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Understanding Online Threats

The Internet is an increasingly hostile world, and it seems threats can come from virtually any direction. In addition to the obvious threats such as worms and viruses, there are a whole host of other avenues through which your information can be stolen and your computer can be infected.

Since web browsers are the primary link between the computer user and the World Wide Web, Internet browsers are the primary target for dishonest people looking to steal a user’s financial and personal information.

In order to successfully defend yourself and your computer against online threats, you should understand the basics of a few methods of online espionage and theft.

Active-X and Java

These scripting languages provide instructions that allows content from a web page or web server to run on a user’s computer. On their own these programs are not dangerous and are intended to enhance a user’s online experience and convenience. In order to do so, they should be sent from trusted web sites.

Unfortunately there are malicious scripts that are used to steal a user’s tracking information or confidential personal information, or are used to install other detrimental types of software on the user’s computer.

Experienced users may be able to tell when scripting languages have adversely affected their computer, but novice users are unlikely to be able to tell when their web browser is running scripts.

This is one of those instances where reliable anti-virus and anti-spyware software is worth its weight in gold. Companies such as PC Tools, Webroot & Paretologic make excellent detection and removal anti-spyware software. These programs are invaluable to anyone who wishes to keep their confidential information private.


Cookies are text characters sent to a user by a server through the web browser. The characters are saved on the user’s hard drive, and automatically log the user onto the appropriate server the next time they browse the site without the need to go through the authentication process each time.

Cookies are subject to attack by packet sniffers, which are sent out to read traffic on a network. Packet sniffers look for and steal cookie information. Cookies can also be stolen when scripts direct those cookies to recipients other than the original intended recipient.

Security Against Internet Threats

It is important to remain current with the updates for your particular computer software. Messages will normally pop up telling you that updates are available, and it is important to upload the most current information.

The use of good anti-virus or anti-spyware software is also essential. Use only products that have a proven reputation and come from a reliable distributor.

The World Wide Web has become an inhospitable place at times. Make sure you take measures to protect yourself and your computer before venturing out into the online jungle.