In one of our previous posts, you have learnt about some methods to enhance your security online. The recent episode of the Wannacry ransomware infecting over 230,000 computers in 150 countries serves as a reminder that we are never too safe online. This article will mainly focus on how you can prevent getting infected by these malicious files.
1. Install an Anti-Virus
This may seem like a no-brainer, but a security report published in 2013 stated that 24% of all PC users are unprotected. An anti-virus program will scan your files for anything that is marked as “virus” in their database. Common viruses are Spyware, Adware, Trojan and Worm. Once such files are detected, these files will be quarantined or removed. There is no need to spend money on anti-virus programs as free ones are widely available on the net. The more popular ones are AVAST, Bitdefender and AVG. On top of anti-virus, consider getting an anti-malware program too. The most widely used one is Malwarebytes, which offers protection against zero-hour exploits. In simple words, it can protect you from the newest malware.
2. Updating Windows, Drivers, and Programs
Wannacry is a wake-up call to users who always click “update later” to that annoying Windows Update. There are always vulnerabilities in your Operating System and other programs you installed. Hackers can exploit these vulnerabilities before they are patched to infect or even take over your device(s). A leak report in March showed that even the CIA is stockpiling these vulnerabilities. Remember. Those 3o minutes spent to update your Windows weekly could potentially save you from losing precious personal or corporate data in the future.
3. Ignore Suspicious Emails and Links
Aside from viruses, suspicious emails and links are also used for phishing (pronounced fishing) attacks. How do we identify such links and emails? Below are some telltale signs whether a link is malicious.
a. Something is too good to be true
Example 1: Hi, I am a Nigerian Prince… …. … Help me, and I will give you $1 million dollars.
Example 2: Congratulations! You are the 1,000,000th visitor.
Example 3: Hot Singles in Your Area Wants to Hang Out Now!
b. The Link is Suspicious
Example 1: www.notavirus.com
Example 2: www.strait$times.com
Example 3: www.dbs.co
c. Shortened URL
Example 1: goo.gl/Yv4o3
Example 2: bit.ly/542CS
Example 3: tinyurl.com/12345
Not all shortened URLs are malicious. In fact, shortened links are usually used for sharing or tracking purposes. Point 4 will show you how to identify the contents of the shortened URL.
4. Identify Shortened URLs before clicking
It is very simple to safely identify shortened URLs or any links. All you need is a Chrome extension, which was mentioned in a list of Chrome extensions we strongly recommend you to have. The extension is called Unshorten.It!. After installing, you just need to right-click a link and select “Unshorten this link…”. A screenshot of the link will be displayed, along with the site’s description and WOT score.
It is always worth the extra effort and time to prevent getting infected by viruses. The best way is to browse smart, and you will naturally be safe online. Otherwise, you (or your company) might be the next one to get extorted.