Internet risks pose a problem to many web users, but university students and faculty are particularly vulnerable, having essential academic files saved to their computers.

With numerous potential cyber threats out there, university students could be an at-risk group for nasty malware or viruses says University Technology Services.

A fairly recent concern is Cryptolocker, malicious software that can enter your computer and encrypt your important documents or pictures. The software will then make you pay to get your pictures and documents back.

“Once you pay, you set up all your colleagues as targets,” says Richard Godsmark of UTS. This could affect your contacts directly because Cryptolocker criminals assume they are easy targets.

The payment issue presents itself in two ways, either in a phishing email or an illegitimate website. Godsmark suggests that if an email or a website looks suspicious, to use caution when giving out personal or credit card information.

Godsmark believes that even when an internet criminal is caught, like the recent arrest of a malware author in Russia, another is bound to emerge. “It will never be perfect, the bad guys will be able to convince you to install software if people are unaware,” said Godsmark.

Recently, Yahoo! in Europe experienced a waterhole attack where their ads were compromised and began installing malware into users computers.

“The vast majority of compromises will occur because of no anti-virus or firewall protection,” said Godsmark.

There are tools available to Internet criminals that allow them to hide viruses so your anti-virus will not be able to detect them. Viruses can disguise themselves as Adobe Reader or a Java Update very easily.

Anti-virus alone is not enough, it is important to also install a system firewall, run regular updates, and turn on web reputation.

Viruses are more common on Microsoft operating systems, because of their large market share. However, with the increasing popularity of Apple and Android, new viruses are likely to ‘pop up’ on these operating systems, in Godsmarks opinion. “We shouldn’t work under the basis that there is something magical working for us.”

Godsmark believes that the most important thing is a general awareness about these problems.

There are a number of ways to recognize if a message is not safe, such as the presence of grammatical errors or abnormal logos. With a combination of protection techniques and general awareness, viruses and malware can be prevented.

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