The Modern Wild West
They may think they are the Yosemite Sam’s of the modern world, but you are the New Sheriff in town! Marauders of today do not come moseying up bow-legged into your path with a six-gun slung across their hip telling you to, "Stick ‘em up, or else." Instead, today’s modern outlaws can be in and out of your life without a trace of you knowing what has happened. With the explosive popularity of the Internet, untold numbers of citizens are blindly allowing computer data miners to collect sensitive information from their computers. This “mined” information can be used for many purposes, but the main issue here is that the information is stolen from people who quite literally hand it over with a smile. A random click here on a harmless looking popup or web link can mean the difference between a safe surfing experience, and one that results in a “Stagecoach Robbery”. Average Internet surfers just starting out have no idea if it’s normal for them to win a thousand dollars with a single click or not, much less if it’s normal for them to have to scroll through many sites to get to the one they first clicked on.
Therein lays the Holy Grail for the modern day marauders. Hijacking is one of the most serious threats to internet safety. These rascally scoundrels will set programs and lay in wait, watching your every move of your computer. They see that you innocently want to search for something and suddenly, you are taken to one of their websites. They hijacked your computer and made you go where they wanted you to go! Once at their site which are often fake search engines and portal sites, you begin to get pop-ups, they tag your computer with modern-day invisible post-it note reminders.
Once these “reminder” files are embedded, they function like little thieving robots, storing and sending information on all the searches, websites, links that YOU and your family have clicked on in the past three months. In addition to that, there have now been hidden programs installed on your computer that generate a myriad of pop-up ads. The crook has planted his hijack, and only has to sit back and watch his booty collect. You and your entire family are exposed and at risk. Your banking info, your credit card statements, even your cell phone are all potential threats just because you just simply didn’t know you were making yourself an attractive target. Hijacking is one of the most alarmingly popular means of marauding of today, but take heart, there are ways to combat this problem and impose your own form of Martial Law to protect your family. The first line of defense is a good firewall. Firewalls come in many different versions and are made by many companies. There are software firewalls, and hardware based ones as well, but they all serve a similar purpose. The purpose of a firewall is like a gate: nothing comes in or goes out through your Internet connection without you knowing about it.
Firewalls, however, are only as good as the persons using them. Knowledge is power, and you should familiarize yourself with the normal functions and files that it takes to run them. When you know the real deal, counterfeit files or intruders are many times more likely to be recognized and apprehended. When this happens, you will not be finding yourself in uncharted territory and will be able to click "Access Denied" with confidence. Secondly, the market has come out with some really good anti-hijacking software that are specially designed to prevent your browser from being overtaken and can eventually save you from a totally dominated and bombarded computer. Software such as this is not used as a replacement for a firewall or antiviral defense. In fact, today, a myriad of software solutions should be used to keep your system totally clean and under your control. Lastly, a good anti-spyware program is a good means at combating the problem of hijacking. It will guard against the editing of your registry which would command the start up of malware as well as prevent any information from being broadcast over the net or emailed back to the user. Some anti-spy programs will also guard against hijacking, but if you are a victim of hijacking, they will also prevent the usual serious repercussions of the hijack.
Remember, prevention is key. It is much easier to start with a clean system, implement a firewall, antiviral software, anti-spyware, and anti-hijack software than it is to painstakingly scrub clean an infected system. After all, it’s a lot easier to return to a mouth that has fed you, than to find another hand. The last thing you should remember is that ownership is of utmost importance. If one chooses to be likened unto an ostrich and chooses to not educate themselves on the dangers that lurk about in this modern Wild West, that puts them at a severe disadvantage. Nobody is too old or too young to be aware of the dangers of this world, and it is just vital to change with the times and adapt. Familiarize yourself with firewalls and anti-hijacking software, get to know how your computer works, and you will be well on your way towards making sure you are safe from marauders! There may well be some rootin-tootin, tech-savvy individuals out there, but you are the one with the badge in this horse town.
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