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Safe on the Web: Defeating Hackers Part 2

Updated on May 3, 2012

Firstly, let's cover the "Web Scams 101" stuff: those of you who don't use the web for financial transactions, but still don't want your computer crashed, or bogged down with spyware to the point of uselessness. After I cover the common threats for each level of web use, I'll give you my easy steps to avoiding them altogether.

Web Scams: 101 level

So you don't use your computer for online banking/investing or credit card purchases. Does this make you safe? I'm always getting questions from this level of users who think they're immune to web scams. You aren't. You still have two main threats to worry about:

Threat 1: "Offline" Financial Attacks

So you don't do online banking or shopping--what's to stop hackers from collecting enough of your personal data to do it for you? If hacker can collect enough to steal your identity, they can apply for loans in your name, or even turn your offline bank accounts online for you--making it more convenient to rob you, and harder to trace.

Threat 2: Destruction of your own Computer

Hackers won't actually melt your computer into a puddle of liquefied plastic and ceramic, but they can load your computer so full of adware, spyware, viruses and malware, that your computer becomes unusable. It's happened to me--more than once.

Theat2b: Destruction of your own Computer: Not Me--I'm a Mac!

OK, so hackers don't target Macs as much, because they're a smaller target by market share, especially when it comes to prime targets, such as the business servers used by financial institutions. Does that make them less possible to hack, just less tempting? Either way you slice it, we need to make sure you keep your finances secure with a little dose of knowledge.

Like this writer? Like adventure/ fantasy? Try:

Next, let's cover the additional threats to the more web-savvy users out there. You shop online, you bank online, and pay your bills online. Several institutions make regular charges to your credit cards for re-occurring fees. I'm afraid you have a little more to worry about--such as your credit rating, and when it comes right down to it, the entirety of all your earthly assets. Got Money? Got Credit? Not for long, if a hacker gets enough of your personal data. Yes, people usually get their identity theft cases solved, but sometimes only after months or years of financial and legal battles. So let's push a few pounds of prevention onto the menu, and read on.

Web Scams: 201 level

You get a lot more out of the web, and the hackers of the world want you to pay for it--and by no legal or reasonable means, either. What can they do to you? It's almost easier to list what they can't do to you.

Threat 3: Unauthorized Use of Online Banking or Credit Cards

Do you get nervous every time you type in your online banking password or credit card? If you don't, you're either kidding yourself or very, very on top of things. Let me help you work on the latter.

Threat 4: Increased Risk: "Offline" Financial Attack.

You've purposely setup online access to your financial assets. This makes it a far easier for you to access them, and easier for hackers as well. Hackers may be 'listening in' while you're typing in your account name and password, or entering your credit card number--much easier than stealing enough of your identity to create online access from scratch. Of course there are safeguards against the many types of "listen in" and "look-alike" attacks, but they have loopholes you’re probably not aware of. Let’s fill them up with a dose of a little drug I like to call knowledge--read on, web wonder.

First, I’d like to take a quick minute to address the advanced level of web-user threats. If you host and offer web services to others, you ought to know these risks already, but just in case, give me your ears for a minute. If you host domains, websites, or blog services for others, whether for profit, hobby, or just for fun you've got a pretty big target painted on your back, and you better know the defenses for each risk.

Web Scams: Doctorate Thesis

Yes, this is the upper echelon. The stakes are high, and you better know your way around campus.

Threat 5: Hijacking services for Illegal Use

How'd you like the FBI waking you up, one early Saturday morning, to commandeer your computer and charge you with money laundering, providing illegal gambling services, or something far worse, like providing kiddie porn to pervs? From what I've heard of correctional facilities, they won't treat you nice in the inside, with a reputation like that. If you're setup to offer web services, you're a perfect target for these most unsavory of hackers, who need such services, but are just a little too busy to serve the jail time that go along with them. If you run a public FTP server for your photography club and let others upload pictures to share with the public, you are a prime target for an illegal porn ring operation. You'd better do regular scans of the content others upload, and hold a zero-tolerance policy for uploading illegal content--and most importantly: have ample logs of your scans and records of booting any violators. If you host a web server, what better environment could a hacker ask for, if he wants to setup a website that looks just like*, and takes orders by credit cards? Or, if you have a powerful presence on the web and undersized security measures, what better environment is there for a hacker to use when he launches his next cyber-terrorist attack against the federal government's computer systems?

Be Aware:

Lastly, we should all be aware of the dangers of living in the digital age whether or not you take advantage of the benefits.

Threat 6: Web Retailers and Financial Institutions are not Impervious to Attack

A handful of years ago the Social Security Administration was required by federal law to send out a letter to tens thousands of retirees collecting Social Security. The letter explained in very clear terms that a portion of the Administration’s databases had been compromised, and if you received this letter, your personal data was included in that compromise. They offered to pay for 12 months of an online credit-watch service, in case hackers started going wild with your SSN, credit cards, credit rating, or bank accounts. How helpful! How's my grandfather—at 96 and more afraid of computers than Armageddon—how's he supposed to react to this? I've received a similar letter from the financial giant that runs my company's 401k retirement accounts--twice. On both occasions, some genius in their IT department decided to copy all our live data onto his laptop to bring to the coffee shop and lose it. Why on earth did they need to use real data? Couldn't they use John Doe and SSN 000-00-0001 a few million times instead? And yet it still happens.

You need to realize: every place you've used your credit card could be storing it on a computer--and that computer could be vulnerable to hackers. This is true whether you shop online, by mail catalog, over the phone, by fax, or in your local mall. You need to be aware of the threat hackers pose to your personal data even if you keep it sacred and safe yourself. There are safeguards, and also financial policies and laws to be aware of related to this threat. Let me tell you about them.

Now, fearless master of the web, continue onto my simple recommendations to defeat all these threats! Peace of mind and web safety is only a click away.

read Living Safely on the Web: Defeating Hackers Part 3:

* uses very sophisticated and competent security practices. I use this company name only as a well-known example of online shopping sites. No matter how trusted the web site you intend to access, you must be wise in your use of the necessary security practices.


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      Yashel 5 years ago

      very usefull