Surfing the internet is as common as walking across the street today. There are people out to steal your information and use it for anything they think they can get away with. In the “old days,” thieves stole trash to obtain cancelled checks. They would copy the signature and then wash the ink off the paper. A quick forgery, the check was used, and you were out of money.
Today, thieves are online as well as in public. They’re surfing the internet for your information, looking for vulnerabilities. Thieves open credit card accounts in your name, make purchases to the limit, and leave you holding the bag. Your credit history is destroyed. It can take up to five years or more to restore your name and credit. Stories abound about good people losing their homes, jobs, credit ratings and more because of thieves. Here are five ways thieves can get their hands on your information.
This is one of the most common ways that thieves obtain your information. You receive an email from your financial institution stating that your account is in dire trouble. Your information needs to be verified. The email contains a link that you are told to click on and enter your sensitive data. The problem is that the email is a fake. You have been directed to a site that you hand your information over to willingly. Look at the email address that sent you the notice. If it looks strange, it is most likely a phishing site. Report it to your financial institution. Always open a separate tab or window and access your accounts directly; never do it through an email.
A skimmer is a device that records information from credit cards. They can be as small as an ice cube. Some skimmers are designed to be attached to ATMs or even the front of a gas pump. The person with the skimmer sells your information to other thieves who take cash advances, open credit cards, and buy items using your identifying information. The best way to protect your card is never to let it get out of your sight. Do not give your card to a waitress or waiter who will take it to a cash register and bring it back. Take it to the register yourself and watch the card being run. Look closely at ATM and other machine you are going to use. If it looks “strange,” use another machine.
These nefarious programs can be attached to an innocent email or even legitimate sites. These programs record every keystroke you make on your computer. When you enter your sensitive information, the thief is recording it. Running antivirus and antimalware programs on a regular basis will identify and remove them from your system. Watch your bank statements like a hawk; never assume your information is safe online.
This problem is on the rise again. No database seems safe, not even the government’s servers. The Veteran’s Administration site, Paypal, Yahoo, and more have been subjected to the computer version of a burglar, the hacker. Untold numbers of people have had their information stolen by thieves. There is not much that you can do about companies that save your information except to hope their IT technicians build and monitor better firewalls. Online, never allow sites to save your information and be sure to clear out your cache & cookies on a regular basis after surfing the internet.
Emails come to people from all over the world. Some are not phishing emails that ask a person to click on a link and enter their information. Some are outright scams that ask for your information. A lot of charities have pictures of starving children or badly abused animals. These thieves play on your sympathy and ask you to donate money online to “help their cause.” Unfortunately, their only cause is to take your money. The best way to avoid this is to only give to charities you recognize through their site or in person.
Protecting your online information does take diligence. Installing programs that alert you to malware, spyware and hacking will help you keep your information safe. Using these methods you can make your data much more secure and ensure your safety on the internet.
Encrypt Your Data
The easiest and most underused method to protect yourself online is to encrypt your data. Even though this method is fairly easier to protect yourself from internet threats, very few people actually encrypt their data (such a waste!). You can do this fairly easily using a program called TrueCrypt which is free. Here’s a great article on how to use TrueCrypt to encrypt your data. By encrypting your data anyone that is able to access your files won’t be able to view your files without knowing your password.
Use Difficult to guess Passwords
While password protection from encryption is great it won’t do much if your password is weak. The key to a strong password is to make sure it is fairly long, uses a variety of numbers, symbols and letters. Many people use weak passwords because they simply can’t remember them if they’re too difficult. That’s where you can use something like LastPass, which is a highly secure service that allows you to store passwords for your web logins and accounts.
Antivirus software is a must to keep your info safe today. While the 2 previous methods will certainly help keep your info safe, without antivirus software someone can get remote access to your computer and get your data. There are tons of great, free software out there like Microsoft Security Essentials which does an awesome job of detecting viruses and malware. For some others you can check out the Internet Security page from CNet for other free downloads.
This article is written by Gerad Hoyt, of SatelliteBroadbandInternet.orga strategic partner of HughesNet satellite internet services.