The dawn of the internet, along with the tech age, netted us numerous benefits. From communications to work, the online world made our day-to-day lives easier. But nothing comes without its fair share of drawbacks.
The web is full of malicious entities seeking to take advantage of naïve users. And whether done for laughs or monetary gain, these people are getting artful. We’re talking about socially engineered attacks like phishing, pretexting, scareware, etc. Some are so well-crafted even veteran netizens sometimes fall for them.
Becoming a victim could potentially ruin your life and affect others. Because of this, it’s crucial to be aware of the lurking dangers and how to avoid them.
So, what are the potential threats the average user might face online? Bad actors will likely target you in these ways:
- Email scams. Masquerading as legitimate organizations and people, these usually ask you to enter your personal or banking information. Some even include links or files. Signs of phishing emails include grammar & spelling errors, urgent demands, and mock links.
- Fake websites. These are also created in hopes you’ll mistake the counterfeit for the real one and enter your credentials. Generally, cybercriminals create duplicates of government or banking websites and charge money for technically free services.
- Malicious software. All kinds of malware can be spread via links, file attachments, torrents, and more. Depending on the purpose, they can steal your info, take control of your device, and even infect other machines.
While you can never make yourself 100% foolproof, at least there are ways to minimize the chances of becoming another statistic. It involves following general security advice and utilizing tools created to combat these threats.
This point bears repeating since many people still refuse to create proper, unique passwords. Some even jeopardize themselves further by using the same one (or couple) anytime they create an account. It’s incredibly unsafe and makes it easier for bad actors to brute force their way in.
Here are some password creation rules to abide by:
- Never use personal information and common words;
- The password should be at least 12 characters long;
- Use a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols;
- Avoid keyboard patterns like QWERTY, ASDFG, and such.
Remembering complex passwords is, understandably, hard. Do not write them down anywhere – this is another security hazard. You’ll be better off with a password manager. These tools can generate login credentials for you and store them in a secure vault.
Outdated software is dangerous for a reason. Developers are constantly working on new versions to fix not only various bugs or glitches but potential and known security holes. And these flaws can be exploited by users who understand what to look for.
Update your OS and programs whenever a fresh patch comes out. Or better yet, enable automatic updates, so you don’t have to keep track of everything. A critical fix downloaded on time can save your devices from being taken advantage of.
You could land on malware and get infected without even knowing it. What happens to your device hinges on the type of malicious software. These include but are not limited to:
- Viruses. They prevent systems and/or programs from working correcly, which can result general operation disruptions and even data loss.
- Spyware. Instead of disrupting operations, these secretly log sensitive data and send it back to the entities that created them. The most commonly known type is keyloggers which track your keystrokes.
- Adware. While not all of it is malicious, most are dangerous because clicking on them could infect you with viruses, trojans, and spyware.
- Ransomware. Usually a part of phishing attacks, they encrypt private data stored in your device and demand money to regain access to it.
Getting a reputable antivirus program is the best way to prevent damage caused by such software. They are designed to scan and root out malware before they do anything. Some include additional features that block adverts and stop user trackers.
Virtual Private Networks, commonly referred to as VPNs, elevate your security and privacy to another level. It’s achieved by hiding your actual IP address and encrypting all internet traffic with industry-leading AES-256 encryption. The most secure VPN services offer plenty of other benefits as well.
Depending on the provider, you can get:
- Traffic obfuscation. It bypasses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) by hiding all tracks of VPN usage, allowing you to utilize this technology in internet-restrictive countries like China.
- MultiHop. This feature routes traffic through two (or more) VPN servers instead of one, resulting in maximum untraceability.
- Ad & malware blockers. Lightweight versions of antivirus software, these block intrusive advertisements, user trackers, and a good amount of malware.
- Data breach monitors. They scan the web for past and current data leaks and inform users whenever their credentials are compromised.
Only some realize how even a little bit of personal data shared online can be used against them. The more you reveal about yourself, the more you are at risk of identity theft and harassment. Worst case scenario, bad actors gain access to your private records, financial details, medical information, etc.
Avoid giving away your name, age, address, phone number, pet names, where you’re going, what you’re doing, and things like that. Even sharing photos on social media is dangerous since their metadata includes GPS coordinates which can be used to track your whereabouts.
While the internet might seem like the Wild West sometimes with all these pitfalls, you can avoid falling victim to them. All it takes is a bit of precaution from your side – knowing & recognizing the threats, following internet safety advice, and arming yourself with the right tools.