Home Computer Security
MTA is committed to providing reliable and secure Internet service to our customers. Computer security attacks against homes and businesses are on the rise. Millions of new viruses, malicious software files and malicious web pages are developed every year. The Internet can be a dangerous place, but there are actions you can take to better protect your computer and data.
If You Think Your Computer Is Infected With Malware
- Stop using the infected computer until you are sure it is clean.
Run updated and reputable antivirus programs (listed below) and perform a full scan. This action alone cannot guarantee that the computer is clean of all malware, however, it is the least disruptive. The most effective and guaranteed way to be sure your computer is clean is to reload the entire operating system. Reloading your operating system is quite disruptive. You must find a way to backup all your important files, it can be time-consuming and is an advanced task that you may need to have a trained computer technician perform.
- Reset your passwords.
You should immediately reset all your passwords for accounts that you have used from the compromised computer. However, you should change your accounts from a different computer that you know is not infected. This includes sites like social networking, banking, other email accounts and healthcare to name a few. Every site should use a different password. All your passwords should be strong passwords (see tips on creating a strong password) that do not include personal information such as birth dates, names and other identifiable information.
- Check your accounts for suspicious behavior.
Keep an eye out on your banking transactions, look for changes to your account settings such as changes to addresses, email addresses or phone numbers. Criminals will change this contact information and then use it to further compromise your accounts. Check your credit report annually.
- Ask yourself how you may have been hacked.
Once you’ve gained control and security again, sit down and try to figure out why you were hacked. Often, it’s simple behaviors that allow us to get hacked. You may have had a weak password. You might have clicked on a link in an email from a friend and that could have opened the gates to a hacker. Or you might have downloaded an attachment thinking it was safe. You may have followed a link to what you thought was your financial institution’s official website when in fact it was a hacker’s site. Even though there are antivirus programs and other security measures in place to help protect our computers and personal information, nothing protects your security more than vigilance.
Phishing is the act of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public. Phishing emails may contain links to websites that are infected with malware.
Please be extra cautious about links contained in emails, even if they appear legitimate and professional looking. Some phishing emails can be very convincing. Phishing emails prey on your emotions whether it be anxiety, excitement or curiosity. For example, here is a recent fake warning from the Federal Trade Commission. This particular email preys on your fear that you have been reported to some government bureaucracy and that you may be facing jail time or fines.
The link in the fake Federal Trade Commission email claims to be a complaint letter. However, when you use your mouse to hover over the link, a popup reveals a suspicious-looking URL. In this case, the link contains malicious software.
It’s dangerous to open unknown email attachments, especially ZIP files.
Top 5 Computer Security Tips for Home and Small Business Consumers
- Use strong passwords that can’t be easily guessed.
Make passwords difficult to guess. Don’t use personal information such as names or places. Use a mix of upper and lower case characters as well as numbers and special characters. Change default passwords on your home network equipment such as wireless routers. Longer passwords are harder to break; Eight characters are the recommended minimum length, but 10+ is even more secure.
- Beware of scams.
Don’t click on email links or attachments that you are not expecting. Don’t respond to emails or calls asking for information such as passwords, Social Security or account numbers. Change your password if you ever suspect you have been targeted by a scam.
- Protect your personal information.
Do not store sensitive information on your computer unencrypted. This includes passwords, Social Security numbers, tax or banking information, or intellectual property. Don’t log into web pages that do not use HTTPS. Use encryption on your wireless router. Make a backup of your data and store backups in a safe place.
- Use an antivirus, anti-spyware and a personal firewall.
Use reliable antivirus software. Make sure it automatically updates daily. Check it often. Update your operating system security patches (Windows Update) at least once each month. Turn on your Windows Firewall or find a reliable alternative. Don’t install software from unreliable sources. Beware of malware on social networking sites such as Facebook. Only use Antivirus from reputable publishers such as Norton, McAfee, Sophos, Kaspersky, Microsoft, or use a free product (see below for some suggestions).
Never click on unexpected pop-ups which warn of virus infections or offer to “optimize” your computer. Always open your antivirus software directly if you believe it has detected a virus. If your computer has been infected by a virus you should keep your computer turned off, seek professional computer services and change your passwords from a “clean” computer as soon as possible.
- Protect your portable devices with a password.
Most smartphone users carry with them a wealth of personal information including email, text messages and contacts. This is valuable information to cyber-criminals and nosey strangers alike. Make sure your portable devices are password protected.
Free and Low-Cost Computer Security Products
MTA makes no claims or guarantees relating to the following software. Most of them are free; some are free for personal use, but not for business use. Please read the licensing restrictions and be aware that some of these applications may try to get you to upgrade to a paid subscription.
Avira offers a free version that provides excellent malware detection rates according to recent industry standard tests. When installing the free version please be aware that you will be prompted to try a number of additional features some of which are good features but may cost money. It is possible to install just the free anti-virus software; be certain to read the prompts carefully.
Microsoft Security Essentials is a free program for Windows 7, which offers decent detection rates. Although it has ranked relatively low in recent malware detection tests, it is still an option for average users because of the minimal user interaction required. It automatically updates and removes threats. No registration is needed (apart from a quick validating of Windows) and there are no nag screens or advertisements. Windows 8 already includes built-in free antivirus software, called Windows Defender.
Avast Free Antivirus is a good free antivirus software. It performed very well in recent tests. Avast has a lot of features for a free antivirus with full real-time capabilities including web, email, IM, P2P and network shields, boot-time scanning and a behavioral blocker feature.
AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition is also a decent choice for a free antivirus. AVG performed average in recent testing. AVG offers protection against malware, has behavior blocking feature and also scans emails and network traffic for malware.
Windows Firewall is a free built-in, host-based software that is included in Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows Server 2003-2012. Windows Firewall helps provide protection from malicious users and programs that rely on unsolicited incoming traffic to attack computers. The windows firewall is turned on by default in Windows 7 but users should also check settings.
Comodo Free Firewall is a good choice for users seeking a full-featured security suite. This latest release is suitable for both lightly skilled users (still must have knowledge of installed programs) and technically advanced users.
ZoneAlarm Free Firewall is an excellent inbound/outbound OS firewall solution suited for users of every level of experience. ZoneAlarm protects systems from intrusions as well as program access to the web. ZoneAlarm features an easy-to-understand user interface. Users can adjust security settings to allow for file or printer sharing and public networks, and you can turn off the firewall as needed.
MalwareBytes is a free anti-malware scanner with full sets of attributes including high scanning, detection and removal effectiveness. It is easy to use and fast, however the real-time protection, automated updates and scheduled scans require an upgrade to the professional paid version.
Eset offers a web-based malware scanning tool that runs using your web browser. While this is a good option for the occasional second opinion scan, it is not a replacement for having a permanent and regularly updated antivirus program installed on your computer.
Security Patch Assessment
Secunia Personal Software Inspector or PSI is software that you run on your personal computer that scans your computer for insecure programs that need updating. It even automates the updating of many common third-party programs.
Remember to check your Windows patches at update.microsoft.com.
Pop-ups & Fake Emails
Fake Microsoft Email
The “Microsoft” email (shown below) is a scam. If you received this email, do not respond to it. If you wish to file a consumer complaint, please contact the Federal Trade Commission at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357) or https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
Online Pop-Up Is Not MTA
Local Internet customers have been reporting a large pop-up screen masquerading as an MTA survey or announcing that you have won a prize. The fake survey claims you were randomly selected and offers to enter you into a drawing for a prize. The scam includes a pop up which resembles MTA’s logo. This scam is being generated by an overseas entity that has no association with MTA. If you receive a pop-up screen like this, DO NOT CLICK ON IT.
Here is some helpful IdentityTheft.gov information for When Information Is Lost or Exposed.