Hacker threat! Crucial Steps to Protecting Yourself Online

06 Jul

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The U.S. Senate, Citigroup, Sony and Google have all been hacked in the past few months. Recently, 2 Major hacking groups have joined forces, mainly against corrupt and/or abusive governments and organisations. I wish I can say that you’ve got nothing to worry about if you’re not part of any of them, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The rule of thumb is: as long as you’re connected to the Internet, you are susceptible to various threats that not even security experts know about.

My previous post is about how to protect your email accounts. This post is based on an article I found here and is about 9 steps for safe Internet use which should keep you protected online:

1. Use powerful unique passwords: The more complicated the password, provided you can still remember it, the better. A combination of letters, numbers, upper-case, lower-case and special characters is best. Also make sure you use a password that is not intricately connected to information about you, such as your date of birth or your mother’s name, because thieves might be able to track down that information.

2. Use a security suite with anti-malware detection: I recommend Kaspersky Internet Security and Eset Smart Security as main security solutions for all PCs. Malwarebytes for all malware detection on Windwos platforms, and ClamAV on Linux. There are also several free options available online like AVG and Avast that provide basic protection. For Macs Sophos or McAfee do a good job.

3. Don’t reuse the same ID and password: Just like you have a ring of keys, you have a key to your house and a key to your car, you need a different key for each site. If someone gets your Facebook account, because your email account is your logon, then that person probably also has your email account. And then he/she can probably get your bank account and other more personal things like that.”

4. Google yourself: Be aware of the information about you that is available online. One of the ways in which individuals are compromised is when a hacker or con man uses information that they’ve found out about you through a simple search and manipulate it.

5. Be wary of “phishing” attacks: Any time you see a link in an email, be wary. The problem is these are all games of abuse of trust. They want you to trust the email so you’ll click the link. If they’ve compromised your best friend’s email, you’re going to get an email from your best friend. Hover with the mouse cursor over the link before you click on it and check the address in the status bar of your Firefox browser!

A good rule is: When in doubt, type it out. Although the URL may look trustworthy, con men hide bad links in hyperlinks. If you type in the link/email yourself, you’ll be able to see if that link/email was real or not.

In general, read the URL and use a common sense approach. If it says “.ru” instead of “.com,” ask yourself, “Does it make sense that my bank site is being hosted in Russia?”

6. Pay attention to misspellings: If the site doesn’t look right, check your spelling. If you spell Google or Disney wrong, you might not be in the right place. People buy domains with names similar to the real ones and monetize off of those. They make money if you click on a link and it takes you some place else. You loose time by doing so and also risk to have your machine infected with various malware/adware.

7. Understand how your data is shared: Although you might have provided your contact information to your local supermarket, they might not be the ones storing that information. Many companies outsource that kind of storage to a third party. The answer is not to say, ‘I will never use the Internet’. The answer is to say, ‘I’m going to hold the companies I do business with, both online and offline, accountable for their actions.’

8. Try to use one credit card for online purchases: This way, if your information is compromised, you know exactly which card is breached. If you are notified of a breach, get a new card. Although your credit card company might offer monitoring services, you will be safer getting a new card, especially if you only have one credit card.

9. If in doubt, change the password and security questions: Many people simply change their passwords if they believe there accounts have been compromised. Make sure you also change the security question that many sites ask in conjunction with a password. Use common sense, if you talk about your current pet on social networks, it might not be best to use its name as the answer to your security questions.

For security news, keep an eye on:

ICTTF – International Cyber Threat Task Force – A not for profit organisation formed to create an international community of people concerned with dealing with cyber threats, such as cyber crime or cyber warfare.


Posted by on July 6, 2011 in IT stuff


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3 responses to “Hacker threat! Crucial Steps to Protecting Yourself Online

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