Everyone has something they would just rather the rest of the world not know, from things like your social security numbers to bank information to simple pictures which may not have been taken in the best of light if seen by certain parties. For many Hackers and scammers alike, this information is invaluable; this is exactly the kind of stuff they are after.
In the last 20 years since the world wide web was initially created, identity theft has increased substantially. This is partially due to having so much information available over the web. People steal your identity through programs and scams such as keyloggers, phising sites, Trojan viruses, and packet interception (also called packet sniffing). So the question is.
What can you do to keep your personal information personal?
To answer that question, let's look at each of these methods, go over how they are used, and what you can do to stop them.
Keyloggers, and trojan viruses are programs which log your keystrokes or take screen shots to obtain information such as passwords, credit card information, your name, addresses, friends E-mail addresses, and even your social if you use it often.
So how do Keyloggers, and trojans get on your computer?
There are many ways in which you can get a keylogger. The most prominent is the downloading of illegal software or music. Using sites such as limewire and other P2P (Person to Person) sharing zones can quickly let a virus right in the front door.
The second, is through security holes in your Operating System, and far less often, but not impossible. Guests who you allow to use your computer can install the key logger to spy on you. So how do you block all these holes in your computers security?
Security holes in Windows can be closed by enabling the windows firewall. Do not allow applications you don't recognize to access the Internet. Another important thing to do is to make sure windows is up to date with all the security hot fixes. Disable any Services you don't need. I know this sounds like a lot but most of this is done automatically when you install windows.
Don't turn off automatic updates for windows or you may get behind and end up with a worm. Don't download from sites or programs like limewire/bittorent. If you do download files from them, install a good current virus scanner and set it to update automatically.
Scan each and every file before you open it. This doesn't guarantee you won't get a nasty bug but it does help prevent it. Don't ignore seemingly false positives. Just because you think they are false doesn't mean they are. Create a guest account on your computer with limited privileges. Allow this account access to temp folders for Internet browsing, but no installer privileges.
Also do not allow this account write access to anything more then it needs. When you create a new account windows will ask you what type to create' just select "Guest". If your unsure of the rest leave it on the defaults. Don't forget to set a password on your ownership/admin accounts.
How does phishing work? What is phishing?
Phishing is the act of impersonating a professional website in the hopes that someone will input their information. Some of the information that may be obtained by this method are passwords, credit card numbers, or other personally identifying information. These phishing scams are typically run through emails.
Another way phishing scams work is by hacking your computer. If you have weak security or are running applications you are unsure of. You may just infect yourself with a trojan re-director which will redirect your URL to the phising site URL instead of the URL you entered.
How do I prevent myself from falling prey to these scams?
Never insert personally identifying information into a web page you got to through an email. Use caution when entering a url with a low google ranking if it's suppose to take you to a popular page like E-bay.
When downloading applications make sure you know exactly what they do and what they were meant to do. Before you install programs or use files, scan the files with a virus scanner.
How does packet sniffing work?
Packet sniffing is the act of connecting to someones home or work network and monitoring the tcp/ip packets coming in and out of that network. These packets contain information such as where you're going on the Internet, what you typed into the page, what links you clicked on, what user names you passed to the site, and what passwords you sent to a site.
It's important to note if they have access to your home network they have access to every computer on that network and can even change packets of programs you are currently downloading switching these packets with a trojan infected download or a malware program.
So how do I protect myself from packet sniffing?
The best way to protect yourself from packet sniffing is to either not use wireless networks or Secure your network. What a person can do with that network connection is not just limited to syphoning your Internet. It goes much deeper then that. When securing your network, use the strongest encryption your devices allow. Not all devices on the network will be compatible with the same types of encryption.
Always set a key on your wifi router because an open network is an open door and no matter how many firewalls you have or virus scanners, they won't think anything of someone walking in the doors you leave open.
Another way to prevent this in addition to the above is to simply watch for people who don't seem to belong sitting outside your house and report them. Don't approach them, this could have unwanted results. Your wireless network range isn't that great so in order for them to connect, they have to be right in front of your house on the street.
If all this scares you away from using your credit card information on line, good. There is a better alternative rather then using your bank card or your credit card on line. Go get a throw away prepaid card with just enough cash on it to order what you want. When you are done with it throw it away.
If you do a lot of your banking on line, you need to pay close attention to all of this. An on-line bank will track which computer is connecting to it and know if it's a different computer then normal, but if they get you at the right time, they can even pull your "additional information" page. Accessing this page while they are sniffing will let them know exactly what to type to allow them access to your bank account.
Even with all the dangers associated with the Internet, it still remains the best source for news, social networking, music, movie reviews, study, and more. As long as you protect yourself, you can enjoy the Internet as it was meant to be enjoyed.