Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Seven online sins

It has always been said that the Internet is a jungle. It is full of danger with cyber-criminals looking for victims, and traps of deception everywhere. Notwithstanding that, Internet is a major source of information on everything. Many people nowadays cannot live without it. So, the danger has to be dealt with. In fact, many security analysts said that the Internet is just as dangerous as the street. Despite the dangerous traffic, street side crime, falling signboards, falling trees, people still go out shopping. Of course it is necessary to take reasonable steps to protect yourself, and people now generally know what not to do, say avoid giving out your bank account details, or avoid the Nigerian email scam.

Just a few days ago I read an article from CNN on seven online sins. It is a reminder of seven common sins committed by many people thus exposing themselves to cybercrimes. You may wish to read the full article here.

1. Assuming your security software is protecting you
Your anti-virus software may not be protecting you if you do not activate it all the time and update it constantly. If you just think you have such a software and then be complacent, you may be leaving a loophole in your system without knowing it. The false sense of security is very dangerous. You need to maintain the software on a regular basis if you want to be protected. An automatic updating service is a good choice.

2. Accessing an account through an e-mail link
Do not access your account through an email link, even if it is sent from your respectful banker. It could be a scam by criminals aiming to steal your logins, account numbers and other sensitive data. Such fake email has gotten so sophisticated with genuine corporate logos and legitimate style that it is impossible for people to tell the difference. In fact, most banks have stopped sending out e-mails asking for updated customer information. You should access an online account only by using the full website address of the institution in your browser.

3. Using a single password for all online accounts
It is difficult to remember many different passwords. But using just one, especially if it's simple, is dangerous. Cybercriminals have code-cracking software which could uncover passwords of common combinations. It is recommended a complex password with at least eight characters, including numerals and alphabets, should be used. You may use variations on the same password to make them easier to recall.

4. Downloading free software
Free software can be downloaded, but do it from places you know are safe, such as large and reputable downloading sites, and scan them with anti-virus software before installing. Some "free" software come loaded with spyware, which clogs your computer with ads or employs a keystroke-capture program to steal your personal information.

5. Thinking your Mac shields you from all risks
Some think Macs are much less susceptible to viruses and spyware than PCs. But surveys show that there may be a false sense of security among Mac owners, who still fall prey to phishing scams at about the same rate as Windows users. Some security analysts suggest not to use Safari until Apple puts in more protection. In the mean time, they recommend using another browser with phishing protection, such as the latest version of Firefox.

6. Clicking on a pop-up ad that says your PC is not secure
In a recent Consumer Reports survey, 13 percent of respondents said they clicked inside the ad pop-up by mistake and were redirected to a spyware site or have malicious software downloaded to their computer. It is recommended to click on the "close" button in the ad's upper right corner to close it, or better yet, enable your browser's pop-up blocker.

7. Shopping online the same way you do in stores
When entering your address and credit card information in online shopping, make sure the site is secure, such as those with URL "https:" which offers greater security. Don't shop online with debit cards, which, if stolen, offer no liability protection. It is better to use one credit card for your business transactions and a separate card for your online purchases. That way if a hacker steals your credit card number and you must replace the card, you still have another one for daily business. Some banks now issue special credit card for Internet purchases or special authentication process for online transactions.

In fact, seven is just a casual number and there are many more tricks around which could drag you down the trap. But it is useful to refresh ourselves of the common mistakes people make.

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