Every now and then you’ll get a pop-up offering you free (or cheap) security software, such as Microsoft Security Essentials, from a download site: “Just click here….” Don’t! MSE is the latest offering in a continuing series of scams that can install malware on your computer. MSE is available for free from Microsoft (and it’s a darned good security suite). Go to their site and search for Microsoft Security Essentials. Any offer to sell it, even at an “unheard of low price” is BOGUS.
The situation described above is a common ploy of malware distributors to get you to click on their links. Then you download the software (or they do, you don’t have to approve it), and it not only isn’t the real McCoy, it contains a trojan, worm or similar bad stuff.
The same thing goes for those pop-up warnings: “You Have A Virus!!! Click here to remove it.” No no no no no! Immediately go to a site such as TrendMicro’s Housecall or McAfee’s Security Scan, and run the free online scanner to detect and remove any possible infection.
NEVER download any program (or anything else) by clicking on an unsolicited link. Go to the vendor’s site by typing the URL into your address bar, or by searching for the site and first checking the URL that is displayed. If your browser allows it, use a program like Web of Trust to help alert you to dangerous places on the Web.
DO NOT CLICK ON STRANGE LINKS, EVER! Not in pop-ups, not in email, not on unknown websites. Don’t open strange attachments, even if they came from your brother who assures you that his computer runs just fine after opening it. Most malware runs with no overt indication. Some of it can disable your anti-malware programs (that’s why the online scans are recommended), and some are delayed-action. They can’t get past your antivirus on their own (most of the time) but when you invite them into the parlor by clicking that attachment, or downloading an unknown program and then installing it, you are totally on your own.
Your best protection is common sense. Along those lines, if you use file-sharing services like BitTorrent, you’ve already demonstrated that you don’t have any. Good luck.
Check the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Emergency Team site (US-CERT) for more good information to help keep you safe on the Web.
And hey! Be careful out there.