When email was first used, it was very much like text messages. You could send a simple text message without pictures and attachments. Eventually, clever ways were determined to use email to send attachments. The attachments were initially pictures but programs and executable code became the payload in email.
Executable code is what can turn your computer into a virus infested slave. If you only receive text messages, your computer will never be taken over by malware or viruses. Facebook users are targeted with email that contains messages for you to check your pictures. Clicking on the link will install malware on your computer.
Another mechanism to take over your computer is your Internet browser. Accessing the Internet used to be merely to read documents but it too became a way to execute programs. Have you ever visited a website and received a notice to click on a link to install an update to your flash player? This ploy caught Apple users a few months ago. Yes, there are viruses just for Apple computers.
The program that installed on your computer could do almost anything. It might just irritate you with advertising or it might gather your personal information and deliver it to someone who will raid your bank account or make charges to your credit card.
If you buy things online, your computer might hold some information that you don’t realize is stored on your computer. There are programs that search computers for account numbers and passwords. An attack might not happen immediately. One victim may have been hacked weeks before his bank account was raided. The bad guys waited until funds for college tuition was deposited.
Last week, Marie in Dracut sent me email that she was stranded in Spain. Her pocketbook was stolen, she needed help to get home. That was interesting since I had seen Marie just a day before the email. Marie’s Yahoo account was hacked shortly after her granddaughter used the computer to do check out her important Facebook “friends”. Her granddaughter may not have been the cause of the problem but the timing was suspicious.
The major motivation to computer hacking is MONEY. Hacking used be something to play gags on people but it is big business today. You should also be aware that viruses have gotten very devious. One clever trick was to hide all of your files. It appeared that everything was deleted but it was pretty easy to recover documents. Lately, viruses actually erase all of your documents.
What is a computer user to do? Make sure that you are using an up to date antivirus program. Don’t keep your head in the sand. Promptly address any computer issues before you become a victim of computer scammers and hackers.