Electronic devices today are such a big part of our lives that it’s hard to imagine what we once did without them. However, our constant use of technology to keep in touch, pay bills, stay on top of the news, shop and research things also has its disadvantages. The data that we gather or our own personal data can be exposed to cybercriminals who commit identity theft and credit card fraud. Our growing dependency on electronic devices is part of the reason why careers in cyber security are growing at a faster pace. Jobs in information security, web development, and computer network architecture – three fields at the forefront of cyber security – are expected to grow up to 22% between 2010 and 2020. Understanding the threats can help everyone do their part to make those jobs easier.

It is unfortunate that almost 40% of cyber threats are mostly due to the owner’s disregard to practice proper precautions. Many feel that they will never be the target of a cybercrime because they’re just ordinary wage earners. Thus, many have forgotten the old advice that authorities normally give citizens:

  • “Don’t drive or go to bad neighborhoods.” (Don’t surf suspicious sites on the web).
  • “If you don’t lock your car, it’s vulnerable to crime.” (If you don’t secure your computer, it’s vulnerable to cyber threats).
  • “Reduce your vulnerability and you reduce the threat of crime.” (Protect your computer and devices and you reduce cyber threats against you).

Malware and Bots

If you’ve ever spent a frustrating afternoon calling a computer support company to help you remove a virus from your computer, then you know how pesky malicious software or malware can be. Malware also includes nuisances like spyware, which allows digital hackers to track your every move and to view the passwords you are entering, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance, an organization focused on educating the public on how to use the Internet safely. Typically, consumers get tricked into downloading malware by accident, when for instance they click on a rogue website or try to download what seems to be free software, like a screen saver. When criminals use malware to take control of a computer remotely to perpetrate financial crimes or attack computer networks and websites, the setup is known as botnet.

Further, you need to think about links your friend is telling you to click on. Is that really a friend sending that link, or was their account compromised? Do not click on suspicious links. Spreading malware through e-mails or social networks is growing at an alarming rate.

Spam

You already know that “spam” is the e-mail equivalent of junk mail. However, some of these e-mail missives and clutter can contain a link or an attachment prompting you to download a computer virus. They can also be used to defraud you. For instance, someone who has hacked into your e-mail account can send a message asking every one of your contacts to wire money because you are in distress, and possibly catch a few people who aren’t familiar with this common fraud.

Hacked Accounts

One common way for identity thieves to gain control of consumers’ personal information is through “phishing.” Fraudsters create an e-mail that looks like it was issued from a legitimate company. They will ask for a recipient’s personal information, like an account number or a password, and then use that information to commit financial crimes, such as opening fraudulent charge cards in a consumer’s name and running up big bills on them.

Unsecured Home Networks

Many of us have converted to home wireless networks to connect our TV’s, smartphones, laptops, computers, and tablets. It’s very convenient, but these home networks have risks as well. Without certain protection, cyber criminals in the area may be able to access the Internet through your network and possibly gain access to your computer and other devices.

Lost Data

Given all of the places where we bring mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones, it becomes very easy to lose them. If the data on those devices falls into the wrong hands and isn’t properly protected through techniques like encryption, it can be a field day for cybercriminals. It’s not just consumers who lose data. Forty-five percent of data breaches at companies are caused by lost laptops and mobile devices.

How Do You Protect Yourself?

  • Install antivirus and antispyware programs from a trusted source.
  • Use very tough passwords and don’t share them.
  • Never turn off your firewall even for a few minutes.
  • Be careful when using flash drives that have been into other computers.
  • Keep all software and your browser up to date by using automatic updates.
  • Be careful of all suspicious links, even those that come from “friends.”
  • Keep your e-mail address private.
  • Check out privacy policies when submitting personal information.
  • Use an e-mail filter.
  • Always verify that a request for your data comes from a particular company to avoid “phishing.”
  • Don’t publish identifying information on social networks.
  • Connect a cable or DSL modem to a wireless router securely.
  • Be careful when changing pre-set passwords.
  • Use a “virtual private network” when using your laptop or tablet in a public place.
  • Don’t conduct financial transactions on unsecured wireless networks.
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This entry was posted by Staff Writer on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 5:56:15 PM and is filed under Computer Security & Data Protection.

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