Prevention Is Better Than Cure
That is not only true for our own health, it's also true for your computer's health. Before we examine the preventive software you can use to protect your system, let us remember that we are the weakest link in the system.
The hacker's greatest ally is always you, the user. Many hackers rely on simple social engineering to get what they want, like a “Click this link for a free Ipod” link or a “Download this program for free porn” pop-up. It's really like the picture on the right. The only difference is you are no longer 8 years old.
If you are careful about scams in real life, you should be careful about online scams as well. It really is the same thing, if done on a different medium. If it's too good to be true in real life, it's really is too good to be true online. Just like what Manny the One Armed Technician said in Heinlein's "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" - There Ain't Such A Thing As A Free Lunch. When it comes to the Internet, always remember this quote.
There's always a catch to something, especially if it's free. Always read the fine print, even if it's legit, cause nothing in life is free. Even free services cost money to maintain. Somehow, they will have to generate money to support the free service. For example, this website is supported by our readers viewing and clicking on our sponsors' advertisements. In return for free viewing, our readers have to at least view advertisement banners we display on site.
So, when you are offered something free online, ask yourself, how are they paying for these stuff? Make sure you read the fine print, if there are any. It pays to be wary, especially if it involves giving them your particulars and credit card details. If you know enough not to divulge details of your bank account and credit cards to a telemarketer, you should do the same when presented with a form asking for the very same particulars.
This is especially true if you are surfing websites that contain illegal or illicit materials. Expect to be targeted by malicious parties. It's like going to a bad neighbourhood to buy smack. Don't expect to meet angels. Even that old lady pottering down the street may be packing a .38 Special!
In other words, you need to use a little common sense and logic when downloading anything online. If you know that a typical song weighs in at around 3-4 MB in size, and the one you are downloading right now is only about 200 KB, you should be wary. It's either of extremely poor quality, or it's a fake file, perhaps one designed for a malicious purpose.
Or take the example of a new and/or unknown e-store that you just stumbled upon. If it's selling stuff at ridiculously low prices, you need to be wary. There has to be a reason for such low prices. They could be open-box or refurbished or clearance items (best case), or they could be stolen items but that's not the worse part. The e-store could be a fly-by-night scam that targets the greedy by offering them insanely low prices to entice them to part with their money... then they run.
So, apply the same prudence you would in real life to your online experience. If something is too good to be true, it often is.
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