Monday, December 1, 2008

So long 2008, and thanks for all the phish


By David Gewirtz

So, how about that 2008? There's a year we're all going to be glad to see in the rear-view mirror, eh?

None of us have a crystal ball, so we can't tell the future, but we here at ZATZ want to wish you a good end-of-2008 and a hopeful 2009. We hope those of you in the northern climates are warming up, those of you in palm-tree country aren't gloating too much, and that everyone stays safe and sound this holiday season.

But before we go off and celebrate the ending of what's been a challenging year for many people, we wanted to leave you with a final set of warnings and cautions.

The Anti-Phishing Working Group reminds us that phishing has increased by more than 700 percent in 2008 and spoofs claiming to come from U.S. banks (those that are left!) rose 170 percent in just one month, alone.

10 important safety tips

With those statistics in mind, and with the goal of making sure everything's all right in this big ol' farmhouse we call the Internet, we present you with 10 tips for staying safe online:

  1. Do not open attachments (from anyone, even your grandma).
  2. Install vendor-provided operating system patches and fixes as quickly as possible.
  3. Just because you're using a Mac, you're not automatically safe.
  4. Update your anti-virus software definitions as often as possible. Once again, just because you're using a Mac, you're not automatically safe.
  5. Update your anti-spyware software definitions as often as possible. Same for you Mac users.
  6. Use a firewall or router (ask your ISP for help). This is inexpensive and puts a wall of protection between you and the network. Think of it as safe-sex for your computer.
  7. Don't install or update software (like Flash, Acrobat, or QuickTime) from any ol' Web site. Type or into your browser bar instead.
  8. Update your browser to IE7, Firefox 3, or the latest Safari or Opera. Updated versions have better protections built in, and fixes for various exploits.
  9. Do not download pirated software or music (there's often bad stuff hidden inside).
  10. Do not open attachments (it's worth repeating).

Oh, and for those of you who know all this, share this list with your less wired friends. In the immortal words of Sergeant Philip Esterhaus, "Let's be careful out there."

Happy 2009 to everyone! Remember: Stay calm. Make it a priority.