As I write this I have a surgical mask on lest I catch any nasties from my computer! Seriously, the H1N1 epidemic has prompted a media frenzy of misinformation, thank goodness we have the web to set things straight. The World Health Organisation has a frequently updated section at who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/en/ and a regional SE Asian office that has Thailand specific info at searo.who.int/. Thailand itself has a good English update from the Bureau of Infectious Diseases beid.ddc.moph.go.th/eng/. Being prudent does no harm but it’s a big news (and internet) story to be sure. I read around and learnt, for instance, that 36,000 people died of flu associated complications in the US last year. So far no more than 1,000 people worldwide have died from this new strain, so make your own judgements online. Meanwhile it’s a good excuse to discuss the health of your PC, since the web coughs out all sorts of infectious lurgies. A virus programme isn’t enough to protect a PC from its owner’s na?ve habits. For starters, try resetting all your passwords with longer more random characters (I use a pattern of personal info mixed with an element of the site to help remember), since hackers are now gaining access by sheer brute random force. Secondly, never ever believe an email from paypal or yahoo threatening to close your account if you don’t verify your password, it’s a ruse known as phishing; directing you to a mimicked site such as paypal.ppl.com (where ppl.com is actually the website and paypal is a sub-domain they’ve plagiarised). Keystroke spys are another big threat at present and many Chiang Mai internet cafes are affected by them, so think twice before accessing webmail or internet banking from them (or try cutting and pasting one of the letters from some website text, instead of keying it in). Likewise public wireless access may not be safe, allowing other users access to your drives. The latest browser versions are effective at detecting sites infected by malware, which compromise your computer for advertising, data-sharing and even use as a spam sending zombie (so that’s why your outgoing emails take ages to despatch). Some malware-cleaning sites actually infect your site, as a devious means of pushing their software on you. AVG is the best free virus/malware software available (free.avg.com/), but upgrade for peace of mind. Being in Chiang Mai you might perfer Panda software anti-virus!
Andrew Bond is the Manager of www.virtualtravelguides.com