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By Lauren Stacye: GadellNet Tech Blogger, Marketing Guru and Communications Manager

Last week we discussed how viruses can still infect computers despite having an Antivirus program, and how the core of that issue originates from threats users encounter every day. So identifying PC threats is more of a challenge than meets the eye. Computer, or PC, threats usually stem from some sort of malware (malicious software). And like its name indicates, these threats are malicious in nature, but can also be very sneaky as a result. A vast majority of the time we encounter these threats via email or while browsing on the internet in the form of phishing scams, infected attachments, fake internet sites and pop-up traps.

While not clicking on a sketchy link or opening up a suspicious attachment may seems to be pretty obvious avoidance approach, makers of malware have really upped their games to give the impression of being relevant, legitimate and sophisticated. However, the major glitch in malware is that in order for it to work, it first requires your interaction. This is why it’s so important to know the main categories of threats and common forms.

Whether you’re dealing with email or internet browsing, malware threats are usually hidden in a few specific categories: banking/transaction oriented, adult entertainment, file sharing services and social networking. But, the real problem begins when users interact with the web page or email.

For both websites and emails, it’s important to take note of certain traps: Pop-ups, links to other sites, files requiring you to download, and requests for personal information. Scammers are sneaky, so they try to get your attention with good news (“You’ve Just Won a New iPad- Click Here to Receive”), or with threat alerts (“You’re PC is at Risk- Click Here for Details”). Don’t click there! Offers that seem too good to be true, are.

You’re probably thinking file downloads and requests for personal information should be obvious give-a-ways. Unfortunately, they’re not. As with the above mentioned alerts, some of these notifications are sent via email, and include attachments. An attachment with a .EXE file extension name should NEVER be opened (that’s an executable file and is definitely malware). Most of the time, these .exe files won’t make it through any standard email filters, but sometimes they are masked in a ZIP file.

Sites or emails that prompt you for personal information, for whatever reason, should be viewed with caution. IF they’re legitimate, the site will have taken safety precautions in the form of SSL verification. SSL verification keeps that data you are entering protected from anyone else’s view. You will know if the site is secure by the “s” and padlock icon displayed in the address bar – “https”. If a site requests your sensitive information, but does not have the “S” AND the padlock, it is not secure and probably fake.

While identifying and avoiding seems pretty easy, threats will still get through. When that happens, call GadellNet or your trusted IT support service right away. The longer the threat is present on your computer, the more damaging it will be. Because threats are prevalent, IT gurus (like those we have at GadellNet) are well equipped to remove and fix the resulting damage.

What’s the take-a-way? Users play the biggest role in avoiding threats. Knowing that threats originate from the internet and via email is key. And like with friends, only associate yourself with those you trust. So don’t open email attachments from unknown senders, visit only sites you know are legitimate, and know that alerts which seem too good to be true usually are (think don’t take candy from strangers). Unfortunately threats will still slip through the cracks, but they’re usually fixable.

So make sure you know who your IT guru is, and if you don’t have one, GadellNet is just a call away.

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