The Internet could arguably be ranked among humankind’s greatest inventions. It has changed our world and our way of life beyond recognition. We can now do things that used to be impossible, like funding a Swiss coin account with a bitcoin wallet, attending a free class at Harvard through the MOOC program, or finding our way with ease through a new city we have never been to before with only a GPS app on our smartphone.
Unfortunately, while noble-minded people all over the world are using technology to come up with ideas that make the world a better place, there are also numerous malicious people who are using it to steal identities and swindle victims out of their money.
With that in mind, let’s answer two questions that will help us stay safe online:
- What can we do to protect our computers and devices from criminals?
- What are the biggest online threats that affect the average user?
How to Protect Your Computer and Devices
- Use an Encrypted USB Drive
You probably have files that you don’t want other people to see. Maybe they contain information about your username and passwords to certain membership websites. Maybe they carry sensitive information related to your customers if you are running a business. Maybe they are related to your financial documents. Whatever the content of these files, you know that you will be in serious trouble if they got into the wrong hands.
While there is plenty that you can do to secure your information, what do you do if you want to secure your portable data? The answer is to use an encrypted USB drive such as the kind made by Secure USB. A high-quality drive will work with any device that either uses a USB or a USB OTG port. This means that it will work with your tablet, smartphone, laptop, notebook, or Google Chrome. The best ones use a military level encryption standard called AES 256 Bit Encryption.
- Use comprehensive security software.
Instead of using a standalone virus utility or a basic security suite, use an advanced security software suite. While a basic security suite will give you features like firewall, antivirus, antispam, and privacy protection, an advanced suite will give you these features and more. Additional features could include a backup feature, a tune-up utility, and a password manager.
- Use a hardware firewall.
When you access the Internet from behind a firewall, you benefit from an additional layer of defense. This will prevent any hackers from breaking into your computer system and doing terrible things like using your computer to attack other computers or accessing your files to steal your personal identity.
Biggest Online Threats Facing Average Users
While there are numerous online threats faced by individuals, the most pervasive fall into two classes: phishing and malware. In other words, people can access your sensitive information by tricking you or by using rogue software. Let’s take a closer look at both these threats.
Phishing is classified as a form of social engineering, a way of manipulating user behavior for personal gain. Emails are the most popular way of phishing.
Here is how it works:
- 1. A user receives an email from a bank, a financial institution, or a service provider. It appears to be genuine because it has the right logo and uses the type of business language that you might expect from the sender.
- 2. The sender alerts the user that there is a problem with their account or there is a change in their system and the user needs to login to their account to verify their information. There is a convenient link enclosed in the email.
- 3. After clicking the link, the user is directed to a website page that looks like it is from the sender. The user innocently enters their username and password.
The user has been tricked by a fake email and a fraudulent website. Criminals use phishing to access bank accounts, financial records, and auction profiles, as well as other places where they can either steal money or personal identity.
Malware is a hybrid of two words – malicious and software. In other words, software is used to cause malicious harm to the recipient. This software is downloaded and installed on a person’s computer without their knowledge.
Here are 5 of the most common type of malware:
- Viruses. These need a host to run their programs and are transmitted from one computer to another. They can steal files and delete passwords.
- Trojan Horses. These are more dangerous than viruses. They can hijack a user’s computer, steal bank account information, or install more malware. These are actually the most common form of malware.
- Worms. These cause the same type of damage as viruses but are more dangerous because they can copy themselves. They are usually transmitted via emails or through contaminated download.
- Adware. This is a malware that serves up advertising. It often gathers information about the victim, such as their age, ethnicity, and job.
- Spyware. This is more dangerous than adware. It steals more personal information about a user and is harder to uninstall.
While these are the most common types of malware, there are many more types of malware, too.
Protect Your Data and Your Computer Systems
By deploying secure USB for mobile data, installing secure software, and using a hardware firewall, you are much less likely to have to deal with phishing or malware threats.