“Did Scott really just say that?”
I know that’s what many of you are thinking about this article’s headline.
But it really is a factual statement. Porn sites are likely some of the safest websites on the Internet, at least when it comes to being a source of virus infections on your PC.
Porn sites, even the “free” ones, work diligently to keep their sites virus and malware free because adult content is an enormous money-making business. According to a New Mexico State University study, the industry generates $97 billion a year globally, with $10-$12 billion from the United States alone. If users’ computers got infected every time they browsed such sites, revenue would severely plummet.
So where do those pesky, sometimes frequent, virus infections come from that cost you hard-earned money to get cleaned up?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record (because I’ve written about this numerous times over the past four years, yet still get asked this same question almost every day), allow me to share some facts about virus infections.
(Just to clarify – I don’t condone porn sites for many reasons, which would be the topic for another column.)
Where they come from
Virus writers strive to wreak as much havoc on as many people as possible with their coded creations. Some do it for recognition. For others, it’s their source of income by stealing your personal information, especially credit card numbers.
To do as much damage as possible, these cybercriminals have resorted to new methods of infecting your computer.
The most common way your computer becomes infected is through malicious advertisements that appear on popular and frequently visited websites. This includes websites like MSN.com, FoxNews.com, Yahoo.com, and any other site contains ads.
With this type of infection, you don’t have to do anything other than visit a legitimate website at the wrong time to get infected. If the virus-laden ad appears at the time you visit the website, it can quietly download a program to your computer, infecting it.
Sometimes it may cause a pop-up to appear urging you to take action to speed up or clean up your PC. These look very real, allegedly coming from Microsoft or Windows or other “reputable” companies. When you click on such ads, software installs on your computer. The damage is done – your computer is infected.
Phishing emails are another popular avenue virus writers use to trick you into infecting your computer.
As I was writing the column this morning, I received two fake emails purporting to be from eFax with an important fax for me. The email instructed me to click a link to view the fax. If I would have done so, my computer would have been immediately infected. (I knew it was fake by recognizing the tell-tale signs of an illegitimate email.)
How to protect your PC
First, install good antivirus software. This is the first line of defense against virus and malware infections.
HOWEVER, understand that NO antivirus software will block or prevent all infections. Just like you can’t completely prevent the common cold, computer viruses are the same way. They will happen.
Second, install the AdBlock Plus add-on for all of your web browsers (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox). This will minimize your risk of having the malicious ads appear when you visit various websites.
Finally, don’t believe every pop-up or email you receive. Even though it says it’s from Microsoft, Windows, the IRS, FedEx, UPS, or other well-known companies, it probably isn’t. Unless you’re expecting something from someone, it’s best to simply close or delete it.
Don’t let curiosity cost you hundreds of dollars! Think before you click!
The bottom line
Computer viruses are a fact of living in the Internet age. They’re as unforeseen and sudden as unexpectedly becoming involved in car accident. You can do all the right things and take all the safest precautions but still get hit with an infection.
A NOTE ABOUT WINDOWS 10
Many of you have asked me a lot of great questions about the Windows 10 upgrade since I began writing about it in March. It’s release date is set for July 29.
Mark and I are still evaluating and testing it, as well as developing proper procedures for installing and configuring it. Right now, Windows 10 incorporates some positive changes, but it also has its pitfalls. I will release our final verdict and recommendations in mid to late August. Stay tuned to this column!