When you know what you are dealing with - half of the battle is already won. You may not necessarily win the war, but at least you are not fighting blindfolded. Here are 10 things you should know in order to make your Internet browsing safer and more pleasant.
1. Spyware: As the name implies, these software scripts are written to spy on you. They work behind the scene to gather information about your internet behaviour and even your computer usage. Some of the information is relayed to the program owners include search terms that you type into the search box, credit card information, login details and passwords etc. Spyware owners can and do use these information for marketing and may sell your information to criminals and identity thieves.
2. Viruses: Viruses are computer scripts or program codes written to spread from one file to another or from computer to computer. They are not always written with the intent to cause as much damage, as possible.
3.Malware: A common name for computer worms, malware is short for malicious software. Malware is software script or code written to inflict damage to a computer, a server, or a network of computers or servers. One of the difficult things about malware is that they have the ability to hide deep inside files and can reinstall themselves even after you remove them. Malware has the ability to destabilise your system.
4. Trojan Horses: A trojan horse is designed to infiltrate your computer without raising an alarm. They often disguise themselves by pretending to be what they are not. They can present themselves as a useful program, may be an important update. Trojans are written specifically to cause damage by destroying or changing the data on your hard drive. They can erase an entire hard drive, mine data such as credit card information, personal passwords and logins.
5. Adware: Adware scripts are designed to place ads on your computer screen. These ads can come as pop-ups, pop-unders, and sometimes are embedded in various programs. Such pop-ups can show up even when you are not surfing. Adware pop-ups are targeted to the content of the website that you are surfing when online.
6. Toolbars: Generally, legitimate toolbars such as Yahoo toolbar or Google toolbar provide additional functionality to the browsing experience. Malware toolbars on the contrary, copy the behaviour and functionality of legitimate toolbars while serving up owner ads and mining data from your computer.
7. Browser hijackers: Hijackers are scripts designed to take over your browser and browser components. They are known to redirect to pages of their own choosing.
8. Cookies: A cookie is a bit of text file placed in your computer memory that tags you to a particular website. Cookies store information that visited websites deem important to them. Cookies are used legitimately by online merchants to facilitate and enhance visitor's online transactions. However, if hackers can get hold of your cookie files, then can get to know you and your browsing habits quite intimately.
9. Worms: Worms are viruses designed to multiply by making copies of themselves on a computer or across a computer network.
10. Commonsenseware: Having talked all about the bad stuff, now is the time to talk about the good stuff. Probably the most important of all the things we've mentioned above is - commonsence. Simply because it is your best defence against all the viruses, -wares, worms and other internet fauna. While deploying antivirus and firewalls can be useful, a little "commonsenseware" will take you a long way in your battle against malware. Just avoid all the wrong sites don't use your USB-stick in internet cafes and public computers, don't open emails from people you don't know, etc.
As for smartphones, viruses, worms, spyware etc. are not yet that common on these relatively new-to-the-malware-market devices, however with time will definitely be seeing lots of creative ways to fish out as much information from your iPhone, Android or Blackberry as possible. Just stick to the same common sense principles and you should be all right for now.