In a world that is increasingly moving and functioning online, it is becoming easier for hackers to gain access to and replicate personal information that can lead to identity theft, precious data corruption, or destruction to files and software. In addition to being smart about limiting the information you share online, here are five threats to watch out for when surfing the web:
Phishing usually takes the form of emails or private messages and instant messages directing a user to a fake website asking for personal information in order to receive a certain product or deal then they use this information to gain access to banking account or can steal your identity. Phishers are getting increasingly tricky about creating email addresses and website names that seem credible, but be careful of entering personal information on any website which you do not completely trust. Phishing can also be done over the phone if a message has been sent to a user supposedly from their bank to call a certain number and verify their personal information. Many companies and websites have developed effective anti-phishing preventions, but to be safe, do not click links sent to you through private message or email unless you trust the source. If you get an email or text message from your bank asking you to verify your information, instead go to your bank’s main website or customer service telephone number and ask to be directed from there.
Spyware is a type of software that is installed on your computer without your knowledge or consent and therefore gains access to any private and personal information stored on your computer. This spyware usually gains access to your computer by attaching itself to another program that the user intentionally downloads. Spyware can also gain access to your computer through email attachments or untrusted websites. Spyware can burn up your computer’s resources, causing it to run more slowly and manipulate your search engine results to expose you to harmful sites. Many antivirus programs can help identify and eliminate spyware that might already be on your computer (though make sure you trust this program as well, since many spyware programs pretend to be antivirus). Just last fall, a total of 91.9 million URLs with malicious spyware were detected, according to SecureList.
When you open your computer to file sharing with other users, you open your computer to attacks. Any potential viruses, worms, or Trojans on the computer of one of the users you are sharing files with can gain access to your computer as well. Hackers use file sharing to spread viruses and spyware by naming a file after a popular song or movie so that people will download it, thinking it is something else.
A computer virus can perform a number of damaging activities on a user’s computer by replicating itself and inserting itself into several programs and files from using up valuable disk space to corrupting data to spamming the users contacts. Viruses are usually created to create profit or for personal amusement, but the damage they cause can be devastating and hard to clean up. The best thing you can do is set up a trusted antivirus software to catch viruses before they infect your computer. This software also cleans up viruses, but it cannot retrieve corrupted data. To protect yourself, regularly back up valuable information.
As more and more people are using their mobile devices to store all of their personal information and carry out transactions, more and more Internet threats are being targeted at mobile devices. To protect yourself, only install apps you trust from Google Play or from the Apple App Store (but be cautious: even these apps run the risk of becoming infected). Keep your mobile systems up to date as updates usually help protect against some of these threats.
Tips to Protect Yourself from Online Threats
- Make sure your passwords are strong (using a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols).
- Update your passwords regularly
- Do not give personal information or passwords to someone you don’t trust, and be wary about giving information, especially via email, to services you do trust (in case someone is trying to pretend they are your bank). When in doubt, call the customer service number on the back of your credit or debit card to confirm information.
- Do not access bank information from an internet café, public kiosk, or borrowed computer and use private browsing mode when accessing sites with sensitive information.
- Install a firewall and anti-spyware from a vendor you trust.
- Do not download or allow access to programs unless you know what they are.
Have you ever been a victim to an online hacker? What did you do to eliminate the problem and recover your personal information? Share your tips in the comment section below!