March Madness kicks into high gear today, March 18th, 2010, with the first games taking place at 12:20 PM EST. From now until the end of March, millions of fans will tune in to watch as the field of 65 teams quickly dwindles down to the famous Final Four. During this ten day stretch, many of the games will take place during traditional “work hours,” forcing a majority of the fans to turn to the internet for schedules, updates, scores and even FREE live streaming of the games. Unfortunately, criminals and hackers are aware of this increased interest and have turned their malware all the way to 11 to take advantage of unsuspecting basketball fans.
As with any other spike in a particular search topic/interest, the criminally minded will attempt to capitalize on the frenzy surrounding this event by bullying their way into your search results and (with any luck) your computer. Many fans will be rushing to news sites and unfamiliar web sites to find out how their favorite team is doing and, in this rush, users might not be focused on the security of their computer. A great article, titled Don’t Let Malware Score This March, was posted by Lockergnome yesterday afternoon. The blog post points out the potential dangers facing fans and offers up a solution for the problem (WinPatrol Plus). While this software might be a great solution, I am unfamiliar with it and I see that it will run you $29.95. So, I thought I would bring you some of my own suggestions on preventing Malware Madness this March.
Before March Madness Begins
Malware can strike at any time and the landscape changes daily. Hackers write new code as quickly as firewalls, ant-virus and anti-malware programs patch the previous threats. In order to protect your computer and your personal information, you must stay ahead of the curve.
- Windows Updates – make sure that your copy of Windows is up to date and all of the necessary patches are in place. read more about the yellow shield
- Anti-Virus Updates and Scans - make sure your antivirus program is running, that the definitions are updated and that you have run a full system scan recently
- Anti-Malware – are you running a “realtime anti-malware program?” Most users are not. Check out IObit Security 360 (FREE) if you haven’t already.
- Firewall – Is your Firewall enabled and running?
- Web-of-Trust (WOT) – This browser plugin helps you avoid malicious web sites by warning you before you click on the link. This FREE software is a must.
As we pointed out in the article No Security Program is 100% Effective, you should not be using just one of these programs, but a combination of 3 or more.
Surfing For Schedules and Scores
Once you have effectively immunized your PC, as outlined above, you’ll still need to be careful about your choice in web sites. As we mentioned before, hackers and criminals are working very hard to steal your hard-earned money and information. Following a few, simple rules can keep you out of trouble.
- Stick to Sites You Know – “Big name” web sites of respected news stations and sources are far less likely to be a malware carrier. ESPN.com, NCAA.com, etc.
- Don’t Click on Links in Emails – During this time, you might receive emails that promise to provide you with free streaming, up-to-the-minute scores and exclusive content. Don’t click on those links. If something interests you, Google it and access the site or tool from a credible source.
- Check Out URL’s Using Trusted Source – If you are unsure of a web site, but still want to access it, use the FREE TrustedSource web site from McAfee to scan the site’s URL before you enter it into your browser.
Of course, all of these recommendations, tools and rules don’t just apply to March Madness. Surfing safely takes time, but that investment can protect your computer, your personal information, your bank account and your credit score. Best of all, you can use the tools we outlined above for FREE!