I AM often asked about safe computing when in France and a recent story on the BBC highlights the dangers out there.
Hackers were able to hijack the computer of a woman in Rochdale and put her personal files behind a password that could only be unlocked if she paid a ransom.
A message on her computer said that the only way to free her files would be to buy drugs through an online pharmaceutical store, and then she would receive a password.
It looks as though the woman had inadvertently installed a piece of software after clicking on a pop-up window, this computer program then allowed the hackers to hijack her files.
I have written in the past about protecting yourself from scam emails and other nasty online con tricks (see Ditch dodgy email).
This example of files being ransomed is fairly new, but being aware and having a questioning mind will help you stay protected.
One of the most important things to have on your machine is anti-virus and firewall software, but make sure it is up-to-date, if it is not then it is practically useless.
Also make sure the software runs a scan of your machine at least once a week so that it can sniff out any trouble – personally I use Zone Alarm Anti-Virus.
If you take a lot of photographs or have important business files on your computer back them up on a regular basis, a portable hard drive that can be plugged into a USB port is not expensive and files are transferred in minutes.
Most web browsers give you the option to block pop-ups so use it, but I think having a questioning mind is one of the best protections.
If you have not looked to install a new piece of software then don’t just blindly click on buttons, close your web browser down and start again.
Remember you control the computer, don’t let the computer and possibly hackers control you.