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Be Proactive During Cyber Security Awareness Month

We use the web to search, shop and to connect with friends and family. And in the process criminals are trying steal from us.

It used to be that a person only had to know not to open a file in an attachment from someone they didn’t know. Today there are more ways than ever that your PC can be hijacked.

Today you can simply visit a website thinking you are safe and the bad guy was there before you and injected code on the site and now it infects your out-dated browser. That’s a “drive by” and it’s very common today.

Protect yourself:

Update your browser. Internet Explorer and Firefox are the most exploited browsers. Whenever there is an update to these browsers take advantage of it.   Keep the default settings and don’t go to the bowels of the web where a virus is most likely to be. Consider the Google Chrome browser as it’s currently less of a target.. Systems using old or outdated browsers such as IE 5, 6, or older versions of Firefox offer the path of least resistance.

Update your operating system. Computers with old, outdated, or unsupported operating systems like Windows 95, 98, and 2000 are extremely vulnerable. No matter what brand of computer you are on you have to update the critical security patches for your Windows operating system. Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP after 2014, so start thinking about upgrading to Windows 7 or wait for windows 8 (which is pretty sweet). Go to Windows Update. Keep your critical security patches up-to-date by setting Windows Update to run automatically as well.

Update Adobe Reader and Flash. Adobe PDFs and Flash Player are ubiquitous on almost every PC. Which makes them a prime target for criminals. To update Reader go to Help then Check for Updates. To update Flash go here.

Don’t be suckered into scareware. A popup launches and it looks like a window on your PC. Next thing a scan begins. The scan tells you that a virus has infected your PC. And for $49.95 you can download software that magically appears just in time to save the day.

Beware of social media scams. Numerous Twitter (and Facebook) accounts including those of President Obama, Britney Spears, Fox News and others were taken over and used to make fun of, ridicule, harass or commit fraud. Often these hacks may occur via phish email

Surfing pornography websites increases your risk, as does frequenting gaming websites hosted in foreign countries. And don’t engage in risky online activities that invite attacks.

Downloading pirated content from P2P (peer-to-peer) websites is also risky. Remember, there is no honor among thieves.

Make sure to set your antivirus software to update automatically. Use a paid product that provides antivirus, antiphishing, antispyware and a firewall.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask GemaltoDisclosures

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