Swine Flu can be a computer virus, too!

Apr 30, 2009 12:04pm

By Michael Kaiser, NCSA Executive Director

Unfortunately, there are always people out there ready to take advantage of people during times of crisis.

As we have seen during the financial crisis and recent natural disasters, scam artists, phishers, and other cyber criminals use the day’s headlines to lure people to sites that deposit viruses and malware (malicious software such as spyware) or try to get you to reveal personal information or buy something you don’t need or can get somewhere else for free.

No doubt around the world people are sitting down at computers to get the latest news about the Swine Flu epidemic and what they can do stay healthy. Inboxes are piling up with emails on the epidemic that call for immediate action.  In fact, there are some documented cyber related threats already out  there, such as cyber criminals using this health threat to infect computers, like this one in Japan and phishing and other attacks like those described in this article on CNET.

At NCSA we want you to stay physically healthy and keep your computer system healthy as well.  Always know:

  • WHO is asking for information or providing it. Use legitimate well known sources such as government and consumer sites to learn about health related issues. Some to consider are:Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/) Your State or local Health Department by using search terms such as [name of your state or city]and Department of Health or Health Department. The U.S. National Library of Medicine (http://medlineplus.gov/), or Web MD (http://www.webmd.com/)
  • WHAT information is being requested and the value of that information (for example, your home address and a credit card number).
  • WHY a website or person would need that information. You shouldn’t have to provide detailed personal information to get basic health information, or be asked to purchase information that is commonly available.

Always be sure that your security software suite, web browser and operating systems are up-to-date. Help yourself out and set them to automatically update so your system is secured against the latest known threats.

To find out about the latest cyber threats go to USCERT at the Department of Homeland Security.

The Swine Flu outbreak is scary and we all want to be sure we protect ourselves and our families. Our leaders stress remaining calm in the face of the crisis and taking the basic steps to protect yourself. The same is true online.

SSO (stay safe online),