Beware The Internet Bearing Gifts
When the Ancient Greeks grew weary of camping outside Troy, they built a wooden horse. The Trojans assumed it to be a peace offering for having to suffer nine years of blocked seaside views and the sharp projectiles aimed squarely at them as they strolled across their castle ramparts.
The gift horse was promptly wheeled inside the city and the Trojans celebrated long into the night before retiring to bed with hangovers. The Greek soldiers, lurking inside the belly of the horse ( and no doubt annoyed they’d missed a good party) snuck out and attacked the city, thus ending the siege:
Greeks 1 – Trojans 0.
The analogy here is that seemingly innocent gifts or services on the internet are not what they seem. Instead, these attractive gifts – in the form of pop-ups, emails and advertisements – might be luring us into a trap.
Take, for instance, a pop – up that appeared on my Apple Mac. It was called Mac Cleaner and promised to clear unwanted files on the hard drive. Sounded good – and it was free.
The only problem was I didn’t really need to clean my hard drive because my Mac is only a few months old. However, I clicked the download button thinking it was software supplied by Apple and would be useful in the future.
Whilst the program downloaded I became suspicious. Why had this seemingly harmless message popped up at all? Why hadn’t it been installed automatically when I purchased the machine?
I acted upon my suspicion and googled the software name. Sure enough there was a forum discussion with people asking the same question, “Is this software safe?” The overall response was to avoid installing it and to wipe it from the system as soon as it downloaded. The software, as it turned out, was a piece of Malware that played havoc with the hard drive. Lucky I checked.
A few days later I got an offer from a company wanting to buy an advertising link on this site. Once again, I checked out the company by going to forum posts and, as expected, it was a scam.
There are many instances of this on the internet – spam being one of the most obvious. However, the less obvious scams are those that look attractive and professional. These messages can fool us because we are not suspecting them to be malicious.
The good news is that the internet will also provide you with information as there are many people who have encountered similar problems. Always check before you download, purchase or reply to unexpected offers.
Read the advice posted on these forums and the chances of your computer ending up a dead Trojan becomes minimized.
Do protect your system with anti-virus software. There are many companies including Norton and AVG that offer comprehensive services.
Google the name and company if you are unsure and read forum posts from a number of sources about the topic.
Do report any suspicious company or activity that you have encountered by responding to forum posts or starting your own discussion thread.
Automatically install software from a pop-up message.
Don’t trust unsolicited email offering money, free services or recommendations. These are 99.9% scams.
Don’t assume that your computer is safe even if you have installed anti-virus software.
Don’t ever wheel a wooden horse into your house without checking what is inside first!
The Wonderful World Of Spam
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About the author
Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.