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The advent of digital technology has given voices for the voiceless, friends to the lonely and an audience to creatives who would otherwise we locked in a spiral of self-doubt and creative impotence. For parents, the internet is an exceptionally valuable tool. Digitally savvy parents have access to a huge spectrum of advice on all aspects of parenting from nutrition to discipline to gift ideas to the gentle reassurance that certain behaviors are completely normal and nothing to worry about. Doctor Spock was great and all, but he was no substitute for a huge and diverse community of parents all on hand to share their experiences.
As great as the digital world has been to parents, creatives and anyone else who might gravitate to blogs such as this, surfing through computers and other devices can seriously compromise your online security. Many a less than savvy browser has fallen afoul of some of the inventively insidious ways in which cyber criminals rob good people of their money and / or identities. Here we’ll look at some of the more common threats to your personal online security and how you can defend against them. Fortunately, as smart as cyber criminals can be, the people dedicated to protecting you are always smarter, which is why a whole cyber security industry has arisen around the need to conduct online transactions in safety. You can now use identity verification to detect fraudulent transactions and block malicious software with comprehensive and affordable software. Be wary of these common security risks and you’ll surf and shop with peace of mind, always.
Malware is amongst the most common threats to your online security. It’s the blanket term used for all forms of malicious software that can infect or infiltrate your computer and compromise your hardware’s capability as well as your personal data. Malware applies to viruses, trojan horses, worms, spyware and adware. Some of it (like adware) is merely an annoyance while some viruses can corrupt your computer and render it unusable.
Malware is most commonly used to intimidate unknowing browsers with scareware; usually in the form of a pop-up message telling you that your computer has a security threat when it does not. It will then usually redirect you to a page selling an erroneous miracle cure that can be down loaded.
Malware can also alter or delete files and reformat your hard drive, causing you to lose all of your data and applications. It can steal sensitive information such as your name and address or credit card details, send email messages on your behalf, and even take control of your computer and the software running on it remotely.
The best defense against Malware is to install reputable security software. You don’t even need to pay top dollar for this. Windows Defender comes with most versions of Windows and is really good. Just remember to keep it switched on at all times.
Botnets are tricky to detect as they go about their malicious business undetected all over the darned internet. Just as we don’t detect the pathogens that form the beginnings of a cold or flu virus, botnets slowly build an army of infected computers (known in IT circles as zombies) which can remotely be controlled by the originator. Terrifyingly, your computer may be a zombie and you wouldn’t even know it. Botnets can use your computer to send viruses and other malware to your contacts. Fortunately, there are ways of safely detecting and removing botnets. Check some of them out here.
Distributed Denial of Service Attacks (DDoS)
DDoS attacks are carried out by a malicious user, commanding an army of zombie computers. The user then gets the zombie computers to contact a website or service over and over and over again until it causes their servers to overload. In most cases this will cause the website to slow down significantly and in others it can cause them to shut down completely.
Pharming is a comm on form of online fraud, whereby a request to access a legitimate URL is redirected to a malicious fake website that can be visually indistinguishable from the legitimate site. In the worst case scenario this can lead you to input personal information (including your credit card information) into these fake sites, leaving you vulnerable to fraudulent transactions on your card. Most anti-malware software will block pharming requests.
Phishing / spoofing
Pharming’s equally egregious cousin, phishing is the most common form of online fraud favored by cyber criminals because it is easy to implement and (unfortunately) yields results from unknowing users. If you receive an email or text from your bank asking for your details or linking to any site other than your bank’s legitimate website (with a https:// prefix) then it’s likely a phishing attempt.