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5 Ways To Protect Yourself Online

Today I want to share with you some simple steps that you can take to protect yourself from cyber criminals.  You may remember the story just about a month ago of a crime ring of 11 individuals indicted for stealing 40 million credit card numbers.  It was very interesting to learn how they pulled off their crime.  It involved something known as War Driving.  War Driving is when a cyber criminal drives up and down public streets with a laptop looking for unsecured wireless networks. Think of this as a group of criminals walking through a neighborhood or business complex and rattling each door knob looking for an unlocked door.  Once they find an open door, they simply walk in and take what they want.  This is exactly how cyber criminals tap into wireless networks.  In the case mentioned above, a crime ring discovered an unsecured wireless network of a major credit card processor based in Arizona.  They used their laptop from the street to embed software into the network that would give them ongoing access to what amounted to 40 million credit cards! 

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime today, the primary method of stealing your personal information is through the Internet.  There are some simple steps that anyone can use to protect themselves online.

1.  Be Sure Your Firewall Is Turned On

Your computer’s firewall serves as a line of first defense denying outside parties unauthorized access to your system.  A firewall is already on your computer if you are using a Windows operating system.  You can access your firewall by clicking on start, control, and selecting network connections.  You can click on your firewall to make sure it is on and working.  The default setting is “On” and it is recommended that you also click on “Don’t allow exceptions” if you use unsecured networks, such as in airports or coffee shops. 

2.  Set Up Security On Your Wireless Network

Recently while visiting a friend of mine I set up my laptop to go online.  There were about a dozen wireless networks available, this was because he lives in a high rise condominium.  Most of these networks were unsecured!  While everyone should set up security for their network, those that live in apartment buildings or other close quarters have the highest risk.  If you do not have security in place on your home wifi network, hackers can gain access to the information you are putting out over the Internet.  This includes any time you use online banking or your credit cards over the Internet.  If you need step by step instructions on how to secure your network, simply Google the name of your wireless router.  Once you find the support section of the website for your router, you should be able to find the instructions.  If this is above your head, pay a few bucks to have a local computer company come in and do this for you.  Again, you are especially at risk if your wireless router signal can be picked up outside your home.  While this is most commonly a problem in apartment buildings and the like, many home wifi signals can transmit out to the street or even a house or two away.

3.  Stop Spyware

Spyware is computer software that is placed on a users system without their permission.  The software collects information from the users computer and sends it to the the creator of the software.  Yes, this would include your banking and credit card information.  A type of spyware is what was used in the recent theft of 40 million credit cards mentioned earlier in this article.  A great free program that I use is AVG and you can download it for free Click Here  This program is one of the best antivirus and anti-spyware programs available and it is free!  I have been using it for about six years now and have been very happy with it.

4.  Don’t Become A Victim Of Phishing

Phishing is the use of fraudulent e mails that appear to be coming from a bank or other financial institution.  The e mail will typically announce that you must update your credit card and/or other personal information due to some bogus urgent reason.  The e mail will contain a link that takes you to a website that looks exactly like that of your bank or other financial institution.  Up until recently, you could figure out that you were not really at your bank’s website by looking at the address in your address bar.  Now, cyber criminals have figured out methods of actually masking or cloaking the web address to even make that appear to be correct!  The answer, don’t ever click on these e mails.  If you want to find out if there really is a problem with your bank account, type in the web address yourself and navigate directly to your account.  If there is a problem with your account or anything needs to be updated, you should see a message to that effect when you log in.

5.  Beware Of Pharming

Pharming attacks redirect users from legitimate Web sites they are trying to visit to fraudulent Web sites.  A successful pharming operation can cause even a correctly typed in web address to be forwarded to a fake site that can be used to steal your personal information.  Experts suggest that you look for the small lock that appears at the end of the web address.  The lock icon indicates that the site is secured, however the lock icon can be faked as well. In order to be sure you should double click on the lock icon and read the security certificate.  Make sure it is up to date and is actually for the site that you intended to visit.

Are you a computer geek or do you have some information to add, please do so in the comments section below.

Helping you make the most of God’s money!

James L. Paris
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