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The 17 most dangerous places on the internet

They're not the usual suspects... you may be surprised

The scariest sites on the net? They're not the ones you might suspect. Here's what to watch for and how to stay safe, in our list of the 17 scariest places on the internet.

The internet is something of a security minefield and it's easy to get in trouble.

From Google search results that look as if they answer all your questions but instead do nothing but create a serious tech headache to the hilarious video you, which will cause misery to your system.

You can do everything you can think of to protect yourself and still be taken by a malware infection, a phishing scam, or an invasion of on­­line privacy. We'd like to provide a little help. Here are some of the hazards you may encounter, how dangerous they are, and what you can do to stay out of harm's way.

Threat 1: Malicious Flash files that can infect your PC

The place: Websites that use Flash

Adobe's Flash graphics software has become a big malware target in recent years, forcing the company to push out frequent security patches. But another danger you might not know about is associated with Flash cookies. Flash cookies are small bits of data that their creators can use to save Flash-related settings, among other things. But like regular cookies, Flash cookies can track the sites you visit, too. Worse still, when you delete your browser's cookies, Flash cookies get left behind.

If you have to go there: To help protect against Flash-based attacks, make sure you keep your Flash browser plug-ins up-to-date. And you can configure the Flash plug-in to ask you before it downloads any Flash cookies.

Threat 2: Shortened links that lead you to potentially harmful places

The place: Twitter

Scammers love Twitter since it relies so much on URL shorteners, services that take long internet addresses and re­­place them with something briefer.

And it's very simple to hide malware or scams behind shortened URLs. A shortened link that supposedly points to the latest Internet trend-du-jour may be a Trojan horse in disguise.

If you have to go there: Simply don't click links. Of course, that takes some of the fun out of Twitter. The other option is to use a Twitter client app. TweetDeck and Tweetie for Mac have preview features that let you see the full URL before you go to the site in question.

Some link-shortening services, such as Bit.ly, attempt to filter out malicious links, but it seems to be a manual process, not an automatic one. TinyURL has a preview service you can turn on.

Threat 3: Email scams or attachments that get you to install malware or give up personal info

The place: Your email inbox

Although phishing and infected email attachments are nothing new, the lures that cybercrooks use are constantly evolving, and in some cases they're becoming more difficult to distinguish from legitimate messages. My junk mailbox has a phishing email that looks like a legitimate order confirmation from Amazon. The only hint that something's amiss is the sender's email address.

If you have to go there: Don't trust anything in your inbox. Instead of clicking on links in a retailer's e-mail, go directly to the retailer's site.

NEXT PAGE: Torrent sites

  1. They're not the usual suspects
  2. Torrent sites
  3. Your smartphone
  4. Malicious PDFs
  5. Fake antivirus software
  6. 'Free electronics' sites
  7. What happens when you surf unprotected
  8. Tips from the pros


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