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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Don’t Let “Internet Fear” Stop You from Giving to Chile

There have always been reasons for not giving to charitable causes; the urban myth of the panhandler who earned enough from it that he drove a Mercedes; the more realistic story of the charity that spends most of its funding on overheads and now, unfortunately, the exploitative stories of willful use of search terms like ‘Chile’, ‘donate’ and ‘earthquake’ to spread viruses.

But of course none of these are good reasons not to give. The Mercedes story is a myth. There are a great many websites such as Charity Navigator that provide all the insights needed to help choose a good charity.

But what about the internet security problems that have recently arisen with people searching for Haiti and Chile? How do we make sure they are a reason for not giving?

I have a few suggestions. Most importantly, don’t respond directly to links in emails soliciting donations. Instead, go to the internet and search for the website of the organization or another organization you know, or go through your company’s selected donor (for example BT works through DEC in the UK and the American Red Cross in the USA).

But to give you even more insight into the aspects of security and giving, I spoke with a colleague, Sushila Nair, from our security practice and asked for some additional hints on how to void the common pitfalls on the internet.

Kevin: How can I ensure that my personal or corporate virus software protect me against these threats?

Sushila: It is extremely important that you keep your antivirus up to date. Your antivirus should be set to look for new updates every hour or so to minimize the time you are unprotected.

To ensure that you are detecting newer threats, it is very important that you run Windows update to ensure your system has all the latest patches on it. If you don’t update Windows regularly you are leaving yourself open to many exploits that your antivirus may not have updated yet.

However it is also important to know that your antivirus won’t protect you against all malware. It is advisable that you use layered defense and install anti-spyware and a personal firewall.

Take sensible precautions by going to well known and respected web sites. Click on links with care, after all if it is not a reputable, well recognized site would you really be interested in what they have to say?

Kevin: What do I do if one of those windows comes up that looks like operating anti-virus software, warning me that my computer has a virus problem? I know I shouldn’t accept it, but I am nervous about touching anything on the screen at all – should I do a hard shutdown of my computer?

Sushila: There has been a lot of fake anti virus software out there. It claims to have detected some malware and then tried to install itself. It will then inundate you with requests for money and claims that you have been infected. What ever you do don’t let it install the software on your computer. Stop the program by using Windows task manager or if necessary restart your computer. If the software does a partial install then restore your system restore point.

Kevin: How can I protect myself from having my credit card number stolen?

Sushila: Any site where you are using your credit card number should be treated with care. Ensure that the site is using Secure Socket Layers (SSL). You can verify this by noting the padlock comes up, typically at the bottom of your screen when you are using it. Many banks are offering the capability to use Virtual Account Numbers. The idea here is that you generate a virtual credit card number which you use just for that transaction and so if anyone steals the number it is worthless.

Kevin: Does it really matter what browser I use? Is Internet Explorer less secure than Firefox?

Sushila: Malware developers like to get the biggest bang for their buck and they always try and exploit the most common platforms. There are more people using Internet Explorer and Windows so using Chrome or Firefox moves you out of the main stream and may decrease your risk

For the more internet savvy, a more technical treatment of the issues on our Secure Thinking blog

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