PRACTISING SAFE INTERNET
My favourite saying when it comes to online security is, “It’s not paranoia when someone really IS after you!”. Unfortunately, the Internet is rife with people wanting to steal our money, information or to just wreak havoc.
Here are four areas where we all need to be aware of the dangers.
No 1. Updates
Malicious attacks on computers these days are often directed at holes and bugs in operating systems or software. Although most are patched quickly and antivirus software updates released, not everyone updates their computers and security software, despite it being the most popular advice given by IT professionals (well besides “have you tried turning it off and back on again”). To not update your software is like leaving the key in the door. For those trying to stretch out the life of old unsupported Operating Systems such as Windows XP, you’re just leaving the door wide open. The 3 rules of real estate are location, location and location. For the Internet the 3 rules are update, update and update. Ensuring automatic updates are enabled is the easiest step you can take to keep yourself safer.
No 2. Email
Email is such an integral part of life now we take it for granted. For many, the flow of email is so great we sometimes don’t pause to consider if an email is legitimate. Electricity bills, tax office, phone bills, eBay or PayPal are just some of the types of emails people receive on a regular basis and it’s easy to grow complacent.
The professionalism of malicious emails has improved, making them hard to detect from the real thing. Most are in the form of attachments or links to fraudulent websites that infect your computer or device. Once infected they might capture your credit card details, personal information or infect your computer with ransomware. Some also may take control of your computer and use it to attack other websites or send out spam emails without your knowledge. You may also be redirected to a website that looks just like real websites you use, tricking you to enter in your login details.
Many malicious emails urge you to act now, rushing you to click before you think to check if it’s legitimate. The key here is to treat all emails as suspicious. If you wish to verify the email, ring or email the business directly. For many services such as eBay or PayPal for instance, any message they email you will also be in your account if you visit the website and login. So often there’s no need to click on the email links at all.
No. 3 Websites
Often in malicious emails, it can be the link to a website that is the real danger. Unfortunately, web browsers are still vulnerable and probably will be for the foreseeable future. As you visit a web page, you’re inviting the website to download all kinds of things, including small programs that can run on your computer, it’s the way web browsers work and it’s the way infections can occur. Web browsers could be made safer, however to do that we’d probably lose much of the great functionality of the Web.
Often, it’s not the first website we look at but several down the line where we’ve click on links to take us somewhere else. You must decide if you trust the website you are on before clicking any links. Another risk is when legitimate websites may have been infected due to poor security or programming. A good reason to ensure your computer and security software is up to date. Google does attempt to track malicious or infected sites and offers a warning, but if you’ve clicked on links inside emails or from another website, you will have bypassed these warnings.
Adult content is one of the worst offenders for computer infections and anyone wishing to go looking for it will most likely fall victim. I jokingly tell customers that if they want to surf for adult sites, use someone else’s computer because you can’t risk your own. But really, it’s no joke as having your bank account cleaned out or identity stolen is traumatic and can leave you in all sorts of difficulty.
No. 4 Free Public Wi-Fi
At the time of writing, the world woke to a quite serious discovery that the security we’ve taken for granted for so long to protect our Wi-Fi has a vulnerability that puts us all at risk of being hacked. This has serious ramifications as many businesses and homes now rely heavily on Wi-Fi for networking and Internet access. Our No.1 topic “Updates” is also important here. For more information on this issue visit http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-17/wi-fi-vulnerable-to-hacks-after-flaw-discovered/9056334
Recent discoveries aside, open Wi-Fi access has always carried risk. The reason is that for most situations, you end up on the inside of a network and no longer protected by a firewall/router. This means the firewall, a major piece of equipment that has been protecting us from many more dangers of the Net, is not protecting us from people who are also on the same Wi-Fi connection.
So many people now make use of open Wi-Fi hotspots that the chance of a hacker being nearby is a real possibility. Using secure websites that use SSL to encrypt data while visiting the site is helpful, but it doesn’t protect you from the hacker trying to attack your computer or mobile device. I personally only use Wi-Fi where I know all the users and where it’s not open to the public. Some high quality hot spots may isolate users from each other, however cafes and small businesses probably don’t, leaving those connected at risk.
One more thing that can help is to use SSL for your email. Most webmail services and some ISP’s offer a secure connection to email. This protects your username and password from being visible. For mobile devices it’s really a necessity.
It’s not possible to remove all the risks while being online, but being cautious with your emails, web browsing and open Wi-Fi hotspots might just help to keep you safe to enjoy the great functionality the Internet provides.
To see the other articles visit www.awe.net.au/articles
It's not paranoia when someone really is after you!