MSA Star Kalkaska Sheriff Office
Computer Security Tips


You surely know what a password is. When accessing private data on a protected system, you need a password (sometimes also called passphrase) and most often an username to tell the system your identity.

Most things about passwords have already been said, but some things can't be repeated to often!
Do not tell your passwords anyone. If you are asked by anyone to tell them your password, say no. There is simply no reason. If sometime tells you he is an admin and needs to know your password, he lies.

When choosing your password, don't choose something that others could simply guess. Don't use the name of your spouse or cat, or the company name printed on your computer or monitor. While the best thing would be a random string of characters and numbers and even special characters, if you really need something that is easy to remember, take parts of words and combine them into something that you can still speak, but that gives no sense. Attach a few numbers to it to be on the saver side.

Don't write your password down on a sticky attached to your screen, or anywhere on your workspace. If you need to write it down, put the paper with it into your wallet, but never anywhere the computer.

Don't save a file with all your passwords on your computer. If you can't remember them all, write them down. If you really want to save them in a file, encrypt that file.


What is a firewall?
A firewall helps to keep your computer more secure. It restricts information that comes to your computer from other computers, giving you more control over the data on your computer and providing a line of defense against people or programs (including viruses and worms) that try to connect to your computer without invitation.

You can think of a firewall as a barrier that checks information (often called traffic) coming from the Internet or a network and then either turns it away or allows it to pass through to your computer, depending on your firewall settings.

How does a firewall work?
When someone on the Internet or a network tries to connect to your computer, we call that attempt an "unsolicited request." When your computer gets an unsolicited request, the firewall blocks the connection. If you run a program such as an instant messaging program or a multiplayer network game that needs to receive information from the Internet or a network, the firewall asks if you want to block or unblock (allow) the connection. If you choose to unblock the connection, the firewall creates an exception so that the firewall won't bother you when that program needs to receive information in the future.

For example, if you are exchanging instant messages with someone who wants to send you a file (a photo, for example), the firewall will ask you if you want to unblock the connection and allow the photo to reach your computer. Or, if you want to play a multiplayer network game with friends over the Internet, you can add the game as an exception so that the firewall will allow the game information to reach your computer.

Although you can turn off the firewall for specific Internet and network connections, doing this increases the risk that the security of your computer might be compromised.


What is "Spyware" and "Adware"?
Spyware and Adware is software made by publishers that allow them to snoop on your browsing activity, invade your privacy, and flood you with those horrible popups. Spyware is typically not the product you install itself, but small add-ons, that you may or may not disable during install. If you are like most users on the internet, chances are you are probably infected with these applications; but you don't have to be infected.

First of all, don't be so gullible.

Question - things that you are told by others in email. Whether it's friends, relatives, strangers or otherwise, many of these Malware/Adware/Spyware troublemaking programs are suggested by someone else, they're just passing it on to you.

Question - websites that prompt or insist that you install a program.

Question - things you have seen on the internet or have suddenly popped-up on your screen before

Take the time to research the consequences before you click it, accept it or install it

How does Spyware and Adware affect every internet user?
- All information you enter via the web can be intercepted
- Spyware allows users to alter system files
- Spyware slows down your Internet connection by inundating you with pop-up ads
- Unauthorized sites can add themselves to your desktop (icons)
- Unauthorized sites can add themselves to your internet favorites
- Your browsing activity can be tracked and monitored
- Your personal information can be sold to other parties without your knowledge or consent
- Your default homepage and settings can be hijacked so you can't change them
- Spyware compromises your passwords, credit card information and other personal information
- Spyware is difficult, often impossible, to detect by anti-virus and firewall software

Another kind that is detected under the spyware category are tracking cookies. Cookies are used all over the internet in useful and less useful places. Advertisement companies often set cookies whenever your browser loads a banner from them. In that case and if that cookie contains a GUID, the company gets notice about every site you visit that contains their ads.

These malicious components not only invade your PC so they can't be removed, but take up your hard drive space, slow down your PC and cause connectivity problems. Fun, huh?

What is Malware?
Malware - short for malicious software - refers to any malicious or unexpected program or code such as viruses, Trojans, and droppers. Not all malicious programs or codes are viruses. Viruses, however, occupy a majority of all known malware to date including worms. The other major types of malware are Trojans, droppers, and kits.

Due to the many facets of malicious code or a malicious program, referring to it as malware helps to avoid confusion. For example, a virus that also has Trojan-like capabilities can be called malware.

How to protect against Spyware and Adware?
If you surf the net, you will more than likely, pick up spyware/adware along the way. You can pickup (download) spyware/adware detection programs that will find and rid your computer from most of the spyware/adware out on the world wide web. Remember to update them often!

Virus and Trojan Horses

What is a Virus?
A computer virus is a program - a piece of executable code - that has the unique ability to replicate. Like biological viruses, computer viruses can spread quickly and are often difficult to eradicate. They can attach themselves to just about any type of file and are spread as files that are copied and sent from individual to individual.

In addition to replication, some computer viruses share another commonality: a damage routine that delivers the virus payload. While payloads may only display messages or images, they can also destroy files, reformat your hard drive, or cause other damage. If the virus does not contain a damage routine, it can cause trouble by consuming storage space and memory, and degrading the overall performance of your computer.

What is a Trojan?
A Trojan, coined from Greek mythology's Trojan horse, typically comes in good packaging but has some hidden malicious intent within its code. When a Trojan is executed users will likely experience unwanted system problems in operation, and sometimes loss of valuable data.

A Trojan is malware that performs unexpected or unauthorized, often malicious, actions. The main difference between a Trojan and a virus is the inability to replicate. Trojans cause damage, unexpected system behavior, and compromise the security of systems, but do not replicate. If it replicates, then it should be classified as a virus.

A Trojan is a program that has gotten onto your machine without your knowledge and contains malicious code, that would for example allows persons using another computer to connect to yours over a network. Typical trojans are open to anyone trying to connect (any person on your local network or even the internet). Special trojans are designed to make you machine accessible just to the person who infected your computer with the trojan.

The access an outsider can gain using a trojan on your machine can be nearly anything. From watching all your behaviour (like a keylogger) to manipulating your computer to basically doing anything you can also do using your keyboard and mouse.

Your computer can get infected with a trojan by multiple ways. A person with physical access to your machine can place it there, but you can also accidentally install it yourself by opening an unknown email attachment that by chance contains a trojan.

According to some definitions, trojans are also programs that sneak into other programs, for example to gain access. As these programs are consciously used by the other, they are not trojans, but are backdoors.

How to protect against viruses and trojan horses?
In today's computing world, you must prevent intentional intrusions into your computer and network that take the form of viruses and Trojan horses. Follow these tips to help prevent virus outbreaks and Trojan horse attacks.

Educate yourself about viruses and how they are commonly spread. You can unwittingly bring viruses into the network by loading a program from a source such as the Internet, online bulletin board, or e-mail attachments.

Learn the common signs of viruses: unusual messages that appear on your screen, decreased system performance, missing data, and inability to access your hard drive. If you notice any of these problems on your computer, run your virus-detection software immediately to minimize the chances of losing data.
Programs on floppy disks may also contain viruses. Scan all floppy disks before copying or opening files from them, or starting your computer from them.
Have at least one commercial virus-detection program and use it regularly to check your computers for viruses.

Be sure to obtain the latest virus signature files for your program when they are available, because new viruses are created every day.


United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team :
US-CERT's mission is to improve the nation's cybersecurity posture, coordinate cyber information sharing, and proactively manage cyber risks to the nation while protecting the constitutional rights of Americans.

Hoax-Slayer :
Hoax-Slayer is dedicated to debunking email hoaxes, thwarting Internet scammers, combating spam, and educating web users about email and Internet security issues.

Snopes :
Snopes, the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.

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