Do you use the Internet on a frequent basis? If your favorite activities involve online shopping, banking, using social media, and playing games, then your computer is most likely quite susceptible to cyber-crime. While you yourself may not be doing anything wrong, there are people with the skills and the knowledge who know how to hack into your computer and use it for malicious purposes. In fact, in some cases, they can even access your computer and use it for cyber bullying, which is a major crime. However, there are a few things that you can do to protect your PC from these hackers and to maintain your cyber security. Here are a few commonly-asked questions that may be able to help you out:
Do I Really Need a Firewall for Cyber Security?
Yes, you absolutely need a firewall, and you need to keep it turned on at all times. Think of a firewall as a giant brick wall that your computer builds up inside of itself. When enemies (hackers) come towards it and try to breach your security and invade your programs, they quickly run into this brick wall, causing them to fall back, wherein their attack ultimately fails.
Some programs may interact with your firewall and ask you to turn off your firewall in order to run the program. If this is the case, do not do it. Most likely, the program that is asking you to disable your firewall is a malicious program with bad coding built into it. If you want your laptop to remain safe from any intrusions, then you need to uninstall any programs that ask you to decrease your security levels.
What is Anti-Spyware/Anti-Virus Software, and Should I have it for cyber security?
You need both anti-spyware and anti-virus software working in combination in order to combat any cyber-crime attacks that may come in the direction of your computer. You can think of these programs as vaccinations and doctors for your computer. Your Antivirus software is like a vaccine, because it equips your computer with information about the latest cyber-attacks on the Internet, and then it helps you to maintain cyber security inside and out.
Anti-spyware software, on the other hand, scans your entire computer for rogue programs or coding that may exist in the system. If it detects anything, this software gives you the chance to quarantine that program or eliminate it altogether, thus keeping your computer even safer.
What sort of Activities put my cyber security at Risk?
Unfortunately, virtually anything you do can put your computer at risk. Numerous people can access it, and you can quickly find yourself becoming a victim of cyber bullying. Sometimes people even have ways of hacking into your computer, taking complete control of it, and then cyber bullying others with it. Here are some of the most common activities in which people engage online that tend to put them more at risk, according to Rasmussen.edu:
- Watch mature (adult) content/videos/and more. Anything in the “adult” industry puts you at great risk. Not only can this content easily be tracked, but these websites also embed special codes and bugs into your PC that make it easier for cyber criminals to access later on.
- Lying about personal information is another element that can easily make you fall prey to cyberbullying and other online crimes. For example, if you are only 13 but you claim to be 18 so that you can get a date, this can open up the door to all kinds of problems. This is where cyber-stalking begins. Also, if you fill out forms online and you put incorrect or blatantly false information, hackers can then steal that information and create multiple online accounts, bank accounts and more under your name.
- If you go to cyber-cafes frequently, or if you just tend to frequent places that offer free Wi-Fi, your computer may be susceptible to cyber-crime. Studies have shown that when people go into cyber-cafes, hackers can easily log into your computer with a wireless uplink, or by redirecting you to their website. These sites require you to click a special link to get out of the website and begin browsing the web. As soon as you click this link, you have just opened the gateway for hackers to come in and steal your banking information and more.
Are there Ways to Combat the Problem and achieve cyber security?
Fortunately, yes, there are many different ways to combat cyber-crime and to maintain the cyber security of your laptop or PC. In fact, there are quite a few common cyber security mistakes people make online that you can actually choose not to make, and thus keep yourself protected:
- Never Use the Same Password for Everything
Do not ever use the same password for each website that requires a login. If you do this, it makes your account much easier to hack into, and thus, every website you use is immediately compromised. This makes it far easier for hackers to steal your banking information, view your history, and even take full control of your computer.
- Use Caution when Clicking on Hyperlinks
If you are sent a hyperlink to click on telling you that you have just won a contest (especially if it is for a contest that you don’t remember entering), the chances that it is probably not safe to click on are fairly high. Even if you are on a social network or reading your email, you need to make sure that any hyperlinks you click on are redirected to websites that you trust. But above all, the key rule to remember is that you should never click on a link or open an email that was sent to you from someone you don’t know or don’t trust.
There are other websites online that tell you “click now to claim your prize.” If you are being offered free merchandise of any sort, you should not trust this link, because it is usually just a portal to the world of cyber-crime, malware, viruses and more.
- Only use Secure Wireless Connections
If you frequent cyber cafes, there are all kinds of doors that could be opened to your computer. In fact, chances are that your computer is already infected if you have used some sort of unsecured wireless connection at one point. If you want to maintain your cyber security and protect yourself from cyberbullying, then you should only use secure wireless networks. That means that you should only use your home network (which is password protected), or a password-protected network at a reliable friend or family member’s home.
- Keep all your Security Programs Updated
It is extremely important for you to make sure that your anti-virus, anti-spyware/anti-malware, and various other security programs are all up-to-date. In general, you should update these programs at least once a week for more cyber security, because they contain important definitions that can increase your overall security.
- Be Careful What you Post
Remember that the Internet is quite a large place. When you post to online forums or social networking sites, everyone who uses that site can see everything that you say there. Even if there are moderators to control these sites, not even the best moderators can catch everything inappropriate that is said. If you want to stay safe while using the Web, then you need to consider what you are saying in public places that exist on the Internet.
One type of content that you should never post (or at least use caution when posting) is your personal information. Yes, it is okay to tell people how old you are and where you live. But beyond that, you should never use your real name online unless it is required. Even when you do use a screen name on the Internet, it should not be the same name for each site, because otherwise, you will be quite easy to track, making yourself susceptible to cyber-stalking later on.
You should also never post any sexual content on the Internet, because this makes you a target for all kinds of stalking, violence, and more. People on the Internet can use this information to stalk you in the real world and cause physical harm to you. If you don’t want this to happen, it is generally a good idea to use extreme caution (and common sense) when posting things online.
- Protect your Bank Account
If you engage in online banking, or if you shop online, you need to protect your wallet. Don’t just order products from every website that comes your way. You really need to do a lot of background research on the company you are ordering from. First of all, check inside the box where the URL for that website is located. If it says: https://, then you know that it is a secure website, which means that you are on a secure website, and thus, it is quite safe to use. The same is true if a padlock symbol appears in the same area as well.
Don’t order from third-party websites. Only stick with the major retailers online, because these are generally reputable companies and can be trusted to handle your personal data with care. If you are using McAfee as your anti-virus/anti-spyware program, it should tell you which sites are trusted and which aren’t when you browse online. Only view the “McAfee secure” sites, because then you can be certain to browse in safety.
If you need to, view the privacy and security policy from the website that you are shopping on. This should provide you with critical information as to what exactly your merchant does with the banking/financial data you provide them with. If they sell or redistribute your information to other merchants not affiliated with them, then you need to avoid said merchant at all costs if you want to remain safe.
What Should I do if I Have Been Hacked?
If you suspect you have been hacked, even if you are unsure, you should probably report the information right away. If it turns out to be nothing, at least you took preventative measures to protect yourself. However, if you find that some of your personal information was indeed accessed and used for malicious purposes, you may be able to recover that information and protect your identity before any further damage can be done.
The first step that you will need to take if you suspect that you have been hacked is to call your banking/financial institutions. Cancel your debit card or credit card immediately, or at least ask these institution to place a suspension on your account so that your funds cannot be accessed until another point in time in which you declare that it is okay to access them again. You should also obtain a copy of your credit report, if possible. This will show you exactly what kind of damage may have been done in your name, and it will help you figure out exactly what you need to do to repair your credit or keep it intact.
Scan your computer for malware, spyware, and viruses. These scans eliminate any potential threats and keep you safe from cyber attackers all over the Internet. If there is any malicious content that has been placed on your computer, these programs can easily remove it.
You also need to update or change all your passwords right away. For every website that you have used that required login information, you will need to reset the passwords. Hackers can place key-loggers on your computer or home PC, which then tracks all the information that you type in. Once the key-logger has been removed from your computer, with the help of your anti-virus/anti-malware software, it is time to change all your passwords—especially those for your banking institutions, employer’s website and more.
If you are trying to keep your PC protected from cyber-crime, then these are some of the best steps that you can take. Each of these steps will help you to keep your computer running for a very long time, and they also help you to protect your identity.