Types of Computer Viruses and Other Online Threats

It's important to be aware of the types of computer viruses so that you can learn to protect yourself and your family. With the growing use of the Internet comes growing awareness of online dangers. Most people understand the importance of virus protection and utilizing antivirus software to protect their computers and personal data. Unfortunately, online threats go far beyond the purely computer-based threats of viruses. Regular Internet users may be subject to bullying, harassment, cyber-stalking or even identity theft. 

Viruses and Spyware
Viruses and spyware are the most basic type of online threat. Viruses can cause your computer to malfunction, and spyware can give people access to your personal data, including the information required for identity theft. Fortunately, viruses and spyware are the easiest type of online threat to prevent. Get a good antivirus program and use safe Web browsing habits to protect your computer from viruses and spyware.

Bullying isn't confined to the schoolyard anymore. Secure behind the anonymity of the Web, bullies have a new outlet to find unsuspecting victims and cover their tracks so their identities need never be discovered. If you are Internet-savvy, find out what Internet Service Provider your bully uses and file a complaint. Save documentation relative to the online bullying, including e-mails and chat logs. The ISP may ban the bully from using their Internet services. If you cannot determine a bully's ISP, contact the administrator of the forum in which the bully is bothering you. Whether it's e-mail, a Web forum or a chat program, bullying is probably a violation of the intermediary's Terms of Service and an administrator may ban the bully from the server or Web site.

Harassment and Cyber-Stalking
Online harassment and cyber-stalking are similar to online bullying, although taken one step further. Harassment typically consists of someone following you from site to site, sending you harassing e-mails or messages or even using personal information to contact you offline via phone or mail. If someone ever takes online harassment to an offline level and contacts you outside of the Internet, contact your local police department. This level of behavior may be a precursor to physical violence, so it's important to alert your local law-enforcement agency.

Identity Theft
Identity theft is when someone steals your personal data and uses it to run up credit card charges, drain your bank account or open accounts in your name. Identity theft can ruin your credit, making it impossible for you to obtain new credit cards, mortgages or auto loans. It can also cause your existing loans to increase in interest and charges, if your creditors perceive you as a risk. Avoid giving out personal data or credit card information unless you are absolutely certain that you're using a legitimate service or Web site. Do a quick Web search to determine whether any complaints exist against the entity you're about to trust with your sensitive personal data, and monitor your credit report regularly for unauthorized activity.

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