Free items when you purchase a 50 spindle DVD, a computer LCD monitor or a colour printer are on the increase. As shoppers we wait for the ideal offer and make our purchases with little to no hesitation. But, when it comes to something that is completely free, the alarm bells sound and we scrutinise everything.
And rightly so. Sections of the Consumer Protection Act were created for just such a reason. You agree to give someone your name and address in return for a free mobile phone or gym membership. A month later, you receive a bill for subscription fees or rental of the mobile phone – you have been duped into another scheme that leaves you little or no room to escape.
Online advertising and free software offers are no exception. With the use of the Internet on the increase around the world, criminals and scam artists are taking advantage of the inexperience of online users.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
November 2011 news in the United States reported on a group of six cyber-criminals who managed to ‘pull the wool over the eyes’ of 570 000 unsuspecting computer users. Little did they realise that their anti-virus software was disabled and malicious software was installed on their computers robbing the victims of a total of $14million.
Free software and Internet advertising should not be utilised without some research. With reputable software – the requirements and the effects to your computer are important to know as well. Any installation can change the settings on your computer which may render other software programs useless. Scary to think that not only would you need to spend time or money trying to rectify the problem (a simple un-install may not work) but you could lose data and files that are not retrievable.
Websites like Tucows, Cnet, Filezilla and Linux are recognised free software and shareware distributors. These companies not only offer standard versions of software packages for free but have a wide range of tested and approved software programs for purchase at reasonable rates.
When utilising these services (or any other) ensure that the company has been in existence for more than a few months, you can find online or magazine reviews of the products and you are aware of any future costs. Free trial versions are just that – free for 30 to 60 days after which you cannot run the programme to access your data without paying for the licensed version.
Mashable.com reported that within five years (2007 to 2010), there was a 65 117% increase in the number of malwares catalogued reaching 60 million by 2010.
How to keep safe
- You have at least one username with a password on your computer.
- Change your password every few months
- Ensure that your password is strong enough
- Do not leave copies of your passwords or Internet Banking login credentials on your computer.
- Use an anti-virus software that you update regularly
- Use an anti-malware software that you update regularly
- Your anti-virus and anti-malware software should be set up to scan all incoming mail and Internet links.
- The firewall is enabled at all times. Any exceptions you add should be done with extreme caution.
Computer hardware and software is expensive, particularly for start-ups, and yet it is one of the crucial items you have in your office or even home office. We may ensure that our house and car keys are safe at all times – but how often do you change the password on your computer or banking profiles? This leaves you open for attack – whether it be through a virus, malware or Internet scams. Be cautious now so that you have no regrets later.