You may think hackers are only focused on FBI break-ins and bank accounts, but nothing could be further from the truth. According to a Ponemon Institute report published this June, 90 percent of surveyed businesses reported at least one IT security breach in the past 12 months. Any breach compromises user data, which means your online activity is always vulnerable to attacks. In fact, many users are most at-risk when visiting their favorite sites. Here you’ll find out where you’re most likely to get hacked, and how you can safeguard your personal information.
Social Networking Sites
These sites are the most popular places users can get hacked. We’ve seen well-publicized reports of celebrities’ Twitter accounts being hacked, and Facebook also has its share of troubles. Not only is your public reputation at stake, your personal information can be lifted and used to access other accounts. Phishing scams for these sites are common. These catch users by sending a link that looks and seems like a social networking login page, but is a fake (see image below).
These phony webpages record your username and password, with the intent of using the information elsewhere. In addition to your online reputation being compromised, hackers may use the information to gain access to your bank accounts, etc.
Stay safe tip: Don’t post sensitive personal information on your profile: name, address, phone number, or other identifiable information. Always login from the actual site page. Create a separate password for each account and avoid common or obvious names or patterns (the more numbers, symbols, mixed case you use, the safer the password).
Although online banking sites generally do all they can to protect their customers’ information, it is not a hack-proof network. Phishing scams are one method, but keylogging is another covert technique used to record your keystrokes and mouse activity. This method targets your computer’s operating system by installing a virus, which tracks your every move.
Stay safe tip: In addition to password protection, use security software, such as ZoneAlarm Extreme Security, which stops malicious software from attacking your computer and bolsters your firewall. And always update your operating system to deploy the latest security patches.
Your email account is highly vulnerable. Hackers tend to target large providers like Gmail, which has had several breaches in the last year. Some safeguards, like password security questions, are easily answered thanks to the information available from social networking profiles (another reason not to post!). Another discreet way hackers monitor your email is through email forwarding.
Stay safe tip: Do not share information with unknown sources – no “company representative” will ever request address or password via email. You should also verify your settings to make sure your mail is not being forwarded to an unknown account. Also, avoid accessing your email over an unsecured network (free Wi-Fi at your local café, for instance). This only increases your chances of being hacked.
The ease and convenience of online shopping has created a multi-billion dollar industry. And with all those transactions, hackers are eager to intercept your communication – and money.
Stay safe tip: Verify that a business is reputable, and that you are shopping on the appropriate site. Sites with user-rated sellers or that have been verified by a third-party are more likely be accountable and have better safeguards in place. When purchasing, double check that the URL begins with the https:// protocol identifier. This means you’re on a secure network that encrypts information being exchanged between you and the site (instead of the unsecured http://).
You should also avoid leaving a digital trail of transactions, in the form of individual credit card files and accounts for each site. Use a digital wallet service, like PayPal, that protects your payment information. Also keep your online browser updated to offer more security measures.
Though there are many reputable sites that put their users best interests at heart, it’s up to each user to safeguard their online activity. Educating yourself, using common sense, and taking precautions will minimize your chances of being hacked.