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Chances are good that you don’t have a dedicated IT guy in your home office. So it’s up to you to stay on top of the latest news about how to protect your computer and yourself from criminals and overzealous marketers. I found this Network World site that explains many of the dangers. Just this week, my computer was attacked by malware that caused annoying pop-ups, and I received a "phishy" e-mail purportedly from Ebay asking for personal information. (The real folks from Ebay would never ask for that.)
A friend of mine is a global security expert for a major corporation. He says there are thousands and thousands of people out there trying to get into your computer. They have mega computers that run 24 hours a day looking for a weak link that they can exploit. It may be to use your computer to send junk mail, or maybe to look for sensitive information in your files. They may "phish" for private information like your credit card number of Social Security number so they can steal your identity. They may just install malware that causes pop ups.
The latest threat to cyberlife is called "pharming." You type in a legitimate web address but are redirected to a bogus site that steals your data. The bad guys have to get into your computer and install some malicious software to make it work, so don’t be lazy or careless about keeping your computer protected.
An article in the Christian Science Monitor says your best defense is to keep your antivirus and antispyware programming up to date (though they are not perfect at preventing these things, I can attest to that for sure). Also, you should be able to confirm you are on a real site by clicking on the lock symbol in the corner of the browser and confirming that it shows the address you intended to visit. The address bar should begin with "https," not simply "http." The Business Software Alliance has a newly developed website to keep us informed.
Be careful out there! And please, share your experiences to help the rest of us!