WFH? Be vigilant to protect your computer from another type of virus – malware
In the infancy of personal computing, and predating the consumerization of the internet, nefarious entities like computer virus authors were likely not financially motivated. They were probably driven by mischief and the resulting notoriety by claiming "I did that."
For example, I remember being infected by a computer virus in early 1992 that simply made the noise of water going down the drain with the author's name prominently displayed as ending credits while his laughter as background music.
Today, it's usually run like a business, albeit illicit and surrounding illegal activities like extortion through ransomware attacks. Just like any other business, they go for maximum ill-gained returns. Their weapon is not just viruses but an arsenal known as "malware" (concatenation of the words "malicious" and "software").
This superset includes viruses and introduces a slew of other damage-inflicting weapons such as adware and spyware that can be delivered through the browser that fueled the consumerization of the internet in the first place.
If you have been practicing Internet Street Smarts, i.e. nurturing good habits when using digital world devices, this is a good time to review and be extra vigilant. Why? The pathway to being able to work from home remotely (aka "WFH" in popular lingo), or for your children to go to school without actually leaving your house, is the internet.
The current social distancing measures, such as working remotely from home, your children learning from home, and even ordering groceries for home delivery, relies on the internet, aka the cloud. The result? Nefarious entities see the skyrocketing internet usage and, just like a business would want to capitalize on the potential customers, the bad guys want to capitalize on potential victims.
Computer usage in schools can be fenced in so that the chances of something nefarious reaching their computers or pupils visiting inappropriate websites can be minimized. Whether that same protection can be extended when your children bring them into the home environment depends. You would be wise to look over their shoulders from time to time.
Not answering unsolicited emails, texts, and phone calls is one of the easiest habits you can nurture as part of the Internet Street Smarts paradigm. Keeping your anti-virus and anti-malware definitions up-to-date is another. Timely applications of operating system security updates and application software updates, although many may be set to automatically update, are also important.
When working from home, be cognizant that additional good habits such as backing up your computer's data may become your responsibility. Many companies, especially small businesses, may not have had the time nor resources to fully prepare an office-use desktop computer for work from home use.
Please continue to nurture good habits as part of your Internet Street Smarts, especially this time of social distancing when the number of illicit attempts can be expected to increase!
Strategist and technologist with almost 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.
As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation.