You Can Run Anti-virus, but You can't Hide from Hackers: How to Protect Your Data
Posted by Pamela S. on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
About ten years ago, I was visiting a company on some business and they gave me a piece of scrap paper to write on. I turned the paper over and there was a printout of the names, addresses, social security numbers and salaries of their staff. If you are thinking, as I did, that you would never be so irresponsible, think again. Maybe you don't have pages of personal information flying around your office, but in the paperless world it is a different story.
Most of us take Internet and wireless security for granted. We install anti-virus protection on our computers and don't respond to spam emails, but the majority of us are complacent. I probably spend 15 hours a day on the computer, at least 10 online. I’m no geek, I don’t know an ASPI from a DASD. That is why I read hacking sites, so I can see what the enemy is up to. It isn't just computers that allow hackers, identity thieves and scammers into our lives. All kinds of items we use everyday have computers built into them, storing our information.
Did you know that the private correspondence you copied at the corner store, or your office has been captured and stored in the hard drive of a digital photocopier? According to an article on infopackets.com, “Nearly every digital copier built since 2002 contains a hard drive — similar to the one in your personal computer — that stores images of every document copied, scanned, or emailed by the machine.”
The article mentions a CBS investigation into this issue. CBS randomly purchased copiers from a used photocopier supplier. Two of the copiers were previously owned by the Buffalo Police Department. They were still loaded with confidential police documents.
Copier manufacturers such as Sharp offer software that automatically erases the hard drive images, but most people aren't aware of this, or don’t want to spend the money.
People often make copies of their driver’s licence, passport or birth certificates on copiers, unaware that they are giving that information away to someone who knows how to access the data on the machine.
While you are making those copies, someone is leaving a message on your cell phone, and someone else may be listening to that message. The News of The World cell phone hacking scandal has been all over the media. How easy is it to hack a cellphone?
A Toronto Star reporter interviewed Stephen Pearson, managing partner with High Tech Crime Institute Inc. in Tampa, Fla., for some tips in protecting your cell phone information. “People buy expensive phones and rarely take a good look at its security features. Those who do not set up the four-digit password in their iPhone or BlackBerry “are fools and asking to be vic
tims,” said Pearson.
In the News of the World hacking, voice mail passwords on the victims' phones had never been changed from the default 1111 or 4444.
Last year I got a new android phone after having a Blackberry for many years. Like I said, I’m no geek. I pressed the button to access your Facebook profile on your phone. Like magic, my Facebook friends' phone numbers were downloaded to my phone. Like a lot of us, I have friends on Facebook who aren't really friends. Some are friends of friends, or people I have met at functions. I have no interest in phoning them, or giving out my phone number, but there it is.
My cell phone has an app to listen to police and other scanners. You used to be able to capture calls from cordless phones on these scanners, but newer digital phones have made this more difficult. If you still have an older cordless, or baby monitor, someone could be listening to your private conversations. Get rid of that old analog stuff to protect your privacy.
I wrote a post the other day about protecting your online reputation on Facebook. Part of that protection means controlling access to your Facebook account. Sometimes I think being on Facebook is like dropping into the pit of privacy hell. Almost everyone I know has had their Facebook account hacked. All of a sudden everyone on your list starts receiving spam emails on embarrassing topics like penile enhancement products.
Here is something I just learned, from blogtyrant.com “Go log in to Facebook. Go on, do it. Now, does the URL say “http://” or “https://”? If it is the former then you are not in a secure session. Go in to your settings and make sure it always uses https:// and whenever you log into any website make sure you type the “s” if you are logging in.”
Everyone knows that their computer is at risk from malware, viruses, trojans, spyware and other hacks. Even the best anti-virus protection can’t protect you 100%. Hackers are coming up with new avenues to get into your computer, even as I write this. Experts agree that the most important thing you can do is use a strong password and change it frequently. The same applies to usernames.
This applies across the board. Your computer, phone, tablet, voice mail, bank accounts, social networking and any Internet site that requires a username and password, should be updated on a regular basis.
“PASSWORD” is one of the most hacked words. Choose a password that is a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special-case characters, and the longer the better. If you use the same password on all of your accounts, a hacker just needs to break into one account to get access to all of your information. When your operating system asks to remember your password, click “No”. Update your browsers when a new one becomes available. I’m sure you know most of this safety advice, but we all get lazy. It only takes a moment to make up a password, or input it into a system, but for some reason, we balk at this little task.
Using free public Wi-Fi also leaves you open to hackers. Whether you are at your local coffee shop, an airport, or a hotel room in a foreign country, be extremely careful about the information you are sending.
It would be impossible to go over all of the risks you open yourself up to just by communicating in the digital age. The best advice I can give is to use some of your spare time changing passwords and checking out sites like PrivacyAlerts.org or Rafayhackingarticles.net for the latest news on digital security.
The day is not far off when your coffee maker is going to say to your wife “Watch out, he’s already had three cups of coffee this morning, and you know how edgy he gets when he drinks too much caffeine.”
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