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Agile Computing Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Zakia Bouachraoui, Pat Romanski

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How Hackers Attack Everyday People and Ways to Protect Yourself

Online Security

While the internet has completely changed the way in which we conduct our personal business, it has also brought with it a boatload of security issues. It seems that barely a day passes without another new security breach affecting everyday consumers.

Digital criminals work by compromising online services like email accounts (spammers), email servers (spammers), VoIP servers (telemarketers, phishing), database servers (data theft) and more.

Digital criminals can steal information from your email accounts. Personal emails generally contain sensitive information, like registration information to various websites and banking account information. Once a criminal breaks into your email, they can gain access to your entire life.

Security Threats 101

Apart from the obvious digital tools social media/networks, wireless access and radio frequencies, hackers also use sophisticated platforms – remote administration technology (RAT), con games and data mining.

Generally, network ports are probed and those found to be open are subjected to attacks to gain access. There are many ways that this is done, but a service provider can detect and automatically block this activity. The problem is that many do not run software that would detect these attacks.

So what can we do to protect ourselves?

Easy Steps to Take

The most common way that online criminals break into business and personal accounts is through the exploitation of weak security. Most of us are aware of the Heartbleed security flaw from earlier this year, which left an estimated 2 in 3 web servers at risk of exposing personal information of countless millions of users to anyone with the ability to simply look for it.

One of the easiest ways to protect yourself online is to create strong password combinations. Often people use easy-to-remember passwords such as their children’s names or their date of birth. While this is convenient, it is also a recipe for disaster. It is extremely important to create unique, strong passwords with a combination of characters – and make sure you have at least one number and one letter capitalized. This may sound easy to do, but not always so easy to remember! Having a safe place to store unique encrypted passwords is essential to protecting your identity and your data.

It is also critical to change your password at regular and frequent intervals. We all make the same mistake: we use our hard drive or Excel to store our passwords. We compound that mistake by using the same password for everything — from our web login to e-banking and PIN codes for our ATM cards. Use a password manager – it will allow you to create a new and unique password for each login or PIN code you might need for anything.

It is also extremely important to NOT create physical copies of confidential information, such as credit cards, insurance, social security cards, bank records or legal documents. Scan or upload all your valuable documents in a secure backup service. Lastly, always keep your virus protection and software up-to-date.

It may sound complicated, but it really isn’t. Just by taking these few precautions, you can save yourself the nightmare of a major digital security breach that can cost you thousands of dollars and even the possible theft of your identity.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the host of Fox Television’s "Shelly Palmer Digital Living" television show about living and working in a digital world. He is Fox 5′s (WNYW-TV New York) Tech Expert and the host of United Stations Radio Network’s, MediaBytes, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment.

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