Expert Gives Security Tips

ST. MARYS — A network security expert provided a handful of tips to keep people safe from online predators as the use of mobile devices continues to rise.

Lynn Child, who operates companies that specialize in network management, stressed the importance of online security during a Wednesday afternoon’s St. Marys Rotary Club meeting. Child, who works with companies on four continents and dozens of countries, said the Internet is full of predators who are looking to steal personal and business information to sell on the black market.

“There are a lot of evil people in the world who are trying to break into your networks,” Child said. “It doesn’t matter if you are at home sitting on your computer or your small, medium or large organizations.”

Some of the ways online criminals obtain information is by phishing and through the use of malware and spyware. Phishing is a technique that often involves a criminal sending mass e-mails or other communications out to people directing them to malicious websites.

“What they are trying to do is steal your passwords, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers,” Child said. “What they do is create something that looks like it’s legit.”

Spyware is information that unknowingly runs in the background of a computer or device.

“You don’t even know it’s there unless you are looking for it,” Child said. “What happens is it goes and gathers information and sends it back.”

Malware involves the remote takeover of a device.

“Sometimes you are aware of it,” Child said, noting when a computer goes “wacky” it usually involves malware. “You need to be able to clean that off with anti-virus software.”

To protect themselves, Child recommended people refrain from clicking on unknown links and verify any information that is sent to them via e-mail or text message. Text messages, she noted, also could contain links to malicious sites. Security threats also have recently spread to tablets and smartphones.

“It’s not just desktops and laptops — it’s tablets, it’s Droids, it’s iPhones and it’s iPads,” Child said, noting it’s flawed thinking to assume malware and spyware does not affect Apple devices. “They are out there.”

Updating any software and maintaining — and changing — passwords also can help deter criminals from gaining access to devices.

“If you have to patch your software, do it,” Child said. “What that does is the bad guys are staying one step ahead of us, but the good guys are right behind them creating these patches to make sure you are protected. So don’t wait a day or two. When you see that notice that you need to patch your software, please, please, please do it right away.”