you will go a long way to protecting your computer and sensitive online data. Make sure everyone in the family takes the same approach, particularly younger family members who tend to surf more and take more risks with their personal information.

 

Protect your family and surf the web with confidence!

 

If you would like to learn more about how you can keep your family safe online, please join The Online Mom and Verizon for a Twitter Party focused on Internet safety and security this Wednesday, October 13th at 9:00 pm ET. Click here to learn how you can join the party and enter to win prizes, including a netbook and Flip camcorders.

 

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About The Authors

Bill Kula

Director -- Media Relations

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Bill oversees the Verizon telecom customer experience, consumer bundles, DSL, e-commerce and small business. He helps customers learn about efficient ways to manage their Verizon services.

Bob Elek

Manager - Media Relations

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Bob stays on top of developments and issues with Verizon’s Consumer and Mass Business segment from his home base in Florida. He has been involved with FiOS since it was first being developed and deployed in 2004.

Alberto Canal

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Alberto is in the public relations group. He loves to share tech, sustainability, feel-good, and random news of interest. A happy FiOS quad play customer, he likes to use his family as guinea pigs.

Deidre Hart

Manager -- Media Relations

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Deidre is a member of the consumer PR team and loves to talk everything FiOS and everything football. She’s also a happy Triple Play customer.

Phil Santoro

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Phil has been extolling the virtues of FiOS ever since he had his Triple Play installed and can’t image how he ever managed without it. He writes about developing technologies that enable him to fuel his addiction to movies and sports whenever he wants, no matter where he is.

Caroline Wilson

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Caroline manages the Verizon FiOS Google+ page, capturing the latest in entertainment, technology, sports and everything in between. She loves using social media and the written word to extend the FiOS conversation.

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