1. Beware of Fake Download / Play Buttons:
Usually these are targeted on torrent sites or anything with a download keyword on it, so users are fooled into clicking it and downloading something completely unrelated. It’s a dirty trick, and the only way to defeat them is to be careful and think twice before hitting the download button. It helps if you already know the site in question, because you should be able to realize the location of the download button has changed – but what about new users?
Another method is to use logic. If you have download some software for example, and it’s showing a PLAY NOW button, you should know instantly that’s completely unrelated. The visual style is a giveaway too.
2. Don’t use Internet Explorer:
In every hacking convention so far, Internet Explorer has always been the first to fall. It has been claimed that a fresh install of XP with IE6 will be infected within minutes of browsing the internet. While the latest IE9 may have toughened up a little, the fact is that IE is specifically targeted by hackers on a daily basis, precisely because the number of people who don’t even consider switching browsers makes it a profitable target. Go download Chrome.
3. Hang Up on Cold-Calling Indian Technical Support Agents:
In the UK at least, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of scam telephone calls from supposed Windows technical support agents. Here’s how it starts:
A: Hi there, I’m from (indecipherable) and we’ve registered an error from your Windows – have you been experiencing any issues with it lately?
At this point, 90% of people will be thinking their Windows is broken and yes, of course they have been experiencing issues, because who doesn’t have Windows problems? You’ll then be walked through how to give this called complete remote control access to your PC, where they perform some BS technical checks and try to get you to purchase a support contract. Check out this video so you know what to expect.
4. Ignore Pop-Ups That Have Anything To Do With Security or Viruses:
These are difficult if you are actually running anti-virus software, because they pop up and fool you into thinking your AV software has found something.
For a start, ignore anything originating from your browser – which you can check by completely closing it down. As a general rule of thumb, ignore any and all security related messages if you didn’t initiate them youself – by clicking on your AV software’s SCAN button, for example. If you get a message from an AV app on windows you never installed, it’s likely you’ve already been infected.
5. Avoid Public Torrent Sites Like The Plague:
Most public torrent sites are teething with malware and fake torrents. I don’t care what you download, but make sure you do it from a private tracker. They’re a few exceptions to the rule, some of which we’ve covered in the best new torrent sites.
piratebay.org – with millions of users, the comment system is usually full of reports of fake files or viruses – but stick to uploads from trusted power users (ones with a little pink or green skull and crossbones next to them).
Private trackers are only open to members, so it’s sometimes hard to find some that are accepting new registrations. We wrote before about how to find trackers that are open. Be warned though, private trackers don’t take kindly to leeching, and if your ratio drops you can get banned.
6. Fake Torrents That Need a Specific Video Player:
If you’ve ignored my advice and downloaded some movie from a public torrent site, there’s a very good chance it’s a fake. These are difficult to detect because the file is usually padded to be about the right size, but upon playing them you’ll see a message that you need to download a new video player because it’s encoded specially or words to that effect.
Don’t download movies from public sites, and use VLC player to check a file. VLC player has every codec under the sun built-in, so if it doesn’t play correctly in that, it’s not a real movie.
7. Don’t Open Anything Forwarded To You:
While you can be as careful as you like, your friends might not. If you have the kind of friends who forward you fun little flash games packaged up in .exe files, or anything other than a simple picture, just delete them.
8. Don’t search for common utilities in Google:
We covered this a little while ago – the worrying trend of malware ridden sites ranking highly in Google for various common utilities. Thinking you are downloading the best video player around, you actually get a virus infected copy instead from a dodgy third-party site. The solution – Have no fear, we have an extensive list of the BEST software for Windows (and now Linux, with Mac OSx one in the works – not that osx or linux users need to worry about viruses…) with verified links that you can trust. If you’re unsure of a particular app – where to download it officially or if it’s worth it – you can always ask around on our helpful tech questions community.
9. Create a non-admin account for general use and family members:
If you allow yourself and members of your family to use the administration account, you are asking for trouble. Creating a limited privileges user account protects you somewhat by preventing anything run by that user (malicious or not) from doing any permanent damage. You can find out more about user accounts and everything else Windows 7 related in our fantastic free ebook.
The internet can be a dangerous place, but not if you follow these simple rules. Got some other useful tips? Do share, please! Let’s put an end to the madness of anti-virus now!