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The Latest Threats in Cyber World

Trends indicate that some types of threats are growing faster and becoming more sophisticated. Here's how you can protect your computer

According to Symantec's latest findings about trends in security threats, online threats are becoming more advanced, while threats on the mobile platform and in virtual worlds are also increasing.

Online threat

While you're online, bots such as Trojans or worms can be installed on your computer through a loophole in your software that you haven't patched, through shareware you've downloaded, or through an e-mail attachment. A new method of distribution that is gaining importance is through small Java-based programs, such as interactive maps or videos, available for download on certain websites.

These bots can be used to take remote control of your machine for various potentially harmful actions—displaying ads, monitoring your browsing behavior, launching a denial-of-service attack, hosting a phishing site, or capturing your keystrokes (these bots are called keyloggers) to record information such as usernames, passwords, and credit-card details. These bots are expected to continue to grow and evolve.

Spam threat

Clicking any link sent to you in a spam message is known to lead you to malicious websites or phishing websites. However, if you have an email account with content filtering—something that's almost default these days—chances are you can ignore spam completely. However, spam authors are finding ways to get through these content filters. One way is to send an image of the text and another is to mail links to MP3 files that profess to be music, but are actually spam messages.

Gaming threat
Virtual worlds and multiplayer online games are emerging areas for threats. Theft of passwords and game resources is becoming widespread in the gaming world.

Mobile threat
Vishing, akin to phishing, but executed through phone calls to your mobile number, has made an appearance, and is likely to grow. As more applications find their way to the mobile platform, malicious hackers are sure to follow, to find out how to exploit security loopholes.

Keeping yourself safe
You can protect your computer from becoming part of a malicious hacker's network by taking a few basic precautions. The most important measure is to be alert at all times when you are online or on your mobile phone.

Install patches regularly for the software on your computer. Failure to install patches released by the software manufacturer results in your computer being vulnerable to malicious hacker attacks.

Update your antivirus software regularly and scan your system at regular intervals.

Install good anti-spyware software and use it to scan your computer and any software you download from an unknown source. Several antivirus software today come with anti-spyware and firewall components. You could use one of these too.

Avoid downloading shareware or other interactive programs from unknown sites. Always download from trusted sites; some sites today certify that their software is spyware-free. You could use these for your download needs.

Even if spam filters through to your inbox, you should neither open it nor click any link in it.

Be careful of who you speak to online and on your mobile phone. You should not reveal sensitive personal information to any caller, as a reply to an email message, or enter such information by clicking a link in an email sent to you. All these could be part of phishing or vishing attacks.

Keep yourself updated of the latest security threats, by reading about these and about prevention measures.