Monday 17 November 2014

Positives and Perils of the Internet - Part 2

with Enisa Haines

Writers love the Internet. Interested in a publishing house or an agent, a writer's blog? Simply search the World Wide Web. Indeed, click the keyboard and any information you need is available. But as useful as the Internet is, risks abound.

Hackers. Phishing. Spam emails. Spyware. Malware. We've all heard the terms--they've been around for as long as the Internet--but too often, in spite of the countless posts and articles written warning of the dangers, we don't take the risks seriously and leave our electronic devices unprotected.

Image: courtesy of

And then one day your email contacts notify you of a flood of spam emails sent from your account. You can't login to your email account or change its settings and your computer prompts for access to programs unfamiliar to you. Hate-filled messages aimed at ruining your reputation appear on your blog or website. Your social networking sites, forums, email accounts and instant messaging are inundated with phishing scams containing malicious files or links that aim to trick you into divulging your account information. For example: 'Dear Beneficiary. Have you contacted Westpac Bank?' landed in my spam folder today. I don't have accounts with Westpac.


Phishing often plays on your concerns so that you will not question why your account information is being requested. From that point on, your account can be accessed by others without your knowledge With that information the hacker can now steal all your personal information, including financial details. Panic strikes and leaves you devastated. What do you do?

  • Change your passwords. Ensure they are complex and unique to you, with letters in Caps/lowercase, numbers and other characters. Passwords longer than 11 characters are best.
  • Use different passwords for different accounts and sites.
  • Use 2-factor authentication, i.e. a second form of identification such as a code sent as a text to your phone, or a secret question and answer.
  • Store your passwords securely, the safest way being an encrypted USB drive.
  • Update your operating system, antivirus and antispyware software regularly.
  • Install a firewall.
  • Limit the personal information you post on Web pages and blogs.
  • Always log out when leaving a site.
  • Assess free software and file-sharing apps. Are they safe to download?
  • Download software only from sites you trust.
  • Don't open emails or messages from unknown senders.
  • Verify a website is secure, i.e. has a small closed lock in the address bar or bottom left or right corner of the browser window.
  • Don't click on ads in websites. If you want to make a purchase , click on the purchaser's website.
  • And most important of all, don't be gullible. You did not win a lottery that you never entered. A real prince from Nigeria does not have $1 million to give you.

Image: courtesy of

A too-long list of actions to perform, excessive you may say, but you want to outsmart the cyber-criminals, right? Cyber attacks target the vulnerable. Don't leave yourself susceptible to cyber threats. Be informed. Take charge of your emotions. Receive a threatening email? Don't fear it. Stay calm and contact the police. A link on a site catches your eye. Don't give in to curiosity or temptation and click on the link.

Thwart cyber attacks and as the hackers rant in empty defeat, immerse yourself in the characters and world you've created in the pages of your manuscript. A writer's happiest place.

Are you, like me, concerned about Internet security? What measures have you taken to ensure your personal details are safe?

Love to love - 

Coffee, I admit it. I'm an addict. 
6 cups a day on average. 
Cappuccino's my favourite. 
And it's a great stress-reliever.

Love to laugh - romantic comedies are a fun form of entertainment.

Love to learn - A child joyous at play reminds me that life doesn't always have to be serious.


  1. Good morning everyone. It's a lovely, sunny day for writing. May your muse enjoy it.

  2. Hi Enisa, I love, love, love the internet! Where would we writers be without it? But there's no doubting it can be dangerous (and not just in terms of time-sucking :) ). Thanks, once again, for some great suggestions to help keep us safe when using it. I utilise most of these suggestions but still worry, especially where money and details are concerned. That's why I keep an account with limited funds for any online purchases or use Paypal.

  3. Hi Marilyn. It's great you take precautions. So many people don't and they wonder why they're targeted. And PayPal is a safe way to purchase products.

  4. Wow, Enisa! Thank you! I love having an easy to use list of things to do to make using the net more secure! I've printed it off and am going through it to see what more I can do!

    You mention firewalls on your list. I've actually taken mine off because it made my computer (and the net) run so slow. I type 130 words a minute (after coffee) and waiting the extra 30-45 seconds for the computer to change screens makes my teeth clench! Do you know if there is a firewall that won't slow the computer down or something to do to make it faster?

  5. Hi Dana. I like lists too as you can see. Re Firewalls, yes, they can slow the computer down. Not a w are of how to reverse this. Will research it and get to you.

  6. Another great post Enisa. The most common thing I see is people not keeping up their antivirus protection and those that use the same password for everything. I also have concerns when it comes to free games aimed at kids but really all they want is to clog and put malware on your pc. I feel terrible saying no to most of them but if it seems too good to be true it usually is.

    1. Hi Cassandra. Yes, it's amazing how many people aren't vigilant about Internet safety. That's what cyber criminals count on when they attempt an attack. And like you say what's free actually has a price. An unexpected and devastating price. Good on you for protecting your loved ones from paying that price.

  7. Re the firewall, Dana,. Slow down is most often caused by too many programs running at once. This exacerbates the firewall. Also, tempting as it may be to have multiple antivirus software, have only one. More than this and they clash with each other and slow performance is the result. A good idea is to do a maintenance check regularly to remove remnants remaining from deleted files. Maintenance is in Accessories on the Start button. Hope that helps.

  8. Enisa, thanks for all those handy hints. I'm a bit of a once-more-for-the-dummies kind of computer user, so your list made for good reading. But, incidentally, I also ran a virus check just as I was looking at the blog. Just in case!

    And P.S. that's a resounding YES to coffee. I try to limit it to 3 cups a day, but hey, sometimes I fail....

    1. Hi Malvina. Risks are here to stay and ever evolving so it's always good to be reminded about Internet security. And assured of safety you can then go for thst 4th coffee. And enjoy it.

  9. Hi Enisa. Very interesting reading. I am guilty of all the bad things I must admit and wouldn't know how to do most of the things I should be doing. Must learn to be better. Also I just scrolled down the list below as what to comment as and didn't understand any of those things so I guess I have to put anonymous! KO

    1. Thanks for dropping by. It's a good thing to keep yourself aware of risks to internet security and to how to protect yourself.
      And it's okay to sign off as anonymous. Use a pseudonym if you like at the end of the message or as you have here.

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  11. I'm big on security too and rely on virus checkers and blockers to keep me safe. My main concern these days is social media stalking. It really is very scary when you a have a stranger demanding money from you over FB. Yes, it happens. Anyway--great post, Enisa. I'll be waiting for the next.

  12. Hi Georgia. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, the danger has expanded. Stalking takes many forms. Monetary gain. Stealing your identity. Revenge. Jealousy. So keeping up with ways to ensure security is vital.


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