Email viruses and spyware: How to reduce your risk

October 5, 2018

The internet has many advantages, but it can also make users vulnerable to fraud, identity theft and other scams. FSB offers the following information and some tips to keep you safe online. 

Email viruses

Viruses are very sophisticated and often appear to be harmless correspondence such as personal notes, jokes or promotions. Most viruses require recipients to download attachments or click on links in order to infect the system and spread, but some are designed to launch automatically with absolutely no user action required. The effects of email viruses can be significant and can very quickly bring down critical communication systems, hindering the performance of networks and corrupting vital business documents.

So what can you do to reduce the risk of being infected with a virus? Here are a few best practices:

  • Utilize antivirus software: One of the best defenses against viruses is to install antivirus scanning software and to keep it up to date. Antivirus software scans incoming email for known viruses and helps prevent them from infecting your computer. No matter which software your organization uses, it is critical to keep it constantly up to date to ensure timely protection against a wide range of fast-emerging vulnerabilities and threats, as new viruses appear almost every day. Fortunately, most antivirus software can be, and usually is by default, set to automatically update regularly.
  • Open email attachments with caution: We have all heard this one, but email attachments are still a primary source of viruses. For this reason, be cautious of attachments included within email messages, regardless of the source. Simply clicking on an attachment can very quickly spread a virus throughout an organization and destroy critical data. One good tip to follow is: if you must download an attached file, make sure to save it and scan it for viruses before you open it.
  • Be careful when clicking links in messages: Another frequently discussed, but not always followed, best practice is to use caution when clicking on links in a message. Links are often used in email messages as part of phishing (see the second article in this series) and spyware scams (more on that below), but they can also be used to transmit viruses. Clicking a link can take you to a Web page that attempts to download malicious software onto your computer. For this reason, be careful when clicking on a link in an email message, particularly if the message body seems very vague and nonspecific.

Spyware

Spyware is a type of malware that is installed on a computer without the knowledge of the owner in order to collect the owner’s private information. It is often used to gather information about Internet activities, keylogging, passwords and other valuable data. Spyware also negatively affects a computer’s performance by installing additional software, redirecting Web browser searches, changing computer settings, reducing connection speeds or even completely disrupting network connection ability. Usually, when desired software is installed, spyware will piggyback on the installation and start collecting data on the computer’s activities.

Spyware is a general term used to describe software that performs certain behaviors, typically without appropriately obtaining your consent first.

Spyware frequently attempts to remain unnoticed, either by actively hiding or by simply not making its presence on a system known. This quality makes it difficult to know if your computer contains spyware, but here are some best practices to help reduce your risk:

  • Be selective about what you download, especially free software download offers.
  • Always carefully read all licensing agreements before installing any software and cancel if other programs are being installed as part of the desired program.
  • Do not accept or open suspicious error dialogs from within your Web browser.
  • Keep your Internet browser and software up to date with the latest security patches.
  • Scan your computer often.

Remember: Farmers State Bank will never email you asking for any personal or account information. If you believe that you have received suspicious email from FSB please contact us immediately. 

This blog is intended to be an informational resource for readers. The views expressed on this blog are those of the bloggers, and not necessarily those of FSB. This blog does not provide legal, financial, accounting or tax advice. The content on this blog is "as is" and carries no warranties. FSB does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, reliability, and completeness of the content on this blog.