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12/7/2004
10:17 AM
Mike Elgan
Mike Elgan
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Just Because You're Paranoid, Doesn't Mean They're Not Out To Get You

Hackers, crackers, viruses, malicious worms, phishing attacks, online scams, spam, and spyware -- feeling like you're under siege? If not, you should. The problem is bad. Very bad. And it's going to get worse. Much worse.

Hackers, crackers, viruses, malicious worms, phishing attacks, online scams, spam, and spyware -- feeling like you're under siege? If not, you should. The problem is bad. Very bad. And it's going to get worse. Much worse.

They've been after your PC for years. And now they're coming after your phone and PDA.

Spam has nearly ruined the e-mail experience, yet e-junk mail is still on the rise -- about 86% of all the e-mail sent nowadays is spam.

In the old days, spam was merely an annoyance. Now its the delivery vehicle for the electronic evils of our age: Scams, including phishing attacks, viruses, worms and hacker bots come pouring into your inbox along with all the pitches for Cialis, fake Rolexes and bigger body parts. The conventional wisdom -- "Don't open attachments from strangers" -- is reasonably good advice, but a lot of this junk will appear to come from friends, relatives and even yourself.

If you think installing Norton -- even the latest version -- will protect you, think again. The single-layer of defense approach is something the virus writers and spyware authors are counting on.

And then there's spyware. Ah, spyware. These resource-gobbling, time-wasting applications are probably running invisibly on your PC right now. Many of the "solutions" available are in fact spyware programs themselves, masquerading as fixes -- and I'm not just talking about the kind that annoy you with pop-up messages informing you that "You've Got Spyware Running On Your System! Click Here To Eliminate It!"

All of which brings us to the Big Question: What to do about it? There's free and not-so-free utilities galore. Choosing the right software presents yet another enormous time-consuming chore.

The ugly reality is that there is no easy solution to all these constant attacks. It's an informational and technological arms race. The electronic evil-doers will constantly devise sneaky new ways to ruin your life. The software vendors will always be there to sell you the latest fix. But it's up to us -- you and me -- to stay informed and keep up with the enemy. There's no substitute for updating what you know about personal technology security every day.

It's OK to be paranoid. They really are out to get you.

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