Avoid a social networks nightmare this summer with these security tips

In addition to the usual security measures, this year I ask users to take particular care with social networking sites. As kids and teenagers spend more time on these pages, it is no surprise that the malware that exploits social media is increasing exponentially. Malicious applications and links redirecting users to malware sites are very common nowadays. That’s why good Internet surfing habits must be accompanied by a solid Parental Control system.

Security Tips for Your Summer Vacation

1. Take care with information you enter on social networks. Make sure you don’t publish details like the day you will be going on holiday, especially if details of your address are available on the same social network.

2. Use parental control programs. During the summer vacation, children will no doubt be using the computer more than usual. That’s why it is as important as ever to instruct them on how to use the Internet safely. It’s a good idea to set timetables for using the Internet, keep an eye on them when they are browsing and prevent them from accessing certain pages or content that could be unsuitable for them. Given that parents will not always be around to monitor how children use the Web, it is advisable to install a parental control program, a tool that will help establish which Web pages your children can see, and which they can’t, etc.

3. Pay close attention to your email, as this is a frequently used channel for spreading threats, as well as phishing attacks and other scams distributed in spam. Typically at this time of year, waves of spam emerge offering unrealistically cheap holidays. These messages either surreptitiously ask users to reveal confidential data or prompt them to download information, which is really an infected file. So, needless to say, you should ignore all emails from unknown senders.

4. Take precautions if you use shared computers. Don’t enter your passwords in shared computers as you can never be sure whether they are infected or not. If you are surfing the Web or chatting in an Internet cafe, try using a computer with an up-to-date antivirus solution installed. Take the following precautions as well: Firstly, don’t enable any option that saves passwords on the local computer when you are logging into accounts from public computers. This would obviously allow the next user of the computer to access any of your accounts. Also, make sure the computer you use is not infected. At the first suspicious sign (pop-ups, malfunction, etc.), stop using the computer. Finally, never use shared computers for bank transfers.

5. Promptly install the latest security patches for your applications. Cyber-crooks frequently launch attacks that exploit security holes in commonly-used programs. Developers are continually making security patches available to resolve the problems detected. If your application doesn’t notify you that these updates are available, you should enter the product’s official page occasionally to check whether any patches need to be installed. It is therefore a good idea to update applications on your computer just before you go on vacation and also when you come back.

6. Leave your router switched off. This will prevent other users connecting to your network -possibly with malicious aims- in your absence. For example, someone could connect to your network and download malicious code which could remain on the network until you start your computer and consequently infect it.

7. Don’t connect to unprotected Wi-Fi networks, as you could be hooking up to a network set up by hackers to steal any information that you share across the Internet. Even if you have to pay for it, it is always better to use secure, trusted networks.

8. Backup your important files, either online or with the backup stored separately from your computer. You never know what might happen while you’re away and you don’t want to lose any valuable documents or photographs.

9. Password Protect your PC & files. Password protected user logins and encrypted files, reduce the consequences of anyone stealing your computer, even though this may seem a tiresome or complex task. This prevents anyone accessing your data without the right password.

10. Make sure your computer has an up-to-date and active antivirus solution installed.

Don’t let computer threats ruin your summer vacation. Follow these few easy tips and enjoy the summer with peace of mind.

Luis Corrons has been working for Panda Security since 1999. He started in the technical support department, helping home and corporative users with virus incidents. A year later, he joined the international technical support team assisting Panda's technical support belonging to their partners distributed over 50 countries around the world. In 2002, he became PandaLabs' director as well as malware alerts coordinator in worldwide infection situations, dealing with worm such as Klez, SQLSlammer, Sobig, Blaster. Sasser, Mydoom, etc. During this time, he has coordinated several automated projects related with malware, such as the automatic analisys and response system, and the malware automatic information system. His first contact with computers was at the age of 4, with a Sharp MZ-80K, which he started Basic language programming with. His main hobbies are his wife Nerea, his dog Robin and his work as well as chess and videogames.