By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6
UNDATED - There are two words you should know to prevent cyber criminals from taking over your computer.
The first is malware which is short for malicious software.
Cyber crooks get you to download it on your own computer by creating cool websites and desirable downloads. You may be infected if your computer slows down, has repeated error messages, won't shut down or restart or gives you tons of pop up ads when you're not on the web.
If you think you have malware or malicious software on your computer, stop shopping, banking or doing anything else online that involves user names, passwords or sensitive information. The malware could be sending your bank account and credit cards numbers to identity thieves.
At bare minimum, you need anti-virus and anti-spyware software plus a firewall on your computer. Only buy them from well known stores or your internet service provider and keep them updated.
What you shouldn't do is buy your anti-spyware from a pop up message or email, especially ads that claim they've scanned your computer and detected malware. That's the bad guys, hoping you'll click on a link that will install the very thing on your computer you're trying to avoid.
Once you have legitimate spyware in place, run a scan and delete every program it flags as a problem. Don't ever click on an email or attachment unless you know who sent it. Don't download and install software from websites unless you know and trust them.
Some of those free games or file sharing programs; even customized toolbars can contain malware.
Another thing cyber criminals do through attachments, links or free downloads is turn your computer into part of a botnet or robot network. They scan the internet to find unprotected computers they can control and use them to anonymously send spam.
A botnet is made up of thousands of home computers and that's how spammers are able to send emails by the millions.
Also, protect your passwords, don't keep them on your computer, don't share them and make sure they're at least 8 characters long with letters, numbers and symbols.
If you have an e-emergency, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission.