Teacher Tap


Computer Intruders: Detection and Prevention

What can I do about pop-up ads, adware, and annoying advertisements that seem to attach themselves to my computer?

How do I avoid being attacked by spyware, hijackers, and other bots that might hide in my computer?

What can I do to prevent problems, yet still enjoy the Internet?

securitySecurity should be a primary concern for both educators and students.

Read School is in: 7 computer security tips for students from Microsoft.

What are computer intruders?

A computer intruder is something that invades your computer without permission. Sometimes you don't even know that an interloper has arrived. In other cases, you may think you are giving permission for one thing such as accepting a game download, but are actually opening your computer to attack. A malicious software is then used to control your computer's operation. Here are the most common intruders:

For additional information, do a search for these and related words in Wikipedia.

There are other words you need to know that will help you understanding how computers invade:

How do I help children and young adults prevent computer attacks?

  1. Computer Intrusion - Talk with children about the problem of computer intrusion. Focus on the importance of keeping their eyes open and minds alert, always looking for danger. Discuss the problems that spyware and other hidden attackers can cause to your computer files.
    Activity: Write a class "Computer Intruders" skit. Ask students to include spyware, adware, worms, viruses, and hijackers as characters in the skit.
  2. Detection - Discuss methods for detecting computer intrusions. If your computer is "acting strange," it might have an intruder. Here are some of the most common symptoms:
    • It may take your computer a long time to start up or shut down.
    • The computer is running very slow or slower than normal.
    • The computer crashes and restarts every few minutes
    • The computer won't play DVDs or can't find drives
    • Accessories such as printers and scanners don't work properly
    • It may be unreliable and inconsistent such as shutting down programs
    • Things pop-up on the screen or appear in your task bar even when you're not running a web browser.
    • Strange error messages, menus, or dialog boxes appear on the screen.
    • Your default home page may have been changed by the invader.
  3. Invaders Arrive - Discuss the common ways invaders arrive: (a) with downloaded software such as games, icons, or screen savers, (b) with toolbar or pop-up programs such as weather or news alert boxes, and as (c) email message attachments. Emphasize that many invaders sneak in with things that you want or need such as a free computer game. Stress the importance of only opening or downloading things that you know are sponsored by well-known groups such as Scholastic or a product that is well-established such as a new movie's official website.
    Activity. Write your own analogies for how invaders sneak into your computer. For example, they may come in like a burr on the fur of a pet or a bug on the pants of a person.
  4. Protection - Demonstrate how to protect the computer by: (a) password protecting the computer, (b) installing virus and spyware protectors, and (c) setting the security of the web browser to a high level.
    Activity: Ask students to pretend that they work for the PPP (POWERFUL PROBLEM PREVENTORS) company. Their job is to evaluate a computer to determine if it is well protected and provide recommendations for fixing any problems.
  5. Email and IM Practices - Discuss good email and instant messaging practices such as (a) don't open files from strangers or files that you aren't expecting, (b) don't give out your email or IM address or personal information, (c) don't reply to spam, (d) delete junk e-mails messages without opening them, (e) don't forward chain e-mail messages, and (f) don't buy things advertised through email. Discuss the role of the Federal Trade Commission in identifying and eliminating spam.
    Activity: Discuss safety using email and IM. Role-play potentially dangerous situations.
  6. Hoaxes and Urban Legends - Discuss the problem of e-mail hoaxes and urban legends. Talk about the difference between fact, fiction, and opinion.
    Activity: Show examples from Hoaxbusters and Snopes. Ask students to investigate an urban legend.
  7. Phishing - Explore the problem of identify theft and sharing personal information on the Internet. Define phishing. Encourage the creation of a pseudonym rather than using personal information on the Internet.
    Activity: Create a fictional online personality including name, icon, password, personal description
  8. Advertisements - Direct children not to click on advertisements. Make them aware of the way advertisements draw their attention through pop-ups, colors, animations, and gimmicks.
    Activity: Ask students to find the advertisements in websites. Ask them to make a list of what makes advertisements appealing. If they were going to write an advertisement, what would they say to convince others to click on an ad links.
  9. Starting Points - Encourage children to use well-known websites by providing quality bookmarks and web portals.
    Activity: Ask learners to discuss the advantages of going to established websites such as Yahooligans, PBSKids or National Geographic rather than clicking on advertisements or googling a topic.
  10. Online Gaming - Encourage students to use established gaming sites.
    Activity: Evaluate and select gaming sites with children and bookmark those sites. Talk about the fact that just because a game site appears to be free, it may have hidden costs such as spyware. Ask students to use games from the list rather that googling for games.
  11. Evaluation - Direct students to use topical evaluation websites.
    Activity: Use magazine and online reviews to determine which websites are safe. Match these websites to established lists.
  12. Intruder Resistance - Discuss the use of intruder resistant computers and web browsers. People using Macintosh computer have very few problems with intruders. Also, consider switching web browsers and use Firefox (http://www.mozilla.org/) instead. Most of the problems are found using Internet Explorer. Discuss how computer and software companies are fighting computer attacks.
  13. Preparing for Disaster - Discuss the importance of being prepared for a disaster including (a) periodically backing up important files, (b) installing detectors and prevention programs, (c) keeping an eye out for threats and act quickly to eliminate problems.

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How do I set my computer to prevent intruders?

When using Windows, be sure to conduct regular maintenance.

  1. Use a password to access the computer.
  2. Update your Windows operating system.
  3. Use an Internet firewall.
  4. Be sure to secure wireless connections.

When using Internet Explorer, you need adjust your level of security to be sure invaders can't get in. These are adjusted in Windows Internet Explorer by going to Tools>Internet Options>Security.

  1. Set your security zone to the Default Level (Medium).
  2. Check the web sites identified as Trusted or Restricted. Eliminate those that are unfamiliar and only add those you trust.
  3. You may also want to set whether you want to accept cookies.
  4. For additional directions, go to Internet Explorer Security.

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What programs will help me detect and eliminate intruders?

You should be running up-to-date Norton (http://www.symantec.com/index.htm) products including Norton AntiVirus and Norton AntiSpyware.

Also, use the following anit-spyware, spam, virus, etc. programs.

What websites will answer more complex problems or questions?

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Where can I find more information?

Anti-Phishing Working Group

Anti Virus 101

Security Essentials from Microsoft

Instant Messaging Safety from Microsoft

Phishing Scams from Microsoft

Viruses and Worms from Microsoft

School District Website Resources


Ellison County School

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Protect Yourself

Develop a plan to detect and protect your computer against intruders.

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