We have learned so far in this course that the internet is a very useful tool that can make our lives much easier, if used correctly. With that being said, there are a number of ways that the internet can be dangerous, and here are some tips for staying safe on the internet.
The term “hackers” is a catch-all term nowadays for people who possess advanced technical knowledge of computers and computer systems. Many hackers are well-intentioned, such as those employed to detect security issues in company websites, or even those who hack for social activism. When most people think of hackers, what comes to mind is the idea of some person sitting in a dark room trying to break into the bank accounts of unsuspecting citizens and funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars into their accounts without a trace, or similarly, those who use their skills to breach the networks of corporations and governments for criminal purposes. While both types exist, the latter is the type of hacker that we will learn to better protect ourselves from in this chapter.
Installing firewalls, Antivirus Software, and Anti-Spyware software are a few ways that you can protect your computer from malicious hackers. You can read more about protecting yourself from viruses here.
Many of you probably have a social media account, or have signed up as a member (much like that of OpenClassrooms) of some web service. Most of these services require you to have a password that gives you (and only you) access to your account. If you choose a password that can be guessed easily, such as “password1234”, for example, someone looking to access your account can probably guess, or use a simple software to guess, your password and access your account.
“Why would anyone want to access my accounts?”
Most of your accounts are of little interest to hackers- which is not to say that you should use simpler passwords for sites that you feel are less important. Hackers usually target sites with information that could be of use to them- such as access to your social network from your facebook account, access to your private information from your email accounts, and especially access to the money in your bank account. If you have a weak password and the wrong person comes across your information, you could be in some real trouble.
How to protect yourself with a good password:
Use different passwords.
If a hacker comes across one of your passwords and has access to one account, they might try to use the same password to access any other accounts you have to see if they can get more information. Use different passwords for each account you create, and use a password manager application or another secure form of storage to keep track of all of your passwords.
Don’t use plain words
Software exists that can test entire dictionaries for your password, so a hacker can easily gain access to your account if you've used a simple word as your password.
Make your password a sentence including special characters, different letter cases, and numbers.
Using the first letter of each word in a sentence, such as “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down” could translate to a strong password like this “ngGYu%NGlyD1987”. The more complex your password is, the harder it is for a hacker to access your account.
Use multi-factor authentication.
Many web services now have an option to use a second or even third step to logging in. It may send a text, email, or push notification to one of your devices for you to confirm that it is you logging into your account.
You should never give out personal information, such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, account numbers, passwords, addresses and other sensitive data to people that you aren’t familiar with, as you might encounter in an online chat room or on social media. Secure websites where you can enter this type of information will usually have a domain beginning with “https” rather than the standard “http”. The “s” stands for “secure”, which means that the information exchanged between your browser and the website are protected by encryption.
Additionally, be aware of your accounts when you use public computers, like those in libraries or internet cafés. You can protect yourself in a few ways:
Don’t allow websites to remember your information
This is okay to do on your personal computer or phone that only you have access to, but never on a public computer. When you sign into accounts and allow websites to “remember” your usernames and passwords on public computers, anyone who uses the computer after you can log back into your account without even needing to know who you are, your email, username, or even your password.
Sign out of your accounts
The easiest way for someone to access your social media account is if you have left the account signed in. Be sure to sign out of all of your accounts when using public computers.
Clear the history, cache, and cookies
You can go to Settings -> Advanced Settings -> Privacy and Security -> Clear Browsing Data in most browsers to clear your session and ensure that your accounts do not have your account information saved in the browser.
Some browsers, like Google Chrome, have an anonymous window feature that allows you to use the browser without storing your session. To ensure that your information is not stored in the browser, all you have to do is close the window .
Wi-Fi is a technology that allows local devices to connect to the internet and the web through radio waves. When using public Wi-Fi networks, many are safe and trustworthy, but don’t let your desire for internet access compromise your personal security. Wi-Fi networks are usually encrypted so that anyone monitoring the wireless traffic cannot see the information exchanged between your devices and the wireless router. Though many have this feature, some do not, and they are usually “open” networks. “Open”, in this case, means that there is no Wi-Fi passphrase necessary to access the connection, and if this network is unencrypted, a hacker can see which websites you are visiting and what you submit through unprotected web forms. You can avoid being vulnerable to these types of tactics by only using encrypted websites, like those with “https” in the domain, rather than just “http”, and using secure Wi-Fi sources. You can read more about public Wi-Fi here.
The internet lasts forever, so that awesome photo from that awesome halloween party will last forever too.
Be mindful of the things you post online, because while you can delete things that you no longer want from your personal accounts or computers, information and files cannot be deleted from the web, so anything you post online will still be retrievable on the web when you go to interview for your dream job.
What is phishing? Phishing is when someone creates a false attempt, most commonly seen in emails, to steal your personal information- credit card numbers, social security numbers, account numbers, passwords, and other sensitive data. Hopefully you wouldn’t just enter this information into a random website that asks you for it, but the technique behind phishing attempts is to mimic a real website, such as the website of your bank.
The hackers will have you enter your information into the false website, which will then be sent to them and not to whomever you thought you were sending your information to. The attempts are usually time sensitive and try to have you enter your information as quickly as possible, as by saying something along the lines of, “If you do not confirm you password and credit card numbers within 48 hours of receiving this email, your account will be locked and inaccessible until we can verify that you are the owner.”
Another common practice in phishing emails is to include a false link that has anchor text for the familiar service. The text may say "yourbank.com", but the embedded link actually takes you to the false website, which is probably looking to collect your personal information. You should NEVER click a link if you do not know where it transfers to. You can hover the mouse over the link in any email or on any web page, and in the bottom left corner of your browser, you will see what website the link actually transfers to, versus the text displayed in the email. You can read more about phishing here.
Stay safe and enjoy the wonders of the internet and the web!