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Just about everyone has heard of a computer virus, but what exactly is it and how can you protect yourself? A computer virus is a program designed to damage your computer, display unexpected messages or images, destroy files, reformat your hard drive, or take up storage space and memory in your computer. It can duplicate itself and, like a human virus, spread quickly. You may also hear the term malware used when talking about viruses. Malware, short for malicious software, describes viruses, spyware, worms and other software meant to damage your computer or compromise your personal information.
Signs you have a Computer Virus
Viruses are oftentimes unbeknownst to the computer’s user. It can be hard to notice what files computer viruses have infected. For example, the size of a file and the “last modified” date may not change even though a virus has attached itself to the file. Additionally, viruses can infect files without damaging those files. However, once you get a virus, you will soon notice that something is not quite right with your computer. Here are some key indicators that you have a computer virus:
- Your computer is running slower than normal - Your computer keeps crashing - There are more pop-ups ads than normal - Error messages continuously show up - You can’t print
Antivirus software works by running in the background of your computer and scanning every file you open. It checks for known viruses, as well any behavior that could detect a new virus. There are both paid and free antivirus software available, depending on your needs. Because new viruses are always being developed, remember to update software regularly.
Another key way to protect your computer from a virus is to be aware of where you going and what you are doing online. Many viruses are spread via email. If an email looks or sounds strange, don’t open any attachments or click on links in the email, even if it is from someone you know. Be cautious of Web pages that require software installation. While there is no surefire way to protect yourself from a computer virus, following these steps will greatly reduce your chances of getting a virus.
Written by: Shannon McCarty-Caplan, Consumer Security Advocate at Trend Micro. Shannon has over a dozen years of experience helping consumers and businesses find the security solutions they need to protect their families, privacy and critical data. Shannon is a news junkie with a BA in Journalism from the University of Arizona. On most days, you can find Shannon tweeting or blogging about security issues impacting women and families or geeking out on the latest new tech toys. Shannon resides on the North Coast (Chicago) and spends her free time volunteering for two non-profit organizations, studying foreign languages and traveling with her husband.
I got clickjacked. The bad guys tricked me, and I fell for it – hook, line and sinker. The message I received wasn’t from my friend; it was malicious spam, and the web link in it brought me to a fake Twitter site to steal my password.
Trend Micro's insight:
I’m an idiot.
Recently, I received a direct Twitter message from my one of my closest friends late one night. It said, “did you see this picture of you lol” and included a shortened web link. Considering that my friend is a photographer who I know has photos of me, it wasn’t strange to receive this message from her. So I clicked on it. Why was this such an idiotic thing to do?
I got clickjacked. The bad guys tricked me, and I fell for it – hook, line and sinker. The message I received wasn’t from my friend; it was malicious spam, and the web link in it brought me to a fake Twitter site to steal my password. Even though I work at a security company and should know better, I still fell for it.
How did this happen?
When I clicked on the web link in the direct message from my iPad, it took me to what seemed to be the Twitter login page in a mobile browser (it wasn’t). I attempted to login anyway (bad idea), even though I thought it was strange that the promised photo didn’t just pop-up within the Twitter app browser. (I was only half paying attention to what I was doing while watching Downton Abbey – Bad combination. “Matthew”, why didn’t you warn me?!)
Each time I entered my login and password, “Fake Twitter” told me my password was incorrect. I was so frustrated; I gave up and went to bed. The gravity of my mistake didn’t hit me until several hours later.
Consequences of Clickjacking
Unable to sleep, I checked my phone: 4:30am Central Time. My phone notified me I received a direct Twitter message from my friend in London, asking, “Was your message to me spam, or do you really have a funny picture of me?” Oh no. What have I done?
By the end of the day, I had received dozens of messages, tweets, emails and Facebook posts telling me someone hacked my Twitter account, as well as a few security industry colleagues poking fun at me for getting clickjacked. That was fun. But most were messages of concern.
By logging into the “Fake Twitter” site, I gave the bad guys my Twitter password. They were then able to login to my real Twitter account and spam all of my followers with the same message and malicious web link, “did you see this picture of you lol,” thus perpetuating the cycle of crime. This is called clickjacking. It typically shows up in social media news feeds, wall posts, and direct messages (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ to name a few), leading unsuspecting clickers to websites that steal your password and data.
The consequences can be catastrophic if you use the same password for your banking and social media accounts. Thankfully, I don’t. The cybercriminals could have logged into my bank accounts and stolen money, my identity and perhaps racked up thousands of dollars in credit card debt within a matter of hours.
In my case, the damage was minimal, except to my ego and credibility as an employee of Trend Micro. If you follow me on Twitter @smccartcaplan, my sincerest apologies. There is nothing more humiliating in my security world than succumbing to the very malicious tactics we warn you about every day. This situation just goes to show you how easy it is for anyone to get clickjacked.
What to do if you’ve been Clickjacked
If you suspect you’ve been clickjacked, change your password, immediately. Then, check to see if any new apps have permission to connect with your account, as they could be malicious and data stealing. (Twitter forces you to check all apps that have permission to your account as soon as you change your password.)If you use the compromised password in any other critical accounts, change all of them and do not use the same password.Send an apology tweet, post, email or call your friends and followers, begging for forgiveness. Let them know if they fell prey to clickjacking, follow these steps as well.Keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements and credit report, looking for suspicious activity or charges.
How to prevent Clickjacking
Here are some tips and tricks to try and prevent clickjacking humiliation or worse, identity theft, data loss, and financial ruin:
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t click on it.Be wary of clicking links posted on your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ feeds, within direct messages from those same social media sites, and email messages without subject lines and just a web link.Re-evaluate your privacy settings on your social media sites. Consider making your Facebook profile private and unsearchable – keeping criminals at bay.If you use the Internet, wear a seatbelt. Install security software on your PC, Mac and Smartphones with safe surfing functionality, warning you of malicious links before you click on them. Make sure your connection to these sites is secured (https://) as this may help in blocking malicious posts or sites.Bookmark important sites you use frequently, like social media, news, banking sites, instead of relying on links from social sites.Proactively report or tag suspicious posts seen on social networking sites.
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