Advancement in technology is not only facilitating the people by providing them luxuries in every field but also bringing a burden of worries along with it. There was a time when people used to keep their most valuable things, which off course could be money, underground or hidden from others so no one gets information about it. The time has changed with the rise in technological advancement and the trend is towards keeping things online to make them secure and inaccessible to others. Viewing this trend, every possible measure is being adopted for the security of private online information so only the related and authorized person gets the information. It has become among one of the most discussed subjects to ensure online security after shocking incidents of phishing, hacking attempts and data breaches which are continuously worrying online security experts. A huge budget of Giant online companies is spent to ensure the site security but the cyber criminals still keep trying to find loopholes in security. In this tug of war between security experts and the clever group of hackers, an individual must know how to keep his online information safe and secure in order to avoid big losses.
October 2014 is being celebrated as National Cyber Security Month in US. The purpose of celebrating this month is to raise awareness to ensure online security at individual and collective levels. So we are also participating in this awareness campaign as directed by SingleHop to raise awareness against hacking, spam and online scams.
Why You Need Te Secure Your Online Information:Everyone has a unique identity on internet which lets internet differentiate between person to person and providing information to relevant person by examining his identity. It costs a lot when your identity is stolen which allows other person to impersonate as you so getting access to private and financial information which belongs to you only. Email addresses, passwords, credit card numbers, banking information etc include the examples of that data which can cause trouble if any irrelevant person gets access to them. To stop this from happening, there is need to keep your online information secure.
Number of methods are being used by hackers and cyber criminals to access your online information. It is a common observation that big crimes are committed by genius people which gets success with their clever intentions. Finding loopholes, breaching security and hacking attempts are those crimes which an ordinary person cannot do. So this is the reason why you see internet security always being updated because a group of genius but wicked hackers is always finding ways to cross the barriers of internet security. In order to stay safe online, you must know how hackers can steal information and how you can prevent this from happening.
So we are going to divide this article in two parts. First is about hacking methods used by hackers and scammers to get online information and in second part we would discuss the most effective ways and tips which help to protect your information over internet.
A. How Hackers Can Get Your Online Credentials:If you are innocent enough to think that your information is always secure until you disclose your private credentials to someone yourself then this concept is going to totally ruin your online security because hackers use a number of methods to breach security which you cannot imagine. Below is the description of some most common hacking methods.
1. Phishing:Phishing is the most common method of hacking used to hack social media accounts, financial information etc. In this method the hacker makes webpages which looks similar to that of popular social media sites, Email provider or financial information website in such a way that it completely impersonates it so it becomes difficult to determine without close analysis if it is real or fake page. When the victim enters his credentials on phishing pages they become visible to hackers so victims losses his information.
It is most popular hacking method around the world wide web. Millions of Email are sent daily which contain links to phishing pages even those Emails look masterpiece of phishing because they resemble just like original Email from the big companies. A close analysis to detect phishing can help in distinguishing between a real webpage and a fake page.
2. Keylogger Softwares:If someone has access to your computer then it might be vulnerable for online security because in this case your private information can be accessed by others.
Keyloggers are those software which keep record of each and every keystroke on your computer and can be easily made hidden thus the victim exposes his information unknowingly. Keyloggers are basically designed for security purposes but hackers use them negatively thus breaching security.
3. Online Scams/Fraudulent Schemes:Its not limited to those hackers who steal information technically but it can also be done in a more advanced fashion. That is by using techniques to fool the victims by promising a huge amount of money in return of nearly almost no work. While surfing internet, you might have read about these schemes which promise to make you millionaire over night. The titles grab visitors attention and they go forward. In addition to scam websites a group of scammers is also active which sends Emails promising to give millions of dollars in return of some favor. We had shared some information about these suspicious Emails a couple months ago.
This is much more sophisticated scam and according to FBI's Internet Complaint Center (IC3), more than quarter of a million complaints were registered in 2013 against these type of online scams. IC3 disclosed worrying facts in their 2013 reports. It says,
In 2013, the IC3 received 262,813 consumer complaints with an adjusted dollar loss of $781,841,6111, which is a 48.8 percent increase in reported losses since 2012 ($581,441,110).It surely grabs someone's attention when he read a Subject that includes promises to make him rich overnights so victims who are unaware of hackers' tactics, loss their money in these schemes. This scheme include but not limited to online auctions, lottery scams, financial scams, charity scams, credit card scams, travel scams, sales scams etc.
It should be kept in mind that no one can become rich overnights on internet so trusting on this type of promises can ruin your whole online security. Its necessary to learn about these scams thus you remain safe online.
4. Data Breaches:The above methods are acquired to hack online information of individuals but a more genius group of hackers is working on a massive scale. The term data breach refers to breaking online security of a big company thus accessing confidential information of its customers. Recent examples of massive data breaches are hacks of Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase, Target, Adobe etc in which millions of customers lost their credit cards info and private credentials. Massive data breaching has worried a person on individual level more than an online security expert because they are not considering their financial information safe and secure even in the walls of tightened security.
Massive data breaches happen when hackers find loopholes in servers of a company and then sell the information to third party or use it themselves.
Minimizing the risk of data breaches is important. One way to do this is to store information using secure dedicated servers. These servers are used solely by one entity and are not shared virtual spaces where other potentially harmful entities have access a portion of the server. This reduces points of access and helps companies keep customer data safe.
5. Cookie Theft:Cookies are those small files which are created when a user visits a site. Cookies are stored in browser's directory and every time the user visits the same website, cookies are sent to the servers hence server identify that this is the user who visited the site earlier with same browser. Cookies help webmasters to track their users efficiently. Cookies also store log in information thus a user does not have to enter his User ID and password each and every time he visits the site again. It seems a useful thing but what if someone steals your cookie files to use them for his own?
Cookie theft is also a type of hacking in which the hacker steals cookie files and then visits the site impersonating as victim. The servers will identify him as the victim because the hacker has access to his account without entering his credentials. After getting into victim's account, the criminal can do whatever he wants with that account so an individual should wisely deal with his cookies. Logging out each and every time from your account after using it is necessary and its better to clear browser's cookies regularly. Public internet connections and computers are best source of cookie theft for hackers.
Now we proceed towards our second part which deals with anti-hacking methods and most effective tips to keep your online information safe and secure.
B. How To Stay Safe Online:Staying safe online isn't a difficult thing and it can be done by adopting some useful habits online which can avoid big losses. The methods that we have discussed in above lines are preventable by following the guidelines which we are going to share now.
1. Don't Open Junk/Spam Emails:Daily million of spam Emails are sent and you might receive a part of those Emails which go in spam/junk folder of your Email account.
There may be some useful Emails too but most of the times only useless Emails are filtered as spam by your Email provider. These spam Emails might contain links to phishing pages or any sort of scamming thus deleting them without reading is a good option. Don't open any spam Email until you are cent percent sure about the authority of Email sender.
2. Get In-Depth Analysis Of Email And Web-Page:It is not always possible to ignore Emails thus to avoid phishing scam, you must get a deep analysis of Emails and web-pages. Nowadays most Email providers use spam filters for suspicious Emails. Although the filters work accurately but sometimes they can allow spam Emails to get into inbox. In this situation you must check Email for detecting spam or phishing.
Following are the methods of analyzing an Email.
- Check the subject if it contains your name in it. If it is from the company you have provided your name and Email then it must contain your name otherwise it could be spamy.
- Check the sender's address if is sent by real company or hacker. For example, an Email sent by facebook will have sender's address email@example.com . Thoroughly check the spelling of sender's address. Some alphabets or characters can cause confusion like "0" can be used instead of "o" or "@" instead of "a". You should not be confused with these confusing characters and always make sure Email is sent by right address.
- Check for spelling and grammatical mistakes. In most cases spam Emails contain text with poor spelling and grammar which announce loudly that the Email is fake but it isn't the situation all the time, sometimes you might receive Emails with proficiency in language but those Emails can be identified by other means.
- If the Email is asking you to update your financial information like Paypal passwords, credit cards info etc, they are surely scam. If it is necessary to update that information, you can directly visit company's website to manage your information.
- Does sender request you to disclose personal information? Then just delete it and no need to click any link in Email.
- Check the domain if it is exact as your financial institute website or social media website. Closely check for slight errors like hyphens, underscores and similar looking alphabets. If the domain exactly matches then go forward. For example a "0" might mask "o" like facebook.com should not be faceb00k.com.
- Before entering any credentials, always check if the URL bar contains a Padlock beside the domain. This padlock is the sign of HTTPS/SSL certificate. It is always necessary because the padlock indicates that site is secure and the transfer of data between servers is encrypted.
3. Create Bookmarks In Browser:It is better practice to access a site from browser bookmarks rather than clicking Email links. Email links might be redirecting to phishing pages but usage of bookmarks makes it sure that you will always open real website.
4. Don't Dream Of Becoming Millionaire Overnights:According to data gathered by internet security agencies most the times scam victims lost their money and private information while dreaming of becoming millionaire overnights.Making money from internet is a fact but it doesn't mean it can make you rich in few days without actually doing nothing. So always think legitimate, live in real world where you have to work hard in order to make money. This mindset will keep you away from ponzi and fraudulent schemes with "Become rich in nights" like slogan hence securing you online.
5. Use Two Factor Authentication:Social media sites and financial institution sites are using two factor authentication for securing you online. By using two factor authentication, a pin code is required to access the account after entering user ID and password. The pin code is sent by text. You can also receive notifications on your mobile phone when someone opens your account hence you always know when your account was opened. It makes almost impossible for hackers to steal your data unless you provide them access to your cell phone and you probably aren't going to do it :)
6. Always Log In From Trusted Computer And Internet Connection:
In above lines, I have discussed use of keyloggers in hacking methods. So make it sure to log in using trusted computer which is operated by yourself only or trusted people. On the other hand a trusted internet connection is also necessary because public internet connections are great place for hackers. A trusted internet connection means same as trusted computer. If you have your own wireless router, then protect it with a secure and difficult to guess password to reduce chances of being hacked.
7. Clear Browser's Cookies And Cache After Working:Cookies can also be used for hacking purposes so it is recommended to clear cookies and cache of your browser after working on internet. Its more helpful to work in "Private" or "Incognito" mode of browsers which automatically clears cookies and cache after the browser is closed. Press CTRL+SHIFT+P in Firefox to open private mode and CTRL+SHIFT+N in Chrome to open incognito mode. It doesn't save any type of history in browser too.
8. Use Firewall And Antivirus Softwares:
A firewall is a software which blocks other computers from accessing yours. Always make sure that your firewall is working and is instructed to block other computers. Windows operating system comes with an efficient pre installed firewall which can be made more powerful by installing an Antivirus program.
9. Don't Click On Pop-up Ads:While surfing on internet, you might come across many pop-up ads most of which contain links to malware programs. Clicking on these ads is harmful and is not recommended no matter what they promise. Its better to install Ads blocker plugins in your browser which stop displaying of pop-up Ads.
10. Download Any Item Carefully:If you are downloading something from internet, then there is need to be very careful because a massive garbage of malwares is available on the name of useful softwares. These malwares can breach your online security and might be harmful for your system. Always download any item from trusted source and check each and every step of software installation if you are installing right software or dangerous "Malwares".
Usually malware come along in the download package of those "free software" which are illegal or very difficult to obtain for free like people are made fool on the name of social media hacking softwares who don't know reality of social media hacking sites.
These are the general methods to prevent hacking attempts which are very easy to follow. A slight care regarding these can help you staying safe online so remember these tips always while browsing internet.