Speeding wasn’t much of a problem before the car was invented. The first man to write a book probably wasn’t too concerned about copyright. Defamation wasn’t too much of a threat before the printing press and other mass media became available.
Similarly, cybercrime was never an issue until computers started becoming a household item.
Being such a powerful invention, the computer (coupled with the internet) empowers students, teachers, government officials, teenagers, young entrepreneurs named Mark Zuckerberg, old entrepreneurs named Steve Jobs, and, unfortunately, “cyber criminals” bent on wreaking havoc in your life.
Not all computer whizzes work for Microsoft or Macintosh. According to Answers.com, there were nearly 300,000 computer viruses in existence as of early 2009. That number is constantly increasing as thousands of criminals around the world develop new viruses. Many people wonder why people create computer viruses. Unfortunately, there are several lucrative reasons people create viruses. Most malware is used to steal personal information which can then be sold or used to exploit victims.
Malware can come in several shapes and sizes
Computer virus: Once a virus has found its way into a computer system, it begins to replicate and infect individual files. These viruses employ various methods to hide themselves from antivirus programs and are often successful. Viruses sometimes attack many files at the same time, attempting to disable a computer before antivirus programs can detect them or attack a file at a time, thus evading the notice of antivirus programs.
Adware: These programs display unwanted advertisements on your computer. Although mostly harmless, they can take up hard disk space, and really annoy you.
Spyware: These nasty buggers creep into your system to spy on you (hence the name). They collect personal information to transmit to their creators. This information can include credit card numbers, social security number, websites that you visit, and bank account information. Some spyware has been known to participate in identity theft. Spyware often causes users to get a lot of popup ads. Other spyware tracks the internet activities of lovers to check for infidelity. These eventually slow down both system performance and internet speed. Unlike normal computer viruses, however, they do not duplicate themselves.
Computer Worms: These bugs infiltrate computer networks and spread to each computer in the network without sufficient protection. Some worms delete or alter files on your computer while others simply take up bandwidth. Worms are self-replicating.
Trojans: Fittingly named after the horse given to the people of Troy by the Greeks, these programs appear useful at first then prove destructive. Hackers use Trojans to view victims’ computer screens. Using Trojan software, they can track keyboard strokes making it easy to find out passwords and other sensitive information. This type of malware doesn’t self-replicate.
Rootkit: This behind-the-scenes program takes control of the administrative account on a computer. This program is usually used to mask operations being performed by the computer. It can hide other viruses, spyware, or trojans. This facilitates password theft (or the theft of other personal information). These computers can then be used to infect other computers on a network.
Common sense web-surfing practices can help you evade many types of malware. Avoid clicking on unfamiliar links, even if posted (or sent to you by email) by a friend or family member. Sometimes email and social media accounts are hacked to send links to everyone in their email directory. Regularly change your passwords to prevent the possibility of password theft. Regularly backing up your information on a disk is also helpful just in case a virus does attack your computer.
Keeping an updated antivirus software account is also key in preventing known viruses from attacking your computer. No antivirus software will protect you against 100 percent of all computer threats, but they will protect you against the majority of malware.
Unsolicited electronic messages sent in mass to many different users are known as spam. Ten years ago, spam only referred to messages received by email. Recently, however, spammers are also attacking blogs with spam comments. These are sometimes used simply for SEO (search engine optimization), to make their website get ranked better. A lot of email services have excellent spam filters that send junk mail straight to a special folder. You can often help improve these filters by marking emails as spam.
Pornographic sites infest the internet. Adults over 18 (21 in a few states) are legally allowed to view pornography, studies show that most children have come across pornography accidentally by the time they reach adulthood. Child pornography (the depiction of minors engaging in sexual acts) is against the law. Unfortunately, despite laws banning it in 94 countries, child pornography continues to be a thriving industry. Anyone found possessing child pornography in the United States, regardless of whether or not they intend to resell it, is subject to severe punishment. These penalties usually include a prison sentence with the duration depending on the severity of the crime. Do whatever is necessary to protect your children from these threats.
Bullying has also advanced into the 21st century, bullies learning to pick on other kids through social media sites. Before the rise of the Internet, kids could often escape the reach of bullies at home. Unfortunately, modern technology has paved the way for online bullying. This can be done through posting offensive or embarrassing information online, impersonating victims, cyberstalking, or posting dishonest information. Facebook and MySpace are information meccas for teenagers. Many interact more with others online than they do in person. There are many things you can do to help children and teenagers overcome cyberbullying. Here is another article I wrote for parents about helping them overcome cyber bullying.
About the Author
Derek Gurr is a writer for MyCollegesandCareers.com. My Colleges and Careers helps people determine if an online education is right for them and helps them understand which online colleges and online courses they can choose from to reach their goals.
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