Surf Smart, Surf Clean

by Ondrej Krehel

Are you aware of that just by clicking on a picture you can get a virus, malware, or a Trojan horse?

Cameron Diaz recently made headlines as the Internet’s most dangerous celebrity—and not because of her .

McAfee, the antivirus software company, listed because cybercriminals use her name and pictures more than any other celebrity to lure unsuspecting Internet users to dangerous websites. Julie Roberts and Jessica Biel were not far behind in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots.

What makes a web surfing dangerous? Malware: malicious software, which can range from a computer virus, to programs that collect your personal information and credit card numbers, to backdoors that give hackers access to your computer. And let’s not forget tracking cookies for behavior marketing purposes or invasive content such as spam.

According to , the antivirus company, the countries where it’s most dangerous to surf online are .

There are several free programs available for personal use that will scan your system for malware, such as , and , but just like your own health and wellness, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. (Windows Vista and Windows 7 has a good built-in malware scanner, Windows Defender.)

Just like we all brush our teeth and comb our hair (well, most of us at least) there are some regular hygiene steps you want to incorporate into your Internet routine. They will keep your system running fast and clean.

The first, and most important, is general awareness. If you’re on a website that you’re not familiar with, or that doesn’t look professional, don’t just OK pop-up requests for information. Often malware pop-ups look like Windows icons, designed to confuse you, which offer help with some threat detected on your computer.

Also, your computer operating system should be updated with the latest security patches, which can be set to update automatically. And it goes without saying that you should be running antivirus software and have a firewall enabled. Even if you’re on a MAC or Linux system. AVG provides free antivirus for personal use. From time to time, cross check your PC health status with free online scans from the major antivirus vendors, such as Kaspersky, Eset, McAfee and Symantec. Mac users can use free while Linux and BSD users have .

Make sure, too, that your web browser is the latest, most-secure version. The newest versions include phishing filters, pop-up blockers and malware protection. More technical users can leverage advanced features such as Firefox (e.g ), and options for disabling scripts, and many others.

Again, the most important thing is to use your judgment. If you’re clicking around for Cameron Diaz photos and nothing pops up, or worse, your computer freezes for a few seconds, you’re probably not on the safest website. If you really need to surf celebrities instead of Wikipedia, try Leonard Bernstein, Antonin Dvorak or Mike Bloomberg.

Ondrej Krehel, Chief Information Security Officer,

Ondrej has more than a decade of network and computer security experience. His expertise extends to investigations of intellectual property theft, massive deletions, defragmentation, anti-money laundering and computer hacking. He led U.S. computer security projects at Stroz Friedberg and worked in IT security at Loews Corp.

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