Cybersecurity For Small Businesses: 10 Important Tips To Keep Your Money & Data Safe

You may think that small businesses are not vulnerable to cybercrimes just like big corporations. But in fact, about 43 percent of cyber-attacks target small businesses. Micro companies, in general, are not as secure compared to large-scale businesses because of budget issues and because they are “small.” Although these businesses are literally less far-reaching compared to large corporations, the security threats they experience are not small, at all. They easily fall victim to hacking, malware, spyware, ransomware, and security breaches because of their low-priced and dated protection.

Cybersecurity should be one of the top priorities for your small business, but how do you keep your business protected from these cyber threats without spending too much? Here are some cybersecurity tips that are simple yet effective for small business owners. These can help reduce the risks of ransomware, malware, and hacking.

1. Use strong passwords

If you use passwords that are very easy to figure out such as 1234, 0000, or ABCD, it would be like a walk in the park for hackers to acquire your system’s password. Strong passwords are comprised of alphanumeric and special characters that are case-sensitive. The more random the combination, the better it is. If your passwords are secure, it will be difficult for someone to figure it out and hack it. Inform your employees as well to create secure passwords.

2. Decrease the number of attempts for entering the password

Someone who will try to access your system will try all sorts of different passwords randomly until they hit the jackpot and open your account. This can mean that your account is still not safe even with a 6-digit pin that has a million unique possible number combinations. You have to be aware that there are password-cracking software nowadays that can guess your code in a few minutes. So to avoid falling victim to these hackers, you should limit the number of attempts for your authentication process. In most cases, the number of attempts is limited to 3, so after the third attempt, you can no longer try to enter the password.

3. Password manager software

A password manager tool that creates and stores the password can be helpful for you. But you have to think carefully when choosing one. Remember that this tool stores all passwords in its database; so for a hacker, all he needs is to crack one code. That is why you need to think of its advantages and disadvantages before you use one for your business.

4. On-screen keyboard option

If you are not yet aware, there are hackers that can record your keystrokes using keylogging software. This is common if you’re using shared networks. What you can do to avoid this is by using an on-screen or virtual keyboard. The keylogging software will not be able to track keys that you enter on the on-screen keyboard because you’re only operating it using mouse clicks. This is commonly used in financial establishments.

5. Backups

Data backups are important. But you have to be careful of any negligence or mishandling of these backups because this can make your data vulnerable to theft. Example, if you choose to keep your data in the cloud, you have to encrypt and keep your documents protected with a password before storing them on the cloud or a remote server, so that no one can access your data easily.

 

6. Inform your employees about cybersecurity

Although you might think that security breach is not so common for small businesses, it is good that you educate your employees about cybersecurity. We do not want to wait for a security breach to happen before we train your employees about it, right? Here are some things you need to remember when teaching your employees about cybersecurity.

  • Train everyone. No exemptions.
  • Conduct seminars about cybersecurity often
  • Talk to employees about cybersecurity regularly
  • Inform them how they can recognize a possible attack
  • Test your employees’ cybersecurity knowledge
  • Be able to identify threats within your company
  • Emphasize policies about hacking, data breach and use of devices in your company

7. Do not store the customer’s CVV or any credit card information

Keeping the customer’s credit card information with the customer’s permission can make transactions in the future more convenient. On the other hand, this can put your customer’s confidential information at risk. While it can be a little more convenient to store the CVV number, it would not bother the customer at all to enter the CVV during checkout. This is for their safety, as well.

8. Control Access to your systems and network devices

Never let any outsider or unauthorized person use your system and other devices. If there is a need for someone to use or access it, in the case of a technician from another firm, let them use a general computer or make sure to have someone supervise them during their tasks. Lock or shut down your computer after leaving them and make sure your employees do the same, as well. Also, make sure to monitor your employees’ personal devices.

9. Update your security software always.

Make sure your security software is up-to-date. Do not ignore the prompts on your screen that remind you to upgrade and update your software. This will make sure that your computer is protected from malware, ransomware, and hacking.

Software manufacturers provide software updates to address security risks for their products that can be exposed to hackers. These updates usually contain vulnerability fixes and enhancements. What is good about these updates is that they are added onto the existing installation. Make sure you choose a quality and trusted software to protect your system.

10. Keep your networks secure

Make sure your Wi-Fi network is hidden, or if not hidden, is secured with a password, to avoid any unauthorized access. You can hide your SSID or Wi-Fi name and encrypt and set a password for your access point.

There are simple ways to ensure that you don’t fall victim to hackers. All you need to do is keep these tips in mind, so you can avoid any security risks that can harm your business.

Internet Security 101: 10 Things You Should Never, Ever Post Online

Networking via social media is one of the newest and most popular ways of interacting with people around the globe. About 35 percent of adults have accounts with at least one social networking website and there are those who have multiple accounts on different platforms. In a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 89 percent use these sites to catch up and communicate with friends, 57 percent do so to set plans with friends, and 49% to meet new people.

 

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, and Instagram are just some of the top networking sites that connect people around the world. Sometimes we become too excited to share our thoughts, feelings, and important events. It has become a habit for us to share details about our daily lives. But when do we set a limit on what we share about our selves, our families, and friends?

 

In the same Pew Research Center study, about 40 percent of users have public access to their online profiles, which allows anyone to view all their information posted. The 60 percent have limited access. Sharing your personal information online can be dangerous because there are certain things that should never be announced. Here are 10 things that you should include on your “never share” list.

 

  1. Your Full Date of Birth. While it is a great feeling to be showered with lots of birthday wishes posted on your Facebook page, posting your complete date of birth on your profile can make it easier for identity thieves and online scammers to get one of the most important information about you. Your birth date might be used to steal your identity and open accounts under your name.

 

  1. Your Location. Many people may not realize that when you post a tweet or a status update, you can also reveal your current location. Sharing where you are exactly can be risky because it signals to potential thieves that you are not home. This also covers your photos and “check-ins” that have been geotagged. Geotagging reveals the location of a photo that you just posted. Your phone may record the location of the pictures without your knowledge. Make sure to check the privacy settings of your profile because that innocent post from your getaway might give the thieves an idea to rob your house because you’re not home.

 

  1. Pictures of your kids or your friend’s kids tagged with their names. Now, this topic can be very sensitive. For users who don’t restrict their profile, the photos you share on social networking sites are there for the public to see. The sad thing is there are a lot of online predators who use these sites to stalk their prey. To ensure your children’s safety, you can opt to share these photos with a selected group only like your family, trusted friends, and co-workers.

 

  1. Your complete home address. Again, you never know who might be lurking at your profile. Don’t share this information because it will make it easier for people with bad intentions to get to you. By sharing your address, you are doing identity thieves a favor by giving them the information they can use to impersonate you and take out loans and purchase items under your name.

 

  1. Your phone number. Yes, you might consider publishing this on your profile, so your friends can contact you. However, imagine if your phone number goes into the wrong hands. It is possible that your location can be tracked using a reverse lookup tool which is readily available on the Internet. If you really want your friends to know your contact number, you can contact them directly or send them a private message instead of posting it on your public profile.

 

  1. Relationship status. Posting your status in your profile can signal your stalkers, especially when you post stuff that you’re alone at home, etc. You can be mysterious, instead, and just put “It’s Complicated” or don’t include anything about your lovelife, at all.

 

  1. Private Conversations. Most social media sites have a feature where you can send personal or private messages. Personal matters should never be shared on your Facebook Timeline. The same goes for taking a screenshot of your exchange. This is part of your social networking etiquette. There’s really no official guideline for these things but you can be the best judge. If it’s something that you find uncomfortable sharing, then you shouldn’t post it on your wall.

 

  1. Social Plans or travel plans. You shouldn’t be sharing this information because this again signals to criminals that you won’t be home, giving them an opportunity to rob your house. While it can be nice and fun to share your vacation photos as they happen, you can wait until you’re back home to upload your vacation photos, instead. Also, sharing your social plans can pose some security issues. What if a jealous ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend knows that you’re out on a date and would suddenly show up and cause a scene?

 

  1. Embarrassing things that you don’t want to be shared with anyone. This is where the saying “think before you click” applies. Before you post anything, think: would I want my family, friends or co-workers to see this? If not, then don’t post it.

 

  1. Information about your job or work-related projects. Talking about work-related stuff online is not a good idea. Even if it’s just an innocent status about how frustrated you are about a project can provide information to your competitors and use it as a leverage against your company or business. Any information about your company’s plans for a project or anything at all should be kept private.

 

Always keep in mind that not everything that happens in your life ought to be shared online. Posting personal and confidential information can put your life, your families’ or your friends’ lives at risk. While it is fun to share about what’s going on, it is best to choose and limit what you post. Better yet, secure your privacy settings so that everything you post will be viewable only by a select number of people – but even THAT isn’t totally foolproof. We should know when to draw the line. It is better to be safe than be sorry.

March Is Fraud Prevention Month: 10 Ways To Protect Yourself From Scammers

It’s an unfortunate fact that many people still get victimized by thieving crooks. These fraudsters often integrate old tricks and new technology to entice people to send personal information or their hard-earned cash.

You’ll never know when they’ll strike, but chances are you’ve already had a fair share of questionable posts on social media, fake online ads, ambiguous phone calls, and fraudulent emails. You got lucky if you’ve avoided one or two of these scammers, but don’t get too comfortable. Learn how to outsmart scammers using these ten tips below.

  1. Avoid Money Transfers

Unless you’re sure of the person’s identity, let’s say you’ve made arrangements with a family member or a close friend, don’t wire cash. Electronic transfers are really convenient but don’t go on sending money to people without confirming who they are first. Additionally, don’t send partial refunds from “secret shopper” or “overpayment” checks.

  1. Don’t be a Serial “Clicker”

You know those links in your inbox that don’t seem to have a purpose but demand you click them anyway? Do not click them.

Unsolicited links are a dime a dozen on social media these days, and sadly, a friend of yours might have “sent” it to you. Never trust the sender even if you know him/her personally. If you must click, confirm if it was intentional. While you’re waiting for a response, simply ignore the link.

  1. Get a Security Software

Anti-virus software has its uses, but it’s better to choose products that offer internet security, preferably ones that integrate with your current browser.

Make sure that your software is working properly by keeping it updated, so it automatically informs you of malware. When you receive a warning indicating that your device is infected, check the source. If it doesn’t come from the software you installed, ignore it. This might be a phishing scheme and could be the reason why you got your personal information exposed.

  1. Beware of Charity Scams

Money collectors aren’t confined to doorsteps anymore — they’re online as well. What’s worse is that not all of them are legit; some use charities to siphon money from you.

If you want to donate, do so personally, or give the charity or non-profit organization a call to confirm if the panhandler or collector is one of their own. If you spot collection boxes in stores, confirm if it’s genuine first before dropping cash in it. You don’t want your money wasted, do you?

  1. Allow Yourself to Think

Don’t be hasty when making decisions, no matter how enticing the offer is, or how persuasive an offer seems. Often, sales reps will insist you purchase something on the spot to acquire a discount but don’t fall for these tricks.

Remember that a genuine offer from a salesperson will give you time to think before you make a purchase. Although, there are those limited-time offers that pop up once in a while. If you’re really so into a product or service, confirm first. Don’t stress about it. It takes seconds to get a company’s contact information, so choose to spend time confirming the offer rather than falling into regrets later on.

  1. Take Care of Your Personal Info

Legitimate companies never ask for sensitive information unless you initiated it. Come to think of it; even online banking services don’t ask for your PIN upon logging in — you have an entirely different password. For online purchases, use established services like PayPal, debit or prepaid cards, or one-off credit card numbers. Also, check the address line for an “https.” If a website is without an “s,” avoid it.

  1. Avoid Buying from People You Don’t Know or Whose Credibility isn’t Verified

This one is a bit tricky, considering most transactions happen online these days. But it’s an undeniable fact that there a lot of questionable websites and online sellers. Good thing you can do a quick credibility check — simple Google search ought to do the job. Better yet, trust bigger sites whose names have been trusted for years now.

Should you choose lesser known sites, always seek references and get feedback from people who have bought from them.

  1. Avoid Paying for Something That Offers You Earning Opportunities

If you’re one of those people who prefer to seek job opportunities online, don’t spend money upfront. Your goal is to earn cash, so paying for it simply defeats the purpose. It’s not like you’re trying to invest in a business, wherein you’re expected to have a capital. Money-making opportunities online hire workers that they pay, not the other way around. Legit online work doesn’t ask you to pay for training supplies or kits. That’s just sketchy.

  1. Don’t Believe in Something Without Verification

Or don’t believe that someone is who they say they are unless you know them personally. You might receive a phone call or an email asking to visit your house, maybe to introduce you to a new product or do maintenance check-ups. Confirm their identity first before agreeing to the visitation.

Always ask for an identification card or any proof that they represent a legit company or important person. If they arrive at your doorstep without warning, don’t let them in. Remember that visitations from a company do a follow-up first, or a confirmation that you agree to see any of their representatives. They don’t just appear out of nowhere. This should be your first red flag.

  1. Always Ask What the Catch is

Offers too good to be true shouldn’t really exist. After all, everybody wants to earn, and they all have a motive. You might spot a bargain that’s hard to resist, but these offers are often bogus and cannot be trusted.

An exception, though, is if you know the seller well. A legit offer always has a catch. Do not be afraid to ask what this is. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Fraudsters are getting increasingly sophisticated and smarter in their attempts to get your personal information and money. It wouldn’t hurt to be extra vigilant instead of feeling sorry in the end.

Top Online Security Scams & How To Avoid Them

The Internet has made it much easier for people to communicate with each other. Even if you are located at opposite sides of the world, you can exchange information, send files, and even money in mere seconds. This level of speed and convenience has truly changed the way we live. However, it has also opened up our lives to an entirely different set of risks and dangers.

Crime and criminal intentions have not changed; they only become more sophisticated, along with the advancement of technology. As new methods of protection are developed, criminals also upgrade their “skills” and look for unique ways to get their hands on your private information. The methods of attack and the tools they use vary. They can be in the form of malicious software and other types of exposure discreetly installed into your computer or those ingenious phishing scams that come from strange parts of the world (where justice can’t easily reach).

When Are You Exposed?

The most popular routes that will make you vulnerable to online security threats include shopping online, accessing social media networks, and checking email. Generally, as long you as you keep using the Internet and clicking those strange links, you place yourself at a position of vulnerability. While we cannot stop the threats from coming entirely, there are ways to protect and make ourselves less likely to become victims. First is by knowing the most popular schemes criminals use to bait people into giving their private data online. Here are 10 of them.

  1. 
Nigerian Scam

This is one of the most popular and arguably oldest scams online. You get an email, private message, or mail sent by a prince or a representative of an ultra-wealthy family from Nigeria (or other parts of Africa). In the letter, he or she will ask for your help in retrieving a large amount of money from a foreign bank. It will say that you only need to pay for the initial legal and processing fees; in exchange, he or she will give you a huge commission.

Because the amount reaches hundreds of millions, people are naturally curious and attracted. You will then be lured into sending more money for additional fees, services, and whatnot. You will even receive actual papers to supposedly prove that payments or transfers have been made. In the end, you’ve released a chunk of your money and do not get anything in return. The “family” is nowhere to be found and no messages will be acknowledged.

  1. 
Phishing Email Scam

This is usually done via email or a DM on social networks. You get a message that will trick you into providing your passwords, bank account details, social security number, and more. This message will seem like it came from an official source, like your bank, and will ask you to “update” your information. If not, they will give you an “urgent” situation and tell you your account is under threat or their site has been compromised and you need to change your details immediately.

However, close inspection will show you a slight difference in the URL (like a missing letter or an added character) or the absence of the “https://” (which indicates that it is encrypted). These little changes are easy to overlook, especially if you’re not Internet savvy. Before you know it, criminals have access to your financial details and you are left with zero in the bank or a whopping credit card bill.

  1. 
Guaranteed Bank Loan or Pre-approved Credit Card Scam

When you’re in a financial rut, it’s very easy to fall prey to offers of a loan or a pre-approved credit card line. If you suddenly receive a message that guarantees you a huge amount of money from the bank, don’t jump up and down just yet. Common sense will help you judge if it’s the real deal or not. Better yet, give your bank a call (don’t send an email to an address that the message gave you) and verify. While it looks pretty obvious that this is a scam, some people are not aware and could find themselves paying for “processing fees” for a loan that does not exist.

  1. 
Lottery Scam

You will get an email or mail telling you that you’ve won a large sum of money. However, to claim your prize, you will need to pay for transfer fees, legal fees, and other related costs. Even if you didn’t buy any lottery tickets in the first place, some of these raffle scams will say that you have been randomly selected out of millions because you went to so-and-so website. Do not be a victim.

  1. 
Greeting Card Scam

We always see this in our spam emails. You get a e-greeting card supposedly from your friend and you just have to open it to view the personal message. The moment you click, malicious software enters your system discreetly. It can be in the form of those annoying pop-up ads that spring up at random times or ransomware, which hijacks your computer and promises to re-open access to you if you pay them a certain amount of money. Having a specialized security program installed in your computer can help ward off these dangerous malware. Better yet, make it a habit to never click anything without verifying first, even if it’s from a friend.

  1. 
Romance Scam

This happens on social networks, chat groups, and dating sites. The male scammers will usually be from Africa while the females will normally be from Europe (although they can really come from anywhere). Because we are so attracted by the other person online, we tend to set judgment aside and go with feeling. This is where the scam is anchored on.

It can take weeks to months for that person to gain your trust, until one day he or she will have an “emergency” and will need your help with money. Another scheme is that he or she is already rich and has been “kidnapped.” Because you’ve invested a lot of your time getting to know this person, you naturally think you already have a “connection” and send what’s needed. After the transfer is made, you won’t hear from him or her again. Worse, the scammer could do this to you repeatedly.

  1. 
Hitman Scam

The hitman extortion scam preys on your fear. You will get a message that says somebody is trying to get you killed and that you can negotiate payment with the hitman to keep yourself safe. To create the impression of a real threat, the message will go as far as collecting information about you from your social media network, blog, or anywhere else your information might be public.

  1. 
Fake Antivirus Scam

This scam stirs up your fear of being hacked online. You will often see a message of this sort “Your computer has been infected! Download this antivirus right now!” Plenty of popups in certain sites also claim to know that your PC has been compromised and ask you to click and download a certain software as protection. Don’t be lured into the scare tactics and always treat things like these as a hoax. For your protection, set your computer up with a good and reputable antivirus product — not those you see lurking around sites or sending spam to your emails.

Majority of these online scams are either playing upon your fear of a security breach or your need to be more financially secure. If you receive a message that offers you money in exchange for something (a small fee or your personal information), run the other way and click that X button immediately. You might also get a random email offering non-existent job openings in a variety of companies, where you will again be asked to key your personal details and financial data in to view the “full suite” of offers.

Thus, the general rule when judging scams online is: if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

Teen Security Online: How To Open Up the Issue Of Internet Safety With Your Kids

With the billions of websites online, and more being created every minute, it’s difficult for parents to rely simply on generic parental control systems to make sure their kids don’t access suspicious sites. Often, even with strict settings in place, kids already know how to get around restrictions and can hack into systems or figure out a way to bypass them.

Thus, instead of just putting all your faith in the power of software to filter what your kids see online, it’s better to deal with it at the core. Sit down with them and have them understand the importance of Internet safety so they know how to protect themselves even when you’re not around.

Discussing Online Safety With Teens

Because many teens like going on social media sites, entering online message boards, and engaging with strangers in chat rooms, they are potentially at risk. Worse, the kids don’t really realize the possible amount of danger they are in because they think they are just talking to people who are the same age as them. However, we all know that online predators make it a point to act on the level of children, even pretending to be kids themselves, to earn their trust.

Here are the reasons why that big talk about online safety should be on the table now.

  1. Your child might not know about the dangers.

When kids chat online, all they know is that they are talking with people who share the same interests as them — and that it’s fun. They won’t suspect that the other person might be an adult posing as a child or something just looking to obtain sensitive information about your family. Expect some resistance at first, because your teen will definitely “defend” his or her friends thinking that they’re real. Even if they are, it’s still smart to let them know of the possible risks so they can be extra careful.

  1. It’s your job, as the parent.

As parent, it is your responsibility to protect your child and guide him or her to the right path. It’s your job to lay the rules down at home, so how they use the Internet shouldn’t be any different. While you don’t need to ban online message boards, chat rooms, or social network sites, be sure that your teen is aware of the rules and understand what they are for.

  1. It lets kids be more comfortable with opening up to you.

Talking to your child about Internet safety in a calm manner is likely to make him or her more comfortable discussing about activities online, compared to using a confrontational, authoritative approach. Keeping your communication lines open and welcoming increases the chances of him or her coming to you first whenever they get into trouble on the Internet.

  1. You can teach them what to do in certain situations.

Being able to discuss all possible scenarios that may endanger your teen online makes it easier for him or her to spot them before things go haywire. This part of the talk should include the right way to use the Internet and how to behave in social networking sites and chat groups. Let them know that they should never ever disclose personal information or share photos, as well as to tell you immediately if somebody is harrassing them online. Also instruct your teen to save all exchanges (and not to delete them) until you or the authorities can investigate.

Here are the five things that kids and teens should always remember when they go online. Be sure to include these when you explain online security to them.

  1. Keep your social media acounts private and don’t add people you don’t know. Your kid’s Friends list should be restricted to real-life friends and family only. Even if they’ve been chatting with certain people on the message boards for weeks or months already, that doens’t make them a friend.
  2. Don’t post anything on the Internet that you don’t want the world to see. Whatever’s posted online can be shared millions of times and reach predatory individuals. Even if you’ve already deleted the source, someone somewhere might have saved it or taken a screenshot.
  3. Never give out your contact details and address. According to the Federal Trade Commission, even those little clues like the name of the sports team your child is a member of or what school he or she attends are enough to give predators a chance reach out.
  4. Never agree to meet in person with someone you met on the Internet. Emphasize to your child that he or she doesn’t know who these people really are and predators can easily assume a fake identity.
  5. If it doesn’t look or feel right, tell your parents or a trusted adult. If your teen thinks something is suspicious or if he or she sees something upsetting on the Internet, tell an adult at once. Also report the incident to the website your child is using so the administrator can take it down immediately.

Pick a good time to talk to your teen about his or her online activities. Ranting right away about their use and about the dangers can only escalate into a disagreement and cause your teen to withdraw further away from you. Instead, just calmly ask them during a casual conversation or right after they use the Internet if they know about being safe online and understand what they need to do if they feel they are in danger. This way, you get to provide valuable information while sounding less like an overbearing parent.

How To Hack-Proof Your Life: 10 Ways To Stay Safe On The Internet

Even if you don’t think you’re a target for identity theft online, it’s still easy to fall victim to various scams especially if you’re not aware which ones they are. The truth is, even if you live millions of miles away from your potential hacker, he or she can still get to you within mere seconds. The hacker doesn’t even need to know who you are. The moment you make a small slip-up, these online vultures will sweep whatever information is wide open and use this to break into your bank accounts, control your webcam, and access your personal files.

Unfortunately, even as security experts devise sophisticated ways to deal with online threats, criminals are also developing tech that’s equally fancy. This constant race to hack and protect Internet users is the reason why individuals should arm themselves with the right information and tools to help themselves and reinforce shielding efforts. The point is, if individuals are extra vigilant about their own protection, hackers will have a hard time breaking and entering.

Here are 10 ways to hack-proof your online activity.

  1. Use complicated passwords.

This will never get old and you’ve probably heard this being said repeatedly before. However, choosing the right password is one of the most powerful lines of defense you can set up against hackers. Also, using just one password for all your accounts is similar to giving your attacker the key to all your wealth online. The hacker can use whatever data he or she got from one successful hack and use that to access your other accounts.

Don’t make it easy and always use a unique password for each one. Security experts recommend using not just a word but a phrase to unlock your accounts. For example, instead of just using Cats888 for your password, why not use “ILoveCatsLikeMyLife” or “MyCatWasBornOnDec25.” Both are easy for you to remember but difficult for hackers to guess.

  1. Delete accounts you no longer use.

Old accounts contain more sensitive information about you than you realize. This is because these were created at the time when Internet security wasn’t really a huge threat. Back then, people were just starting to appreciate the power of the online world. It was easy to exchange information because we didn’t really think it was unsafe. Of course, things are different now — and the smart thing to do is to delete all those past “mistakes” before hackers find them.

  1. Encrypt all of your messages and sent files.

“Encryption” is no longer a word that’s exclusive to spies, like in Hollywood movies. End-to-end encryption is necessary for regular folks like us. What it does is scramble messages so only the person they were intended for is the only one who can read it. There are plenty of software and apps that automatically encrypt your files for you, so that in case your flash drive or file lands in the wrong hands, you know your information is safe.

  1. Use a two-factor ID system.

This happens when there is at least two steps required to verify your identity, so even if the hacker gets hold of your password, it’s harder to access your files because there’s another “door” that needs to be unlocked. For example, when you log into your account online, the system also sends a code to your registered mobile phone to complete the verification process. Most online accounts now have this feature, so check if yours has been updated to use it.

  1. Be careful about the things you click.

Don’t open the door danger by clicking carelessly. Majority of today’s online threats are brought about by social engineering or phishing scams. This is when you are tricked into revealing sensitive information, like your bank account number, house address, social security number, and the like. Others come in the form of “free” offers, online quizzes, prizes, and phony controversial sites. As a rule, if you get an email asking you to update your information, call the company and verify if such an email has been sent before typing anything in.

  1. Use a firewall.

This should be activated, even if you already have a network security system in place. A firewall is a barrier that disables unauthorized access to your devices. If you do trust the source, you can selectively unblock your firewall for that particular site only.

  1. Be smart about surfing and shopping.

Look for sites that have “https” on their URLs instead of just “http.” The former comes with a padlock icon on the address, as well. This is a sign that it is secure and makes use of encryption software to scramble your data so others can’t read it. Also be careful about missing letters or transposed letters on website addresses. They are likely mirror sites posing as legitimate ones and just out to get your financial information.

  1. Protect your mobile life.

Whatever security practices you apply to your computer should be the same on your mobile gadgets. Be careful about messages that ask you to download certain apps and send you links. Even if the message is from a friend telling you to click a link, ask about it first before clicking. If it’s a malicious link, chances are your friend has been compromised and the worm is trying to get into your system next.

  1. Power up your network security.

Make sure that you have secure connections. You might be tempted to use public Wi-Fi when you’re out but be aware that these channels are often unsecured, making it easy for hackers to access your data. This is why security experts recommend using a virtual private network (VPN). VPN is a type of software that sets up a secure link over the Internet, so you can connect from anywhere safely.

When it comes to your Internet security, the best practice is to keep your guard up and educate yourself on the latest scams and tools to protect yourself. Always take a proactive, defensive approach whenever you go online and make sure to back up your data regularly. By employing preventive measures, you can save yourself from all the stress and trouble in the future.

7 Ways Your Social Media Account Is Putting Your Safety At Risk

Social media has changed the way we interact with friends and family. In fact, it seems it has helped bring people together by allowing us a peek into their daily lives and special moments. However, our accounts have also made us more vulnerable to people who want nothing but to cause trouble. While social networks like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube play a significant part in our lives, they have also exposed us to security threats.

There are hundreds of millions of Internet users all over the world. And while these tools are great for keeping tabs on people we care about, they also attract those who want to know us for the wrong reasons. It’s not just on a personal level. With more businesses opening up accounts and using these as advertising platforms, the connections made via Likes and Comments on public spaces can open doors for criminals. Some click-bait schemes are even posing as “legitimate” pages to get information out of unknowing individuals.

Here are seven threats to security we should watch out for when using social media.

    1. Who Viewed Your FB Profile?

This scheme is clever because it preys on your natural curiosity. This usually appears as a message posted on your friend’s wall via accidental spamming or through ads. The moment you click on this, spammers gain access to your account and the people on your network. Even if you see this sent by your friends, don’t fall for any link unless you get verification that it’s legitimate — but this one certainly isn’t.

  1. Instant Twitter Followers

Avoid tweets that offer to give you “instant followers” by clicking a link. While a large following will lend more credibility to your online image, especially if you’re a business, a simple one-time authorization can lead to an attack on your entire profile. Scammers know exactly what you need online and they will exercise all means possible to get you attracted and clicking away. This is one such scheme that is so tempting, but know that it can and WILL compromise your security.

 

 

 

 

  1. The Facebook Color Changer

Apps that promise to get you out of that boring blue Facebook profile and turn it into a rainbow complete with “confetti” are a scam. Clicking this offer will lead you to phishing sites where you are asked to either enter your information, share the same “fun” app with your friends, or watch a video (while its bots creep into your account). This can also affect mobile devices, so be wary.

 

 

 

  1. “Shocking,” “Outrageous” and “NSFW” Video Scams

We all love controversy and almost any post with these labels are certainly intriguing enough to click. Don’t. This popular bait method is a favorite among cyber attackers and scammers. They present outlandish titles that promise explicit content to get attention and sometimes even controls your account to create a “viral” frenzy. When you click it, you will be led to fake websites or random surveys that ask you to enter information. Take note this can ruin both your social media account and your computer.

  1. Naked Video Scams

Similar to number 4, this preys on one’s curiosity. But, more importantly, it is an invasion of privacy. This scam poses as an “interesting”

video but all it leads you to, really, is a fake site that will plant malware on your system. It will usually say that your Flash player crashed so you can’t view the video and will need to “update.” Now that you’re wiser, stay as far away as possible from these things. They usually contain a Trojan virus.

 

  1. The “Just Saw This Photo Of You” Scam

the general content of this type of scam. This “invasion” on your personal space preys on one’s paranoia so you will feel compelled to click. Again, DON’T. It will hijack your account and spam your followers, making YOU the purveyor of the scam. Reportedly, this malicious post also installs spyware on your computer.

  1. Bogus Pinterest pins

Normally, people wouldn’t think Pinterest would be a target for hackers, but cybercriminals really know no platform and prey on everything. Users will be asked to click on fake pins that eventually ask them to answer “surveys” or lead them to phishing websites. These bogus pins usually come in the form of promotions, contests, or freebies that seem to come from legitimate brands. But, a closer look at the account will reveal one or two letters off. Once you click, this malicious code gets downloaded to your system and start spamming your network.

Protecting Yourself On Social Media

Of course, while these scams are easily avoided, one major issue about one’s security on social media is forgetting to change your settings to “Private” and oversharing information. Make sure that only your friends see your updates and posts. Sift through your Friends or Followers list to see if there’s an account you don’t know or have accidentally friended people you’re not really familiar with. Avoid updating your account with your whereabouts every time you move so criminals won’t know where you are or are not alerted that nobody’s home.

When it comes to your security on social media, majority rests upon you being extra careful and vigilant. Our social networks are a fun way to update friends and family, but if you’re not watchful, you could also be giving criminals the same sensitive information. Check the URLs carefully and make sure no letter is out of place, see that the address starts with https:// to indicate it’s encrypted, or run it against a link scanner first before opening it.

Five things you should never, ever share online are your 1) financial information, 2) full address and date of birth, 3) your children’s names and school details, 4) your social security, license, and credit card numbers, and 5) your daily schedule. Knowing what threats make you the most vulnerable and protect yourself.

Online Dating Safety: 6 Ways To Prevent A Scam

The Internet is increasingly being a legitimate means of meeting someone for a real-life connection. This also applies in the search for Mr and Ms Right. However, sometimes in our excitement to meet and date somebody we met online, we tend to forego personal safety. Take note that while meeting people on the Internet is fun, it can also be potentially dangerous.

It’s very easy to fall prey to a good feeling, especially when you think you’ve met The One. So when the other party invites you to finally meet face to face, you tend to let your guard down thinking that you “know” the other person already. Some people are lucky and end up with either a love connection or a lasting friendship from an online meetup, but some are not so and end up in deep trouble.

 

  1. Sign up only on reliable and reputable dating sites

There are literally thousands of websites offering to have the right mix of singles that can potentially be the love of your life. And with that vast statistic comes a huge number of fakes and fraud.

 

ds. There are websites that are created for the sole purpose of duping people, so even if you live in a safe neighborhood you can never really be totally protected.

To be on the safe side, depend only on the larger, more reputable dating sites, such as Tinder, OkCupid, JDate, and more, because these sites have a better system and policy in protecting your private information. Of course, being in a reputable and paid dating site is not a full guarantee of your safety, so you still need to be vigilant.

  1. Ensure that your personal information stays private

Being cyber secure is different from being cyber savvy. A detailed Internet search by potential dates will likely reveal your social media accounts, LinkedIn URL, office location, your home address where you “checked in,” or telephone number listed on an ad.

That said, whenever you enter any personal information online, be sure to check those boxes that say your info will be available to you only unless you purposely share it. On virtual platforms, limit the amount of information you reveal about yourself. Your security settings should be set at their maximum level and never ever allow any app

How do you ensure that you are safe without hampering your chances of finally meeting the right person for you? Here are eight way to keep in mind at all times in your search for love on the Internet.

to access and post your location.

  1. Do some sleuthing on your potential date

While you shouldn’t be revealing too much about yourself to the other person on the screen, don’t think twice about taking advantage if he or she isn’t protective of his or her info. Google your date, search for his or her social media profiles or if there’s anything posted online about this person. You’ll be surprised by the stories that can get from the results. Some people have found their dates selling an engagement ring on Ebay a few weeks before the Tinder encounter, or revealing how old they really are.

Also, checking their social media posts will give you a better sense of how they really are in person. Because people are less filtered on these platforms, you might spot some traits that are not exactly to your liking, thus, saving you and the other person from wasted time and effort.

  1. Talk to the other person before the meet-up

While it’s very tempting to just schedule a first date, it would be to your advantage if you talk on the phone first so you get a better feel. This is the perfect time to vet the other party and you can even ask some pretty awkward questions to see if he or she is the right fit for you. You can even ask if they’ve ever been arrested before. While you probably won’t get a 100% truth, the way the other person will react to your bold question will send off signals on whether you should push through with an actual meet-up.

 

 

 

  1. Tell a friend

If after the screening and the phone chat you find that you still like to meet this person, you must let somebody know of your plans to do so. Tell a friend or family member who you’re meeting, where it will happen, and what time you are expected to be home. For added safety, show your friend your date’s photo, contact details, and other pertinent information, just in case.

Create a signal with your friend that includes calling you in the middle of the date to check if you’re all right. If you and your date decide to switch locations, check in by phone. Do this until you are finally safe at home. This seems like a lot of work but it will certainly help guarantee your security. More importantly, if this is your first date, drive yourself home and don’t let the other person know where you live — at least not yet.

  1. Seek the safety of a crowd

The first date is a getting-to-know-you stage and while being by yourselves is a romantic way to start things off, it’s not practical. If you both like to go hiking, try those popular walking spots in your community; just don’t go for those remote locations where there’s nobody else and there’s no way to call for help. Better yet, choose a nice coffee shop or a restaurant that offers just the right mix of public and quiet so you can talk.

Reputable dating sites encourage their users to report people who engage in shady practices. This is not just to protect yourself but also to protect other people from possible danger. You can also block a person who is relentless in pursuing you. If after the first date you feel that a second should happen, you should still practice the same safety measures. In fact, because you are meeting a stranger, invites to your home should not happen until after five or more dates have gone by.

Remember that a person who is out to target you will put his or her best foot forward and it is really up to you to catch those signals. If you suspect anything that’s off or something that’s making you feel uneasy, don’t hesitate to cut the cord. If that person starts harrassing you, contact the site’s client services immediately or file a report with the police.

Safeguarding Yourself Online: 3 Common Identity Theft Scams And How To Prevent Them

Technology, for all its glory, is not immune to attacks and being solely dependent on it almost always means you will get hit by a glitch or a breach at any point. According to reports, over 200 businesses have fallen victim to hackers in 2017 alone (and in the US alone). As tech developers scramble to build fortresses that aim to block off any attempts at identity theft, hackers are also getting smarter.

That said, even if your system tells you it’s hacker-proof, the responsibility to protect your personal data, like Social Security and credit card numbers, still lies upon you. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself from identity theft and to prevent it from happening to you. But, first, let’s understand what identity theft means.

Identity Theft

Any unauthorized access to your personal details can be classified as identify theft. These can cover financial data like bank account numbers and credit card details, Social Security numbers, your birthdate and physical address. These can also include passwords and usernames to your online accounts, your phone, computer, and more. In short, the loss of anything that can be used to falsely represent you is considered identity theft.

When somebody gets hold of these details, they have the power to assume your identity and open new accounts, access financial resources, or basically pretend to be you. It can be very difficult to erase all the damage once your identity has been stolen. If you didn’t have safeguards in place, you could face major financial turmoil that could take years to recover from. Even if the theft had been proven, all the trouble that you need to go through to fix everything is exhausting.

Watch Out For These Common Scams

While you cannot totally shield yourself from hackers, you can certainly reduce the odds of you becoming a victim. We’ve gathered some of the most common identify theft scams so we can all spot a tactic when it attempts to hit us.

  1. Ransomware

This happens when a software encrypts your data and then asks you for payment to recover it. Ransomware attacks are doubly dangerous because not only do they have their hands on your identifying information, they are also asking you to pay them to give it back (if they even truly will). It’s literally getting your information kidnapped for ransom. Some ransomware can even lock you out of your operating system.

How do you spot it? Ransomware usually comes as a fake website form, a corrupt link or attachment sent via email, and other software vulnerabilities. Once the malware is opened, it needs mere minutes to take over the data on your computer.

How to prevent it? One way to shield yourself from an attack is to back up all your data periodically into the Cloud or an external hard drive. That way, when it does hit you, all its efforts will be for nothing because you already have copies. Another way is by turning off macros in MS Office and removing plug-ins like Java and Adobe Reader from your browser. If you do need these plug-ins, pre-set them to ask you first every time they launch.

  1. Phishing

Phishing is perhaps the most common scam online. It happens when somebody tries to steal your data by using a webiste or an email posing as the legitimate one. Usually, you’ll see a message that asks you to click a link to either verify your information or update it. The moment you click it, malware enters your computer, giving hackers the chance to spy on your online movements and access to anything of value in your PC. If you do “update” your details, they also get access to your financials.

How to prevent? Check all the emails sent to you before opening any attachment or clicking a link. Take note of the email addresses they use. Most phishing scams use emails that look very much the same as the legitimate ones but with one or two letters off. You have to be very thorough and meticulous with checks. Sometimes, instinct plays a major role in your protection. If you think an email is suspicious, don’t open it. Better yet, call the company by phone or contact them through an email you’ve used before to ask them if they did send that email. In short, when in doubt, don’t.

  1. Fake online protection plans

This scam capitalizes on your fear of becoming a victim of identity theft. Clever, right? You will sometimes see emails, pop-up messages, and sometimes get phone calls from companies that will offer identity theft protection services and antivirus software. These claims will usually start with telling you your computer has been compromised. They will promise to get rid of all the threats before any “damage” can occur. Because you’re hell bent on protecting yourself, it’s all too easy to just give them what they need. That’s when the problems start.

How to prevent? It pays to always be wary and suspicious of offers like these. Never open emails or popups that claim your PC has been hacked. You can also use ad-blockers to ward off any sneaky attempts to reach you. Finally, to avoid getting victimized and getting to that situation where you will need to get your computer cleaned up, just invest in reputable antivirus software that will regularly sweep your computer and protect it from malware.

Protecting Yourself

To protect yourself, understand that identity hackers are here to stay so you shouldn’t be too confident that your computer is totally protected. In fact, their methods are advancing and looking too close like the legitimate ones. The best way to ward them off is to be vigilant and to educate yourself with how they operate. You can also invest in identity theft protection but work only with credible and reputable service providers with a strong and proven track record. If you suspect that you have been attacked, report it to the bank and the authorities right away.

Safeguarding Yourself Online: 3 Common Identity Theft Scams And How To Prevent Them

Technology, for all its glory, is not immune to attacks and being solely dependent on it almost always means you will get hit by a glitch or a breach at any point. According to reports, over 200 businesses have fallen victim to hackers in 2017 alone (and in the US alone). As tech developers scramble to build fortresses that aim to block off any attempts at identity theft, hackers are also getting smarter.

That said, even if your system tells you it’s hacker-proof, the responsibility to protect your personal data, like Social Security and credit card numbers, still lies upon you. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself from identity theft and to prevent it from happening to you. But, first, let’s understand what identity theft means.

Identity Theft

Any unauthorized access to your personal details can be classified as identify theft. These can cover financial data like bank account numbers and credit card details, Social Security numbers, your birthdate and physical address. These can also include passwords and usernames to your online accounts, your phone, computer, and more. In short, the loss of anything that can be used to falsely represent you is considered identity theft.

When somebody gets hold of these details, they have the power to assume your identity and open new accounts, access financial resources, or basically pretend to be you. It can be very difficult to erase all the damage once your identity has been stolen. If you didn’t have safeguards in place, you could face major financial turmoil that could take years to recover from. Even if the theft had been proven, all the trouble that you need to go through to fix everything is exhausting.

Watch Out For These Common Scams

While you cannot totally shield yourself from hackers, you can certainly reduce the odds of you becoming a victim. We’ve gathered some of the most common identify theft scams so we can all spot a tactic when it attempts to hit us.

  1. Ransomware

This happens when a software encrypts your data and then asks you for payment to recover it. Ransomware attacks are doubly dangerous because not only do they have their hands on your identifying information, they are also asking you to pay them to give it back (if they even truly will). It’s literally getting your information kidnapped for ransom. Some ransomware can even lock you out of your operating system.

How do you spot it? Ransomware usually comes as a fake website form, a corrupt link or attachment sent via email, and other software vulnerabilities. Once the malware is opened, it needs mere minutes to take over the data on your computer.

How to prevent it? One way to shield yourself from an attack is to back up all your data periodically into the Cloud or an external hard drive. That way, when it does hit you, all its efforts will be for nothing because you already have copies. Another way is by turning off macros in MS Office and removing plug-ins like Java and Adobe Reader from your browser. If you do need these plug-ins, pre-set them to ask you first every time they launch.

  1. Phishing

Phishing is perhaps the most common scam online. It happens when somebody tries to steal your data by using a webiste or an email posing as the legitimate one. Usually, you’ll see a message that asks you to click a link to either verify your information or update it. The moment you click it, malware enters your computer, giving hackers the chance to spy on your online movements and access to anything of value in your PC. If you do “update” your details, they also get access to your financials.

How to prevent? Check all the emails sent to you before opening any attachment or clicking a link. Take note of the email addresses they use. Most phishing scams use emails that look very much the same as the legitimate ones but with one or two letters off. You have to be very thorough and meticulous with checks. Sometimes, instinct plays a major role in your protection. If you think an email is suspicious, don’t open it. Better yet, call the company by phone or contact them through an email you’ve used before to ask them if they did send that email. In short, when in doubt, don’t.

  1. Fake online protection plans

This scam capitalizes on your fear of becoming a victim of identity theft. Clever, right? You will sometimes see emails, pop-up messages, and sometimes get phone calls from companies that will offer identity theft protection services and antivirus software. These claims will usually start with telling you your computer has been compromised. They will promise to get rid of all the threats before any “damage” can occur. Because you’re hell bent on protecting yourself, it’s all too easy to just give them what they need. That’s when the problems start.

How to prevent? It pays to always be wary and suspicious of offers like these. Never open emails or popups that claim your PC has been hacked. You can also use ad-blockers to ward off any sneaky attempts to reach you. Finally, to avoid getting victimized and getting to that situation where you will need to get your computer cleaned up, just invest in reputable antivirus software that will regularly sweep your computer and protect it from malware.

Protecting Yourself

To protect yourself, understand that identity hackers are here to stay so you shouldn’t be too confident that your computer is totally protected. In fact, their methods are advancing and looking too close like the legitimate ones. The best way to ward them off is to be vigilant and to educate yourself with how they operate. You can also invest in identity theft protection but work only with credible and reputable service providers with a strong and proven track record. If you suspect that you have been attacked, report it to the bank and the authorities right away.