Protecting your personal data is important, whether you are a teenager or in retirement. A lot of people are confused about what they can do to avoid becoming victims of internet fraud. Cyber criminals use phishing attacks – email scams where they trick you to click a download link to viruses, or to open attachments that are no good for you. This is by far the most common way to steal someones data, and to abuse it.
There are two common ways hackers steal your money;
- They hold your computer hostage by using a virus type known as ransomeware or cryptovirus. What this does is it locks your computer files with a password, and they demand money to give you the password back. Sometimes they make you pay several times and don’t give it back to you anyway.
- They steal your payment data, like a credit card. Malware that monitors your purchases can send your credit card data to the hacker, who then abuses the credit card by buying things or paying to himself by setting up a merchant account with a credit card processing company like PayPal.
The question is: what can you do to avoid this? The following list contains about the same information that big companies are offering their employees as cyber awareness training. If you follow these 6 rules you will reduce the risk of this type of cyber attack by around 90%:
- Always be critical of e-mails you receive and don’t open links or attachments you are not sure about. Check the actual internet address of the link and see if it makes sense before opening it. Copy and paste it into your browser instead of clicking it to see this. Don’t visit the site if it looks suspicious.
- Keep all of your software up-to-date. Software upgrades are normally security fixes – they are removing vulnerabilities hackers need to attack your software. Only use software from reputable sources.
- Don’t use public open wifi without a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN creates a protected path for your data communication with the internet, making it impossible for hackers on the network to read your data traffic.
- Always have antivirus software running on your computer, and a firewall.
- Regularly back up your data. You can use a USB drive for this, and disconnect it when you are done backing up. This way hackers can’t lock your files away from you, because you have a safe backup they cannot reach.
- Don’t use the same passwords for many online sites. Sites on the internet are hacked quite often, and if you have used the same email and password on many sites, they get access to everything. ID theft is a big problem, partly because people use the same password everywhere.