Computers have now advanced to the point where we use them as an everyday tool, and, just like pretty much anything else that we do on a daily basis, we like to make things easier on ourselves. For example, if you’re running into a store for just a few minutes, maybe you won’t bother to lock your car in order to simplify your life when you return with bags in hand.
These same sorts of little things apply to computers, too, and just like the example above, they can lead to insecurities.
One of these insecurities is saving passwords in your web browser. This is something that many people do for their emails, social media sites, etc., so that when they go to that website, they don’t have to bother entering a user name and password. Convenient, right?
Problem is, when the browser is saving passwords, it’s incredibly easy for anyone with access to your machine to get your passwords. There are certain tools that will do this automatically, or, alternatively, if someone knows where to go in the browser settings then they can access your passwords there. This vulnerability is fine for some people, depending on use (maybe you live alone and no one else ever uses your computer), but please use it with the knowledge that it’s not secure.
There are small programs that you can use that secure all of your passwords in a database secured by a master password that can help with this minor inconvenience (we recommend Keepass).
Another insecurity that can have a detrimental effect is simply online ads. Ads are, of course, annoying. They can also slow your system down, since your machine has to reach out to whatever server is hosting those ads in addition to the webpage that you are trying to view before it can load the page.
Ads are also a substantial vector for malware. These ads can either have a small payload of software that infects your machine or they can redirect you to various sites. Some of these sites are just more advertising, but some of them want you to download junk programs. You’ve probably seen things like Your computer has 3,051 problems impacting its performance. Download now! You’ll often get redirected to this sort of garbage.
In the worst case of redirects, you’ll dive headfirst into a scam. They can take you to a page with a popup that won’t let you close it, claiming that either your hard drive is failing or your computer is infected, and Call Microsoft support at <phone number>. Note that nothing is wrong with your machine; you’re simply on a website with an obnoxious popup. If you call the number, you will not be talking to Microsoft support; you’ll be talking to a scammer. You can usually remedy this issue by rebooting your system or crashing your browser.
But why bother? You could avoid all of these little invasions from malicious ads by simply installing an adblocker (we recommend uBlock Origin for Chrome or Firefox). It’s a nice, straightforward way to keep yourself secure against junk programs and scams.
So those are just a couple of small insecurities that live out there, constant but little threats and annoyances that we deal with every day. There are ways to secure yourself against them—very small things you can install and use in order to fight back.
As always, however, your best defense is yourself and your awareness. Analyze things that you’re seeing online. Keep your head up.
If you ever run into any issues like these that you’re uncertain about, feel free to give us a call at (413) 863-5447, and we’ll steer you in the right direction.