How to Guard Yourself Against
Dangerous Online Threats
Knowledge is power, but information is king. In the information age, the value of data and information is unprecedented.
If you’re careless about your online activities, hackers and malicious parties may gain access to sensitive and personal information. Once privy to your data, they may steal your money, steal your identity, or even commit fraud under your name. This is why you need to know how to guard yourself against dangerous online threats.
That’s why, for this article, we decided to teach you some of the simplest ways that can reduce your risks of being hacked or targeted.
Keep Personal Information Private
According to this infographic from TrendLabs, more than 20 million people in the US include their birthdays as public information on their Facebook pages. And, do you know which personal information (that also doubles as a security answer) is the most shared information on social media? That’s right -- birthdays!
You may not consider your birthday to be private information. How could you, when all your friends and family members know when your birthday is?
But, there are two problems here, really.
First, you may be using websites that still use birthdays as security questions. If someone knows your email and your birthday, they may just go ahead and click the “Forgot your password?” button. They reset your password by answering the easiest security question in the world and then gain access to your account.
The other problem is that we often choose birthdays as security answers because they’re the easiest to remember!
You may not be aware of just how much of your personal information you’re making available for social media. Most people wouldn’t think twice about posting about a beloved first pet, a favorite elementary school teacher, or even their mother’s full name. But, all of these are common answers to security questions too. And speaking of sharing...
Oversharing on social media has become a real problem. It makes users more susceptible to cyberattacks. But, you may be wondering how so.
Suppose you posted and tagged your friends on a public group picture on your Facebook account. Then, a scammer sees the photo and tries to figure out the nature of the relationships between the people in the picture. Because you’ve posted other images of you and your friends on your timeline, the scammer now knows a bit of your personal history.
Said scammer then decides to impersonate you and send a message to the other people in the photos. There’s a long list of imaginary scenarios that this scammer can tell to fool your friends into sending money or giving up sensitive information.
Consider a Residential Proxy
What are residential proxies, and how do they work? A dedicated residential proxy makes use of an ISP-provided IP address to serve as an intermediary between you and any connection over the web.
See, every time you go online and visit a website or use a web service, you’re providing those sites and services with your IP address. The problem is your IP address is tied to the device that you’re using. And, websites can use IP addresses to pinpoint your location wherever you may be in the world!
So, if you’ve ever wondered why website ads seem to know where you live, there’s your answer.
But what does all this have to do with internet security? Well, it’s because of how residential proxies work.
Unlike data center proxies, residential proxies are considered “real people” by most online services. These ISP-owned proxies make you appear like any other user from a website’s POV.
If you visit a website using a residential IP, the proxy acts as an intermediary. It hides your real IP from the website you’re trying to visit. The website thinks you’re just another website visitor and lets you in.
The anonymity that residential proxies provide can help you hide your identity from hackers. Using a legally acquired and ISP-provided residential IP allows you to enjoy complete privacy over the web.
Think Before You Click
When phishing scams first started, they were pretty easy to detect. Around 1995, phishers targeted AOL users by posing as AOL staff and then asking them to reveal their passwords. Though AOL caught the phishing activities early, phishers have already caused significant damage to thousands of unsuspecting victims.
It may sound like a cliché. But the phrase, “Think before you click,” was overused for a reason. In 2004, 1.2 million Americans fell for phishing scams and reported a total loss of $929 million. You might be thinking, “But that’s like a gazillion years ago! Surely we’ve become better at detecting phishing scams now?”
Just last 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 240,000 Americans became victims of email phishing scams. This resulted in victim losses amounting to $4.2 billion. These numbers don’t even take into account unreported phishing attacks. These losses all began with just a click.
Phishing attacks are getting more sophisticated, and knowing what you’re up against can help you safeguard your information. Here are some telltale signs you’re looking at a spoof or phishing email:
- Email uses your email address to refer to you or addresses you simply as ‘customer’, ‘user’, or ‘account holder’ instead of using your account-related name
- Email content has poor spelling, grammar, construction, and low-res images
- Email address appears to be legitimate, but hovering over the email address reveals a longer, nonsensical, and usually unrelated domain
- Email asks you to verify financial information or confirm a transaction
- Email asks you to click a sketchy link or download an attachment
- Email has a sense of urgency and scares you into thinking you’ll lose access to your account if you don’t do as it says
Stay vigilant, and make sure that your devices are all up-to-date. Create strong passwords, use different passwords for different sites, or use a password manager. Always double-check your privacy settings. Do a quick check over the web if you’re doubting the authenticity of the site you’re visiting.
When you’re looking to protect yourself from online threats like scams, hacks, phishing, and other cyberattacks, it helps to use your common sense and trust your instincts.
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