How to Defend against Suspicious Files and Programs
Suspicious files and programs come in all shapes and sizes and can be found on obviously-suspicious links e.g. a phishing link. However, there are also threats in your very email inbox, which luckily gets filtered out, otherwise known as spam. Even more however though, some files can be disguised as people that you may regularly contact, such as a work colleague. These are often hard to distinguish as they will use hooks such as ‘Can you check this work for me’ or ‘Does this photo look any good?’. This disguises the suspicious file as an innocent link that may be seen as a photo or Word document.
This is the link that’ll cause problems if you choose to click on it. It should go without saying, but you still shouldn’t click on the link even if you have top-of-the-range security software, as this could be a new virus that the software company hasn’t come across yet, meaning that they won’t have any defence for it.
One example of this is a phishing website, where the website may try to come off as a legitimate website, such as www.hallifax.co.uk or steamconmunity.com. You can usually tell with these as they will have slight spelling mistakes in an attempt to pose as the real thing. These links usually come from a bot giving you some automated reason to go on them. Unless you haven’t worked it out yet, you should avoid clicking this link like the plague.
Files on Websites
Suspicious files don’t just come through links in an email, they can also be found on websites. Your security software is more likely to be useful here, as it will usually come up with a big red screen telling you that the website is unsafe. Also, if you do go on a malicious website without the software telling you, there will likely be a pop-up sometime later telling you that there is something malicious hiding on your system. This is going to be a small or medium threat, as it will probably go unnoticed. A large threat will leave your system dead and buried, the best being that you can’t go on your internet due a page saying you have a virus and need the anti-virus (this is actually the virus). The worst is that the virus completely shuts down your computer, sometimes even a factory reset can’t save this. Remember that there is stuff in between, like the blue screen of death, which is piles of fun to remove. Chances are, you aren’t the guy removing it, it’ll be the person you’ve sent the computer to for them to fix. This isn’t going to be free…
Although extreme, this is a valid way of stopping a virus from infecting other devices. Most services which are renown to have bot accounts roaming about will usually have a tool that can report phishing bots. If you do happen to click the link, one of two things will happen: 1. Your security software will do it’s job and stop you from going onto the site or 2. You get onto the site, the account details are stolen and you lose access to your account, which will probably be used to spread more phishing links. If Number 2 does happen, you need to get in contact with an admin asap to try and block your account. This might seem counter-intuitive but you need to stop hackers from using your account for evil. Chances are that whatever you had in your account is lost forever or will have to be gained in a long and gruelling process with the admins, who’ll probably take days, if not weeks, to reply.
An Easy Solution
The solution to all these terrifying threats is really pretty simple. Along with not clicking them (!), you should also ensure that you have a firewall, antivirus and any other security software should be installed. A good supplier of computer security is McAfee or Norton, which often provide all the tools you need for basic security protection.
Hopefully this blog post will have given some insight in what a dangerous link may look like, and how to avoid them if you do come across them. These links are likely to be pretty rare, as most of them get dumped into your spam box where they can do no harm, but if one does get through, see if it’s contents are specific about what the link is.
If the email says ‘Hey, could you have a look at this blog post I was talking about the other day’ from a person who was actually talking about a blog post earlier, then it’s 99.9% going to be safe. Remember: just because an email uses your name, doesn’t mean it’s coming from a reliable source. Some bots are programmed to take your name from your email details to look legit.