A few words about computer and Internet security, there isn’t any! This is especially true with email. Email is the single largest spreader of malware and phishing (getting pieces of information) on the planet. Some information is out of your control, like when you swipe that card at Target.
According to CNN Money there are at least two major data breeches a day: department stores, online stores, banks, motor vehicles, Facebook, Gmail the list goes on. What they do is called Profiling. It is just what it says. Somewhere out there someone is building a profile just about you.
First they got your name, address, bank account number and a PIN from data they purchased from someone who hacked a department store, say Target. The next day they meet a guy for coffee and purchases a ton of fresh Facebook data. They took it home and ran it against the first batch and behold they have a match. That match is you and a million others. Now added to what they have is your user name, photos, friends, pets, birthdays, contacts, emails, everything and anything you posted. They will even know when you are not home.
Now with this new data they run an algorithm against your email address and naturally you used a birthday for the password and wham they are in your email account … but hold this thought. What happened to the first batch of information they collected?
While they were working on breaking your Gmail, a Russian mobster came along and paid a boat load for that banking and address info and is off to print credit cards, open accounts, pretty much whatever they want and you would be screwed for years. Back to your Gmail.
First they hit your contacts and address book so your friends and acquaintances can all be infected. Then they scan your email folders, see who you have been talking to. Maybe some account information. Next YOU get an email from Aunt Jen who’s in jail in the UK and needs bail money so naturally you open it. At this point assuming your virus and malware software is up to date it should catch it …. But not always why, ‘cause most of you don’t keep it up to date is the main reason. Same is true with operating systems and browsers and second security is reactive at best.
Did you ever wonder why there are so many updates? Simple every time a security hole is patched the hackers find or build a new one. But back to Aunt Jen’s urgent email. You open it because it takes a moment to realize that there is no way Aunt Jen could be in jail in the UK. At this point it is too late. Their little piece of malware has free run. Passwords, user names, account numbers including credit card and banking. Maybe they installed a key logger. Pretty much whatever they want is all there for picking.
All this information is added to what was already collected and all you can do is sit back and wait for something to happen. Think about it, they could get a passport in your name if they wanted to, get credit, buy a car, get a nose job all on you or are there steps you can take?
The short answer is this, don’t put the information out there in the first place. Next would be, not to store certain information on the computer. Now I know that there are practicalities in place but there are steps you can take to limit your exposure.
Lets’ start with the first, using your credit card for shopping both in a store and online. Do not use a credit card! Instead get a debit card with a set limit. After this past year many credit card issuers have limited store charges anyway. Using a debit card will give you an early warning and a level of damage control.
Now the second one your online personal information. This is a tough one, a lot of fine lines here but for now we are talking usernames and passwords. It is hard not to talk about the kids or birthdays but you do not need to use them for passwords. This is a case where being lazy can really cost you. For me the best passwords are what are called “Strong” passwords. A random mix of numbers and symbols right off the keyboard. Nothing related to my life in any way shape or form. Given that most logins use your email as the user a strong password is your only defense. Use strong passwords for everything but do not use the same one password for all logins. Now how to remember those passwords leads us to the information on your computer.
How can you not store information on your computer isn’t that what they are for? Well yeah and for the most part what is on your computer is of no interest except certain little pieces. And these pieces are usually kept in neat easy to find folders.
Your first line of defense should be your virus and malware filters. This is very important and it is very important to keep them up to date. The same is true with operating systems and software.
Next are those passwords. Rule one, if your computer offers to save or to auto fill SAY NO. This just saves everything into one neat pile. Forget about the software that promises to keep it all safe. So where do you keep all these passwords, banking information, and account logins? Flash drives. Good old cheap flash drives. Save your data to simple word or text files to the flash drive. Only insert the drive when you are going to use it. They are great for backing up data too.
You can load Firefox onto a flash drive and keep your browsing private when using strange machines.
You cannot do this with most mobile devices so you have to careful what you store on your phone. Never store critical information or banking on a mobile device besides hacking they are vulnerable to theft and lose. While we are talking mobile a couple of words about some of the most dangerous places for getting hacked, public hot spots. Coffee shops, airports, down town. It is so easy to spoof a hotspot it is incredible. You could be giving your data to the person at the next table and never know it.
So this is my security rant. So many people are getting hit and it’s not necessary. Just open your eyes to the world we live in and take some simple steps. Make it harder for someone to get your valuable information.