The Wild West was a dangerous time for those unprepared, and the World Wide Web is a dangerous place for your computers health. If you thought that viruses were your only threat, then you may be surprised to find out just how many ways your computer can be altered for the benefit of other peoples: amusement, retribution or financial benefit.
Directly connecting your computer to the internet exposes your computer to the entire internet. Anyone from anywhere in the world can isolate your computer through its IP Address, which is like your street address. Anyone can use IP scanning software to see how your computer has been compromised. Computers without the latest security patches from Microsoft are easily compromised by those without any regard to your privacy.
Windows Updates are Critical for your Security
These updates for Windows Operating Systems are released by Microsoft to patch holes or back doors that breach the scurity of your computer. When they produce a security patch they will usually document how the flaw can be exploited. So they give those writing the viruses a new way to exploit any unpatched computers.
Viruses take may different forms: Trojans, Worms, Boot Sector Viruses, Denial of Service attacks, Macro Viruses and VBS Script Viruses. They have many different purposes: causing damage to your system, stealing your data, using your computer to infect other systems, stealing your serial numbers and using your computer to attack or steal from another computer.
Firewalls come in both software and hardware. They are designed to block internet traffic into and from your computer. A Software Firewall can protect a computer dirtectly connected to the Internet, as long as that computer has all of the patches to its operating system. A Hardware Firewall sits between the Internet and all computers that are connected behind it.
Routers are hardware devices that allow the connection of more than one computer to the same Internet connection. A router contains a hardware firewall, because they use a Network Address Translation (NAT). This type of firewall can even protect your computer from attacks that come in the form of exploitations of flaws in a computers operating system.
A new browser windows is opened sized and its content delivered by ActiveX, Java and Java Scripts. This has become one of the most popular ways for companies to deliver advertising content; however, pop-ups come in many different forms. These computer languages of the the Internet often require plug-ins or companion products to deliver the content you have requested from the Internet. They allow you to play online games or deliver impressive multimedia graphics. Unfortunatley these same computer languages allow, anyone's web site, the ability to install anything they want onto your computer.
Visiting a Web Site Has Never Been More Dangerous
Increasingly programs are being installed onto computers without the owners knowledge. A change in Microsoft Internet Explorer version 6 "Check for Digital signatures on downloaded programs" defaults to the off setting, which has opened a big hole into your computer. Without this option turned on, you don't even have the opportunity to stop a program from installing itself onto your system. Even when the option is turned on, a web site may insist that you to choose "Yes" before you'll be able to see the content on their web site; however, choosing "No" or repeatedly choosing "No" ten or twenty times, will eventually allow you to see the content. Once the "Yes" is chosen you computer has a new program installed, that had absolutely nothing to do with the content of the web site you were visiting.
Knowing what web sites you visit, allows the advertisers to customize their direct marketing campaigns. Along with demographic information collected when you visited the web site, they can put you on e-mail lists, address lists and phone lists. This generates SPAM in your inbox, junk mail in your mailbox, and wastes your time with annoying phone calls.
Often, when you install software onto your computer more than one program gets installed. Sometimes the developer has used someone else's software, with their authorization, to enhance their application. Typically when you download a free program from the Internet these secondary programs are designed to deliver constants updates for current advertisements displayed within the application while you're using the software; however, they can use up a lot of your computer memory and slow down its overall performance, even when your not using the software.
Spyware is an extreme form of Adware, its purpose is to be more invasive: logging keystrokes, stealing passwords, identity theft or theft of your computers resources. Often such software is bundled with other software such as peer-to-peer file sharing applications, which allow users to share music, videos, pictures and cracked copies of applications or games. Long after the file sharing application has been removed from your system, the other software that came bundled with it, is still plugging away in your computers background memory.