Stop Hackers: How to Safely Surf the Internet
Rough Internet Seas Could Result in Unpleasant Times for You
Video: Internet Safety & You
When informed travelers visit a new city they may avoid or cautiously venture into certain neighborhoods. When we surf the Internet most of us CANNOT recognize the bad sections of www town.
When you’re online you face a growing number of scammers, hackers and identity thieves all ready to steal your sensitive personal data (or what techies call PII- Personally Identifiable Information). These crooks will remotely install viruses on your computer, which will help them locate and use your personal data and ultimately appropriate a fist full of funds. But there are ways to protect yourself, your personal information and your cash.
Before you venture out on the Web, ask yourself the following:
► Is Your Firewall Up and Running?
If you have a fenced in your backyard you erected it for several reasons, like privacy and keeping your family safe from stray animals and people who might wander onto your property.
Firewalls are the fences or barriers you install between the crooks luring on the Internet and your computer or network. It’s your first and best line of defense from viruses and malware. Windows has a firewall, but it won't help you if you don't activate it via Control Panel’s Security section. (There are also apps or programs you can purchase that claim to erect bigger, stronger firewalls. However, most techies say Windows' firewall is all you need if you’re a safe surfer.)
While we’re on the subject of firewalls, don’t forget to make sure the one on your router is operating. Computer experts also advise you to regularly change the router's administrative password.
Protect Your Smartphone: It’s Packed with Important Data
Don’t focus all your attention on PCs and laptops and leave your smartphone unprotected. You need to see it the way the cyber crook see it. That mobile is packed with sensitive information about you.
If you’d feel vulnerable if your PC didn't have security software loaded on it, you should experience the same kind of concern for your smartphone.
Kaspersky Labs, anti-virus software producer, reported a recent increase in malware attacking smartphones, especially Androids.
► Is Your Security Software Operating & Up to Date?
Before you even stick a toe in the Internet waters, make sure your anti-virus and anti-malware programs are running and up to date. Make sure your security software, Windows and your browser are set to update automatically. Software programmers are aware of the latest viruses and malware floating around the Internet and they include code in their updates that thwart these cyber threats.
► Are You Using Strong Passwords?
You need to create complex (hack-proof) passwords as part of a good password policy. And use a different password for each of the various websites you visit. I explain this in further detail in my article: “Stop Hackers: Use Good Password Policy.”
► Are You Following the New Rule: Write Down Your Passwords?
All the other password rules are dependent on this new Rule #1. Writing down your passwords and putting that paper in a safe place, like a wallet, will free you up to create multiple, complex passwords. I explain this in further detail in my article: “Stop Hackers: #1 Write Down Passwords.”
► Are You a Skeptical Email User?
What could be safer than the mail or email? But there are potential demons lurking in your email inbox. Many Internet users have learned that many of the unsolicited (spam) messages we receive are designed by con men to reel us into a scam that sounds like fishing, but is spelled with a “ph.”
Be skeptical about the claims and/or warnings in unsolicited emails.
Top Web Mail Providers: How Good are their Spam Filters?
• AOL Mail has an “effective spam filter.”
• Gmail: Its spam filter “tries to sort out the junk mail and questionable mail.” Also scans for viruses and worms.
• GMX Mail is a “reliable email service” which performed “well filtering spam and viruses.”
• Outlook.com: “You can easily adjust and improve actions” of its spam filter. “Virus and phishing emails are detected as well.”
• Yahoo! Mail's has a reputation of being spam heavy and has a high risk of being hacked. Its “spam filter could catch junk even more effectively.”
QUOTES are from About.com, an online resource that annually selects the top web mail providers.
► Do You Know How to Avoid Being Hooked by Phishing Lures?
You get an email from the Internal Revenue Service, PayPal, your bank or UPS. It looks legit. It includes the logo of the company or agency. And it says there’s a problem with your account or with a package you didn’t know was coming. The tone of the mail is usually very urgent. They advise you to immediately click on a link and verify your information.
Don’t Do IT!
They want you to log-in to their bogus site, which will record your login and password so they can get into your account. Or your computer could be attacked by a malware program that searches your electronic files for your banking information. Or a virus is surreptitiously installed on your PC designed to capture all your e-mail addresses and then take over your our web mail account and send spam messages to all your contacts - using your name.
If you are unsure where the email is legitimate. Don’t click on any links in the message, instead contact the company or agency directly by searching for its name and accessing its website or call a phone number listed by your search engine.
► Are You Wary of Email Attachments?
Attachments are commonly used by cyber crooks to sneak a virus onto your computer. Make sure your settings in your web mail is set to block attachments from addresses not on your safe senders list.
► Do You Unsubscribe to Suspect Emails? Don’t Do IT!
If the sender of that annoying spam is a crook, unsubscribing to his emails will confirm to him that your email address is valid. Your attempt to opt out of future mailings will result in a rush of spam or phishing emails heading to your inbox. Instead, add the sender's email address to the Blocked Senders list.
Don't Do Your Banking via Wi-Fi
► Are You Careful of Your Web Surfing While at a Coffee Shop?
Who would give it a second thought? You’re on your break, but you can’t go too far from the Web while you’re away from the office. As you take another sip of your special blend at favorite coffee café, your laughter trails off as that image on your tablet switches from a crazy photo on Facebook to your banking website.
Don’t Do IT!
Although they might look nice and welcoming, be careful of the typical fast food and coffee establishments; their Wi-Fi could be open to hackers. "Avoid public wireless Internet connections," advises CreditCards.com. You need to wait and do your banking business (or anything with your personal data) using a more secure, less visible Web connection.
Also, when you are computing out in public be aware of others who might be able to look over your shoulder as you type in your passwords, etc.
How to Report a Scam to the FTC
Looking for More Info?
• Here's a list of the latest email phishing scams from consumer advocate Clark Howard.
• Establishing Internet safety rules is an important way for parents to protect kids and teens when they go online. With Internet predators being able to easily hide their identities, you need to educate your children about the "Dos" and "Don'ts" when they visit the Web. –TDowling