I am very aware of the risks and dangers that exists on the wilds of the internet. I’ve been trained in computer security and have even written a book, “Safe Computing is Like Safe Sex” that describes some simple procedures you can follow and applications you can install to which will help keep you safer as your surf the web. Without protection, the internet can be a dangerous place indeed.
Over the past month, I’ve been on a dozen internet radio shows, and someone invariably asks, “is the internet really that dangerous?” They go on to say they are very careful, don’t visit porn sites and besides, who would want to hack their computer anyway?
Unfortunately, the internet is a dangerous place and, if your computer not adequately protected, and if you don’t follow some simple procedures, you are at risk. Some of the infections are very nasty and challenging, if not impossible, to cure.
A prime example is a ransomware, which is a virus that takes over your computer, usually encrypting all of the files, and demands payment to restore it back to you. Sometimes these even go so far as to say they’ve found something illegal on your computer, and you must “pay a fine” to release your computer.
These can infect a computer that is not up-to-date with security updates (the most common problem) simply by viewing an infected website. That’s right, you just display a web page on your screen, and behind the scenes, your computer is infected. Sometimes the site itself is not infected – the advertisements, banner ads, actually contain a virus.
How do you keep this from happening? Ensure your operating system is regularly updated (Windows 10 is now automatic) with security updates, install a product such as MalWareBytes in addition to your typical antivirus program, and be sure you have turned Administrator rights on your account (see my book for a description of all of these things.) Also, the very first thing you should do is ensure your system is regularly backed up, and an application such as LiveDrive can do that automatically, to the cloud, for you.
So to answer the question, yes, the internet is dangerous. But so is crossing the street, driving a car, or going to school. Just take proper precautions and follow some good habits, and you’ll most likely be fine. And in case the worst happens, ensure you have an up-to-date backup so you can recover.