The internet offers a wealth of opportunities but it also brings it’s fair share of dangers too.
It ought to go without saying that you should employ several security measures before you even connect your computer to the internet for the first time.
Once you are online it pays to remain security-aware at all times as there are many threats coming from multiple sources –
Hackers are people who attempt to breach or circumvent online security measures for a number of reasons.
Their motives are, occasionally, honourable in that they merely wish to highlight shortfalls to corporations and other website owners so that they can tighten their security up.
Other hackers look to make financial gains by copying private information, whilst others are purely out to cause mischief.
Irrespective of the hacker’s reasons for doing what they do, they can pose a serious threat to your security.
Computer viruses are programs which are designed in order to gain entry onto unsuspecting users’ computers.
Once they have gained a foothold within a computer system they will then attempt to duplicate themselves before spreading via email, networks and/or removable storage devices.
Typically, their remit is to corrupt or destroy data or otherwise damage the operation of the machine on which they reside.
Viruses can be acquired in many ways but some of the more popular ones are through email, peer-to-peer downloading, internet messaging services and downloading infected files found on the internet.
Spyware can prove to be a major annoyance as it’s goal is usually to collect personal information and browsing habits in order to deliver targeted advertising to you as you browse the web,
Spyware is software and, like a virus, is often deceptively added to the user’s machine.
In addition to increasing the amount of advertising you are likely to see, or affecting the type of adverts served to you, it can also impact upon the performance of your computer by hogging resources.
A worm is a self-replicating program which will attempt to spread itself around your network, either via routers, the internet or by email.
Unlike a virus, a worm does not need to attach itself to another program in order to spread.
While a virus has to attach itself to an existing program, a worm does not – it can replicate and spread on its own.
Worms too can cause disruption to computer systems because of the excessive amount of bandwidth that they sometimes use.
In some respects, phishing is a confidence trick, designed by would-be thieves in order to part unsuspecting computer users from their most precious personal and/or financial information.
Traditionally, phishing attempts looked to acquire data such as bank account details, social security numbers, and credit card numbers, either for direct financial gain or to facilitate identity theft (more on that below).
Over the last few years, however, other forms of data and information have become valuable too.
Phishing attempts are now just as likely to target users of social networking sites in order to try and steal their accounts either to use them as a launchpad for socially engineered scams or as a means of spamming the victim’s friends and other contacts.
Phishing scams usually arrive via email and are designed to appear to be from legitimate organisations so as to trick the recipient into responding with their personal information.
Many will even spoof email headers so that they appear to have come from a trusted source, or link to fake websites that are clones of the official sites that they purport to be.
Spam is any form of unsolicited message, be it email, private forum message or even Tweet.
Those behind spam know that the response rate to their rubbish will be incredibly low.
They continue, however, because they can send many thousands of spam messages out every hour of the day at next to no cost.
Therefore, even an incredibly tiny response rate can lead to huge profits for the spammers.
Spam messages don’t usually pose any threat to your security but can be incredibly annoying and distracting.
It is, however, possible for more savvy spammer to hide other unwelcome items within their spam messages, such as viruses, worms, spyware and other malware.
7. IDENTITY THEFT
Identity theft is a growing problem, both online and off.
This crime can seriously damage a victim’s finances for many years.
Identity thieves acquire information about someone through a variety of means of which the favourite is phishing.
If they can get personal data, such as names, dates of birth, social security numbers, etc, then they can quite literally steal the identity of the owner of that information.
That fake identity can then be utilised in a variety of other crimes, such as credit card fraud, bank fraud and a whole host of other financial misdemeanours, all of which will be blamed upon the victim who will then have an incredibly hard job of clearing their name, recovering the money they have lost and then repairing their credit file.
The good news, however, is that there are ways to protect yourself from every one of the threats listed above –
- Ensure that you are always running a fully updated anti-virus program
- Make sure that you have a firewall and that it is fully operational
- Choose secure and hard to guess passwords and change them on a regular basis
- Install updates and patches for your operating system as soon as they become available
- Never click on links in emails unless you are 100% certain that they are trustworthy
- Lastly, engage your brain and employ commonsense – it really is the best security measure!