How to be Safe Online

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Mar 13th, 2015


The human race is living in technological age and we use our smartphones, laptops, tablets and similar devices to go online to stay connected with family, friends, study and gaming peers, employers, customers and business partners. It enables us to carry out activities such as social networking, sharing information, keeping up to date with news, research and even shopping, banking and paying bills. Thus, there are many things we do online and without it, the world would be a different place. Nevertheless, as there is always two phases of a coin, there are many risks associated with going online.

Encrypted Data: When you carrying out confidential activity, for example, online bank transection or shopping, verify that data is encrypted. To check if the data is encrypted, look for this small lock () adjacent to address bar or bottom right corner of browser window. Make sure that symbol is locked and not unlocked. In addition, look if the web address starts with http:// or not. When the data is encrypted, if intercepted, it would not be in plain text. But if the data is not encrypted and intercepted by a hacker the information would be in plain text and easy to read.

Emails:Emails are not encrypted, thus, confidential private data, for instance, bank details, passwords and credit card information should not be transmitted via email. In addition, cybercriminals do spamming and phishing through emails. They try to lure their prey to click on a link or open an attachment by pretending that email is from financial institution, e-commerce site, government agency, lottery, a potential employer and business. The psychological factor to persuade victim is “matter of urgency” and email urges, “to act quickly”.

Take these simple steps to protect yourself from spamming and phishing.

  • Enable filters on your email account and occasionally check your junk folder to make sure that the filter is not blocking emails you require.
  • Use report spam tool that will preventthese emails to end up in your inbox.
  • Do not show your email address on social networking websites.
  • Do not disclose personal and financial information through emails.
  • Do not click on any malicious link via emails or send to your through social networking websites. That can be a potential phishing attack of identity theft.
  • If you are unsure that email send to you by your bank or business partner etc. it would bewise to reach out in person or telephonically verify the authenticity of the email before acting upon whatever is stated in the email.

Ratting- Remote Access Trojans: There are many threats out there but one specific spyware, which is becoming increasingly common, is known as RAT- Remote Access Trojan. Criminals can access your information or even take control of your device to spy on you that is known as ratting.

RATs are downloaded invisibly with an application requested by you, for example game, or send to you through an email attachment. They are difficult to detect, as they do not effect on machine’s performance. RATs are also used to take control of your webcams to capture videos or images for all sorts of inappropriate purposes. In addition, RATs can be used to spy on target, monitoring online behaviour, accessed confidential information, uploading malware and viruses, formatting computer drivers and deleting systems files.

Therefore, it is important to make sure that you take necessary actions to ensure your safety.

  • Keep up to date antivirus/antispyware software and firewall on your devices.
  • Do not download an app from non-trusted source.
  • Download program and app updates as they normally include security fixes.
  • Take a good look before clicking any attachment and link via email or chat message over social networking websites to avoid being a victim of phishing.
  • Avoid suspicious websites and torrent downloading, as they are a major gateway for this type of cyber-attack.
  • Cover your webcam when not in use, whether it is a built-in or stand-alone device.

Cyber Stalking: Stalking and harassment always existed but with the advent of internet, it is enhanced due to ease of anonymity in virtual world. It can be either from people you know or strangers with different motives. It could be identity theft, account hacking, tracking your movement through GPS on mobiles, impersonation of you being stalk others, being discredited on social media, use of your image, provoke you and taking over your online account. It is at least discomfort and annoyance, and in worst-case scenario distress and mental trauma.

  • Periodically change passwords of primary email IDs.
  • Ensure your wireless hub/router has security turned on.
  • Do not send confidential information while using public Wi-Fi.

Good news is that cyber stalking is an offense in England and Wales, thus,if you are a victim then gather evidence and report if to police.

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