Unless you have spent the last twenty years wandering the Siberian Steppe, gnawing on grass and counting ibexes, you have likely heard of Phishing, Trojan Horses, Malware, and other cyber security threats. Yes, the words “virus” and “worm” have taken on new meanings. And unsuspecting people are being “catfished” out of their life savings.
Thankfully, by making yourself aware of the dangers that lurk in cyberspace, you can avoid ever encountering one of these threats up close and personal.
1. Wear Protection
If you think that Siberian winters are perilous, they’re nothing compared to surfing the internet without protective software. The first thing you need to do before you attempt to engage in any online activities is to install a reliable internet security program.
Ideally, this should protect against viruses, phishing, malware, and spyware, block spam, ensure that e-mail senders, links, websites, and downloads are trustworthy, and encrypt files stored on your computer. This software will better enable you to embark on online adventures without putting your security at risk. Plus, as “My Computer Has Been Hacked, Now What?” states, anti-virus software will also take steps to repair problems by quarantining, cleaning, or deleting infected files.
2. Be Crafty With Passwords
If your go-to password is your Poodle’s name, you have it written down in your wallet, and you use the same one for your Facebook, your online banking, and your e-mail account, you have just broken three important rules of password-making.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, it is wise to select passwords that are not based on personal information that can be accessed or guessed, or consist of a word found in a dictionary of any language. Other standard safety practices include making sure that your passwords contain a combination of lowercase and capital letters, numbers, and special characters and that you are using different passwords for different systems. And do not keep your passwords written down in an obvious place.
3. Become a Skeptic
Gone are the days of giving someone the benefit of the doubt. When you receive unsolicited communication, always operate from the assumption that it is suspicious. This healthy dose of skepticism will protect you from falling victim to a phishing scam.
Do not provide confidential information to anyone who sends you a request–even if the communication appears to originate from a trusted company. If, for example, you receive e-mail from PayPal stating that they will have to close your account if you don’t change your password on the supplied link, do not respond. This email is likely from someone posing as PayPal in an attempt to access your account and abscond with your funds.
4. Avoid Public Computation
When it comes to using public computers, the advice is “don’t do it.” If, however, you are left with no choice, there are some rules to follow for your protection.
Watch out for wandering eyes–people who stake out public computer stations in the hopes of learning your passwords or other personal information.
Plus, as Tech Republic warns, never enter credit card information or engage in online banking at a public computer. Leave your Amazon purchases for a more secure location or go to the ATM for you bank balance. Even accessing PayPal could compromise your password and the security of your account.
5. Use Your Noggin
When it comes to cyber security, use your head and common sense. If it sounds too good to be true, it isn’t true. Tripwire sums it up best by saying, Nigerian Princes are not seeking to send you money, celebrities are not asking to meet you via the internet, and potential suitors may not be who they say they are. Take everything with a hefty chunk of salt and keep your guard up.
The internet can be a marvelous thing, but without exercising cyber security savvy, it can also be fraught with danger. Before going online, make sure that you become aware of the threats that exist and how you can best protect yourself. Or stick with counting ibexes.
Have you been the victim of a cyber threat? What advice can you offer to help someone else avoid this menace?