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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Careful with computer curiosity

Calculators and computers have come a long way. I grew up in the era when we would add and subtract by writing on the back of a brown paper bag. Most kids can’t do that today. Then, Texas Instrument calculators came out in the 1970s, and they cost about $1,000. A couple years later companies stamped their names on them and gave them to customers as free premiums.

I can usually find my way around a computer and have learned to not indiscriminately open every off the wall email I receive or go to strange web sites; plus I always have my Norton Antivirus system on. That’s why it surprised me a few weeks ago that I got nailed with my first ever virus. Reader Don was also hit as were many others by the same virus that I hear was from Russia. Somehow, it got through Norton and cost me $140 to get rid of it. Don paid a couple hundred bucks

AARP reports that last September an email was circulating with a subject line that exclaimed "We have hijacked your baby. You must pay us $50,000. The details we will send later." The bait was to get people to click on to the final line of "We have attached photo of your family."

Those curiosity seekers who logged on were hit with a virus designed to steal vital information like passwords and ways to access bank accounts and other personal information.

Other examples used to con users are attachments to jokes, online greeting cards, and supposed news alerts claiming to be from CNN or other sources. Your best bet is to ignore any unsolicited attachments, however tempting they appear, and delete them immediately.

In 2007, malicious spam cost U.S. consumers about $7 billion and forced 850,000 people to have to replace their computers. From July to September 2007, one in every 416 emails sent had an attachment designed to infect the recipient’s computer.

Most of us know, or should know, you will be better off if you ignore the temptation to check out something that seems to good to be true; it usually is. Also, get in the habit of running some sort of antivirus program at least once a week.

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