For the average pc user, security is nothing more than an anti-virus program or Windows Defender. Everyone is expected to use these basic programs and, for the most part, if kept up-to-date, the basic protection these offer will be enough to stop generalized threats. The pervasiveness of anti-virus software has become so thorough that the creators of malicious software have had to become much more creative with their attacks.
Creative or not, most attacks on the security of your pc require you to be unaware to their existence in order to work. So, let's take a look at the most common creative attacks which may affect your pc and learn how to avoid them.
Phishing is one of the most common attacks that an everyday pc user will come across.
A phishing website is designed to look just like another site in order to trick users into entering their account or personal information. The most common of these will resemble bank portals or social media sites. A phishing attack is most often made using an URL that resembles the target URL but is a common misspelling or comes in the form of an email that hides its true source and mimics the target company.
The easiest way to protect yourself from a phishing attack is to always confirm the URL of the links you visit or are given. If you are asked to log in to a site that is not part of your normal favorites or saved locations, then be doubly sure of the URLs configuration. Also, be aware of the security certificates of the locations that you visit. Major social media sites and banks will always use an HTTPS address for maximum security. If the link or URL you are accessing does not begin with HTTPS, close the page, delete the email, and never return.
As with phishing attacks, pc users are vulnerable to malicious email attacks if they are not aware of the dangers.
Opening a tainted email is normally not enough to infect your computer. In most cases, malicious email requires a user to open an attachment or click on an included link. Simple solution, never open an unexpected email attachment or click an email link.
In the case of banking or social media emails, this is even more important. Do not take a chance that the email is authentic. Simply close the email and then navigate to the specific bank or social media portal through your normal means. If the issue was authentic, you will be able to address the problem securely anyway.
Other key indicators of possible malicious emails are grammar and misspelled words. Not all fake email originates from foreign countries, but a large portion will and bad translations and significant typos can make identifying malicious email much easier.
Fake error or update warnings
Pop-ups are an old and understood nuisance that, for the most part, is easily remedied and forgotten. However, in some cases, a malicious pop-up can come disguised as a browser or program update.
This threat can easily catch unaware users off-guard. We have been trained to understand the necessity of constant update cycles in order to protect our pcs from security vulnerabilities. When a pop-up flashes on the screen to inform us that a new patch or fix is available, the first impulse is to agree and start the process.
Don't. As with the previous two threats, users must confirm that the information received is authentic and safe. If the pop-up says that your browser needs an update, then navigate to the browser's page and look for the update. Sure, it may be one or two more steps than just accepting the pop-up, but those few steps may save you the hassle of infection.
If you believe that the pop-up is indeed of the malicious variety, then do not click or press any buttons. Clicking on any button inside the pop-up, including cancel, could give the pop-up authority to install the malicious code on your machine. Instead, simply close your main browser, refresh your browser, or use the task manager to shut down the offending pop-up.
When considering the safety of your pc, these previous three malicious attacks will be the most common in the wild. Knowing what they are and how to combat them is the first step to protecting yourself from falling prey to their designs.
However, these are not the only threats that should concern you. In the next post, we will cover the last three creative attacks that threaten your pc safety: Hackers, Zero-day attacks, and Drive-bys.