We’ve all heard that you shouldn’t give out too much information on the Internet so I thought with summer vacation fast approaching it would be a good time to remind people how to stay safe on the Internet.
When you think about all the people who will be on vacation this summer with lots of free time you know some of those people will be looking at ways to hack into computers or take part in identity thief. Just type in “computer hacking” or “how to steal someone’s identity” and see how many results you get.
Here is a list of the ten most dangerous things users do online from School CIO dated May 29, 2009: http://schoolcio.com/ShowArticle/932
- Clicking on email attachments from unknown senders
a. Email attachments are still the easiest way to contract viruses on your computer.
- Installing unauthorized applications.
a. If you can buy and download a software application for $19.95 that sells for much more you’re probably not getting a bargain and the application may have hidden malware or Trojan viruses.
- Turning off or disabling automated security tools
a. Even though some security tools may slow down the performance of your computer it’s not a good idea to ignore security updates or just turn off the firewall. This opens up your computer for attacks from malware or viruses.
- Opening HTML or plain-text messages from unknown senders
a. HTML text and images may be infected with spyware. Other HTML files may contain Java Scripts or macros that allow an unknown person to gain control of your computer turning the computer into a botnet zombie.
b. A botnet zombie also known as a zombie army is a group of Internet computers that have been set up to forward transmissions, spams and/or viruses to other computers on the Internet without the owners knowledge. Basically your computer becomes a computer robot or “bot” for the originator who gains control of your computer.
- Surfing gambling, porn or other legally-risky sites
a. Most workplaces restrict Internet access to risky sites through content filters. Your home computer doesn’t have the same level of filters and restricted access and many of these legally-risky sites put your computer at risk. When you visit these risky sites a cookie is placed in your computer. That cookie can trigger pop-ups to start appearing when you’re on the Internet – pop-ups of inappropriate advertisements. Systematically deleting the cookies on your computer will help.
- Giving out passwords, tokens or smart cards
a. You may have to use a smart card or security token at work but how do you keep your password from family and friends? Simple – don’t give it out. A family member or friend may decide to “look around” and you could become a victim of identity theft.
- Random surfing of unknown, untrusted sites
a. Surfing unknown sites can make your computer vulnerable to adware and spams because hackers like to crack into browser securities, One way to protect your computer would be to surf with active content disabled.
- Attaching to an unknown, untrustworthy WiFi network
a. Sitting at a quiet restaurant using a free WiFi connection may be a nice respite this summer but what about the guy in the next booth who may be hacking into your laptop using that same free WiFi network?
b. Be aware that wireless cards that use Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) are easy for hackers to get your username and password.
- Filling out Web scripts, forms or registration pages
a. A lot of sites today use some type of security such as SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) to provide security when making purchases or giving out sensitive information so if you’re not sure a website is secure call the company and speak to a representative before giving out personal information. Also look for websites that begin with https which are more secure.
- Participating in chat rooms or social networking sites
a. One of the biggest problems with social networks is the amount of information someone can learn about you by simply searching. Hackers can find out where you work, your business partners, names of family members, where you live and even when you plan to take a vacation. Even using a “closed circle” won’t keep out people who are looking for information so be careful how much information you share in a chat room or social network.