Can someone else take control of my computer over the internet?

Saturday, December 18th, 2010 | security, technology

We hear horror stories about hackers who can gain control of your computer, which allows them to use it for criminal activities – even accessing your bank account and draining it.  Can his happen?  It is unlikely but it is possible, and you can do much to avoid it taking place.

A program called spyware is put on your computer to gather information about you without your knowledge or consent – this information is then relayed to unauthorised people.

Spyware could affect you in various ways.  It could:

  • secretly monitor your internet surfing habits and record the sites you visit
  • collect all sorts of personal information about you, such as passwords
  • interfere with your control of your computer settings
  • install additional software
  • redirect web accesses
  • detect credit card details when you do internet shopping. 

You will know that your computer is infected with spyware when it acts in a strange way – look out for these tell-tale signs: 

  • pop-up advertisements appear even when you are not using the internet
  • the page your browser first opens to changes by itself and you find it difficult to change it back to what it was
  • a new toolbar appears in your browser and you can’t get rid of it
  • your computer becomes sluggish
  • your computer unexpectedly freezes. 

When you surf the internet and click on options of pop-up windows, spyware may be secretly loaded onto your computer.  It may also be installed on your machine when you download material such as music or video files. 

Protect your technology by using anti-spyware, which should be a part of anti-virus software.  Of course, the best form of protection is to avoid downloading spyware programmes.  Remember a few basic rules:

Only download programs from web sites you trust; be wary of free music and movie file-sharing programmes.

Read all security warnings, license agreements, and privacy statements associated with any software you download.  Buried in a licence agreement may be a disclaimer saying that information about you will be passed on to another party.

Never click “agree” or “OK” to close a window. Instead, click the red “x” in the corner of the window to close it.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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1 Comment to Can someone else take control of my computer over the internet?

Mark C
Sunday, 19 December, 2010

The other possibility is to use an Apple Mac or Linux. It is more difficult hack both systems whose grand-daddy is Unix. Also, Firefox has better security options than Internet Explorer. I suspect Google and Opera too fall in the category of Firefox.

Software piracy also leads to malware being installed. Many people download cracks for propriety software so that they can use it freely. These cracks or even key generators may have code in them that affects your PC. This is done without any changes being noticed.

At schools there are many seemingly benign viruses that are left because they cause no harm but they allow other nasties to come through. Unfortunately one needs to read up a lot on how to protect your PCs. Fortunately there are relatively cheap mags that will help or the internet…but choose your software carefully.

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