The Internet, also known as the information superhighway or cyberspace, is a vast universe of information. It can also serve as a global meeting place and a way to travel and shop around the world without ever leaving home. When used correctly the Internet also offers computer users access to all the knowledge that humanity has to offer. Unfortunately there are also a variety of criminals that lurk in cyberspace, looking for victims to prey upon. Hackers are malicious users that seek to break into other people’s computers, and one of their favorite tools is computer viruses. Computer viruses are man-made malicious programs that infect computers and cause some form of damage. Cyber bullies are another type of predator whose goal is to harass people and cause them emotional harm, or worse. To get the most out of the benefits that cyberspace has to offer, Internet users will need to understand how to deal with these threats effectively.
Staying safe online requires knowledge of existing threats and also vigilance. Users should turn off their computers when they are not using them as computers cannot be compromised when they are turned off. Keeping a computer’s operating system up to date with the latest patches is a necessity, as is installing a software firewall and an anti-virus program. Firewalls reduce the likelihood of intrusions, while anti-virus software provides the computer with a digital immune system to fight off virtual infections. Users should also employ passwords that are long and complex on every password-protected website that they use. The more complicated a password is, the more time it takes for a hacker to break it. Never transmit personal information over a wireless network if at all avoidable, and under no circumstances should someone transmit sensitive data over an unsecured wireless connection. One should never share personal information over social networking sites, especially phone numbers and addresses, as identity thieves may be able to use this information. Always use spam filters and virus scanning software to filter any incoming email. A sure-fire way to eliminate viruses coming in through email is to set one’s email program to read all emails in text-only format so that it does not render images or HTML code.
- FTC: How to Keep Your Personal Information Secure
- Professor Shares Top 10 Tips For Protecting Online Personal Info
- Microsoft: Create Strong Passwords
- Password Security
- On Guard Online: Securing Your Wireless Network
- Protecting Your Wireless Network
- Protecting Your Computer and Your Identity (PDF)
- New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services: Online Safety
- University of Michigan Health System: Internet Safety
- Protecting Your Personal Information When Shopping Online
- Preventing Online Identity Theft
Another way that malicious users prey on other people is through online stalking, harassment and excessive personal attacks, to the point of outright defamation. Cyberbulllying, as this activity is called, is intended to destroy a victim’s reputation, instill fear, and cause other forms of emotional harm. Victims of online bullying may lose friends as a result of this behavior, or even be driven to commit suicide. Cyberbullying is not always preventable, because bullies can attack their victims from their own websites or blogs, where they may be immune to disciplinary action. Removing personal information on one’s blogs or personal websites can reduce the amount of information that bullies can use to hurt someone. People should also periodically look themselves up on website search engines to see if negative information is appearing about them. In extreme cases it may be necessary to notify law enforcement and take legal action.
- StopBullying.gov: What Is Cyber Bullying
- Stop Cyberbullying: Prevention
- TeensHealth: Cyberbullying
- Cyber Bully Help: What is Cyber Bullying?
- NetSmartz Workshop: Cyberbullying, Tips and Discussion Starters
- National Conference of State Legislatures: Cyberbullying
- Common Sense Media: Stand Up to Cyberbullying
- National Crime Prevention Council: Cyberbullying Prevention
- Prevent Cyberbullying & Internet Harassment: What To Do
- The Jewish Woman: 10 Tips to Prevent Cyberbullying in Your Child’s Life
- Cyberbullying.us: Preventing Cyberbullying (PDF)
- What Can We Do About Cyberbullying?
Computer viruses, also known as malware, are automated tools that hackers design to infiltrate computers and carry out their goals. These goals may include taking over the computer to attack other computers, spy on users, inflict damage to a person’s data, or steal personal information. Viruses can be used to infect multitudes of computers at one time, making it so a cyber-criminal doesn’t have to do the work themselves. Anti-virus programs are the first and most important line of defense against this threat. Anti-virus programs that attempt to stay up to date with the latest virus definitions are the most preferable option. However, users should also avoid opening suspicious emails, visiting unfamiliar websites, or downloading suspicious programs.
- Guide to Online Protection – Protecting Against Malware
- Keeping a Clean Computer
- Keeping Your Computer Virus-Free
- Cisco: What Is the Difference: Viruses, Worms, Trojans, and Bots?
- Indiana University: What Are Viruses, Worms, And Trojan Horses?
- Mount Holyoke College: What are the Different Types of Computer Viruses
- UC San Diego: More Information About Viruses and Hackers
- State of Massachusetts Attorney General: Viruses, Spyware & Malware
- Harvard University: What are Computer Viruses and How Can I Avoid Them?
- Western University: Computer Viruses and Data Security – What are Computer Viruses and Why are They Harmful? (PDF)
- Texas State University: Virus Types