We’re officially into the month of December, which means another month of posts has passed. If you missed anything from November, not to worry, we’ve rounded up some highlights to catch you up on the top need-to-know stories.
You’re already familiar with ransomware, a type of malware that encrypts or locks a victim’s machine before demanding he or she pay a ransom in order to unlock their files. But there is a new ransomware on the market that you need to know about, CryptoLocker. There are a few different forms of this dangerous virus making the rounds on the Internet, mostly spreading through phishing schemes, some from legitimate businesses and others even through phony Federal Express or UPS tracking notifications. The malware has reportedly been capable of affecting not only local files, but also files stored in removable media such as USB sticks, external hard drives, network file shares and some cloud storage services that are able to sync local folders with online storage, and can even jump from machine to machine. Luckily, if you’re currently using Kaspersky Internet Security you can rest easy knowing you’re protected against CryptoLocker.
A Bitcoin is a digital crypto-currency. Instead of having a printed bill or a minted coin, you have a cryptographic string of characters that work as an incredibly convenient mechanism for money laundering and for criminals seeking to conduct untraceable financial transactions on the Internet. They’re used because they allow people to buy illicit hacking tools, weapons, or conceal gains made selling drugs, stolen information or illegal things online. Of course just like with regular money and banking systems, Bitcoins have faced their own malware attacks that have been built specifically to compromise Bitcoin wallets or the marketplaces in which they are purchased and sold. So, should you or shouldn’t you use Bitcoin? Our suggestions would be to feel free to use Bitcoins if you’re interested, but know the risks. Bitcoin wallets and exchanges are clearly being targeted by cybercriminals, but so are your bank account and your bank. However, if a government decides to classify them as illegal or someone comes to control a large amount of the currency, you could be putting yourself at risk.
We’re constantly trying to keep you protected form online threats, which is why we’ve compiled lesser-known tips you should be following to keep yourself safe. Making sure you have a firewall in place can go a long way towards keeping criminals out. Also be sure that you share some of your folders only on the home network, and if you don’t really need your files to be visible to other machines, disable file and media sharing completely. Backing up your data is incredibly important in the case of a computer crash or attack as well. You can do your back up manually by transferring important documents to an external hard drive, or you can use a service like Carbonite. If you don’t have a significant amount of data to store, use a service like Dropbox, where you get 2GB of storage for free. Kaspersky PURE has backup functionality as well, including Dropbox integration. Along with backing up your files, you should also always avoid rogue websites. Important things to remember to prevent accidentally accessing these sites would be to avoid clicking their links (go directly to the website instead), look for a green lock in the address bar and the code prefix “https://” at the beginning of the URL, and take caution when shopping at a website that ships items from overseas.
If you follow our blog, you’re already well aware of the importance of using strong, varying passwords for your different accounts online. However, the recent breach in passwords for Adobe users has us wanting to remind you once more how incredibly important it is to choose your passwords wisely. Examples of passwords you should never be using that are easily guessed include combinations, like “password” or “123456,” or your company and family name. You should also never use common facts, simple sequences and basic words, and should avoid adding any obvious modifications when required to enter a numbers or symbol, like “1” or “!”, since these are the first two choices on your keyboard. If you think you’re being clever by using a phrase instead of a simple word, definitely make sure you aren’t using one like “iloveyou” or “letmein”. The more unique the phrase, the safer you are. And finally, never, ever, use important personal data as your password, like your social security number or birth date.
For those of you out there who like to game online, there are safety precautions you need to be taking. Free online games bring in more revenue than gaming consoles and console games combined, because of the extortion tactics used to scam money out of their players. These tactics basically get users to pay to improve their play, so if you’re an online gamer, be on the lookout for these warning signs before you dish over a significant amount of money without realizing it. If you’re an adult male under the age of 30 years old, you are the target audience for online gaming developers, given the variety of games you play and the amount of time you spend per week playing. Keep an eye on games asking you to connect via your social media channels. They are doing this to get you to see the scores of your friends to push you to pay to earn higher awards than your friends have. If you’re playing a game that uses virtual currency, don’t turn a blind eye. This “toy money” is a tricky way to get users to pay more than they’re noticing. If you were offered 5 extra lives for $2 you’d probably pass, but if you were offered the same 5 lives for 16 pink crystals, which you bought 2 days ago on a big sale (as many as 25 crystals instead of 20 for just $3), you’d probably be much more likely to spend the money. Developers also like to fool players by making it nearly impossible to advance in certain games, asking you to purchase power-ups to move forward. These are blackmail tactics that are asking you you to pay to play more, which you should never give into.