Internet security is always changing. There’s a new threat every day, and there’s always a different way to exploit the unsuspecting masses.
To keep yourself safe from the latest trends in data exploitation and exposure, here are a few internet security threats you should know today.
Did you really win the lottery? Is that a real prince in that email? Are you sure that’s a real invoice?
Phishing can be a touchy subject because of not only how common the practice has become, but because of how tricky certain phishing techniques are.
There is a stigma of being gullible because of some of the sillier Advance-fee scam or Nigerian Prince scam stories, but it’s not all about believing something that’s too good to be true.
Although chat apps and social media platforms are big players in the way people communicate, email is still important for official business. It’s easy to fake an email format, and it’s becoming even easier to fake an official email.
Many phishing attempts are simply wide nets trying to catch as many people as possible. Email lists are created either from stolen email databases from websites, or sold by untrustworthy sites that don’t have a problem with giving your information to potential scammers.
The trickier phishing attempts happen when someone figures out that you’re active on a platform that handles money. If someone has your email and knows that you shop on Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, Wish, Shopify, or Rakuten platforms, they can simply pretend to be an official invoice or password reset link to steal your information.
Of the many reasons why people make computer viruses, making money through background processes is one of the more common options.
In the old days, it was all about launching a ton of ads on people’s computer to generate pay-per-click revenue. Today, cryptomining or Bitcoin mining is becoming more common.
Cryptojacking is the act of sneaking a cryptominer onto your device. A cryptominer is a program that performs calculations in order to generate cryptocurrency, of which Bitcoin is the first and most famous.
A successful cryptojacking attempt will run in the background and perform just enough to make decent money for the hacker, but not enough to completely freeze your device. Unfortunately, programming is an art and science that often goes horribly wrong.
Just like in the days of pop-up ads covering CRT monitors, a virus designed to make money can crash your device. The hacker doesn’t make enough money, your phone or desktop stops working, and no one is happy.
Mobile devices such as smartphones are easy targets because they’re compact computers that can churn away calculations while in people’s pockets, so consider looking through android security apps to protect yourself.
One of the most recognizable intents in modern computing is launching spyware. Outside of hackers making malware to see what they can get away with, spyware is one of the biggest markets for the dark side of computing.
Spyware can be anything from keyloggers that record your usernames and password to commands that transfer your personal—or business—data to unknown recipients.
At the very least, you’re dealing with yet another program that slows down your device. The worst case scenarios involve copying your credit card information, gaining access to your online accounts—especially if you reuse usernames and passwords—or giving secret trade information to competitors.
Hackers and cybercriminals aren’t the only ones making bad software out there.
Some of the biggest nuisances on modern computers are the programs that your computer’s creator added on purpose. Bloatware is a term that describes manufacturer or vendor-added programs that aren’t useful to the average individual.
The term was originally limited to people who were at least computer power users. People who could unlock their device’s true power were limited by processes that took up limited computer resources, and needed to remove anything they could.
As more people became better at computing, the uglier side of bloatware was exposed. On the other side of that coin, newer and more innovative tricks were born from that same boost in computing skill.
Tricks such as spyware in your bloatware.
Some bloatware was originally useful for improving system performance, such as the HP Touchpoint Analytics system that sent data back to Hewlett-Packard to help them develop better tools for better customer experience.
Unfortunately, a poorly-written driver update lead to performance problems for many users. This isn’t new for people who deal with bad drivers, especially when it comes to gamers and video cards.
When a company automatically updates built-in systems and ruins performance, the potential for disaster becomes even more obvious.
The HP Touchpoint issue highlights another problem with bloatware: what data is being sent exactly? The company claims that only certain types of data is being sent back, but can you be sure of their claim?
To an extent, you can. There are multiple system logging programs on the market that can figure out which files are being accessed, and it’s even easier to figure out which pieces of data are being sent across the internet—unless those data pieces are packaged before being sent.
For many people, getting rid of bloatware from the start sounds better than becoming a digital crime scene investigator for every single data packet on a daily basis. Unless, of course, you’re getting paid for it.
This is the hardest problem to deal with, mostly because individuals have a hard time protecting themselves when data must be shared.
When a website, server, company, or other internet entity is compromised and exposes its user data, the users can only react in most cases. The best defense is to not give your personal information away, but many sites require some form of information.
Although personal information such as names, credit card info, and other important data can cause big problems, they’re not the only form of exposure. Even if you’re a person who uses throwaway accounts and fake aliases, switching aliases can get old over time.
There is a lot you can do in your country and online circles to promote better data security culture, but focus on your internet security first. Here are a few things to do after a security leak affects your data:
- Change your password. Complacency has always been the enemy, and many users across all spectrums of internet skill have a bad habit: reusing passwords.
If you’re not good at passwords, use a password manager or create a naming and numbering system for multi-word passwords.
- Look for alternatives to the site. If you can find another website that offers a similar service, consider switching.
Sites that are victims of multiple attacks should be avoided until new security measures can be tested.
- Research the data manager at the site. Who is handling your data? Do they have reliable security practices?
Are they contracting out to a competent professional? Identifying the skill levels of an internet security team can help you figure out how common a site’s exposures will be compared to other sites.
The internet is full of threats, and those threats evolve as security techniques challenge their potential for carnage. You need a security option that changes just as fast, so contact a tech security professional to find tools and techniques that keep up with the bleeding edge of infosec.