Securing Financial Details

Albert "Segvec" Gonzales, a hacker turned informant to the US Secret Service, has recently been charged with misusing the information of up to 130 million credit cards to illegally obtain funds. He purportedly wrote a piece of malware to make this possible. Malware is software which is like a virus and this was used to steal the personal information. Using this system he managed to steal millions of credit card numbers.

It is cases like these which cause us to be very cautious about using the Internet to buy things. There is an urgent need for awareness among Internet users and it's important that everyone knows about the threat of identity theft so that they can secure their personal details.

Understanding The Tools Of The Trade

Hackers usually obtain financial information by using malware. Malware is installed on your computer when a compromised program is activated, and most of the time the user is unaware of the malware's presence. It then sits silently on the affected computer, passively sending information to the hacker. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, until it involves sensitive information such as credit card details or passwords. This was what happened at Heartland Payment Systems.

Another way sensitive information can be stolen is through fake websites that pretend to be legitimate banks or businesses. This practice, known as phishing, lures the victim into parting with their details by convincing them that they are safe while doing so. Phishing can take various forms, with one of the most common tactics involving emails which tell the user to give their passwords or risk having their bank accounts shut down.

Avoiding These Scams

To avoid malware, the easiest way to counter it is by installing reputable antivirus software. Antivirus software like Norton Antivirus and AVG are able to identify malware by the way they behave. It's also advisable to update your antivirus frequently as new cyber threats present themselves on the Internet every day. It is also good practice to avoid unscrupulous sites since these are the places where hackers normally target their attacks.

Avoiding phishing is a little harder. Phishing is basically someone pretending to be someone they're not, so be on the lookout for phony emails and websites. If you come across a suspicious website, don't participate in any activity which requires you to give out sensitive information. Also, banks will never ask you for your information either over the phone or online, so do not respond to emails which ask you to divulge your passwords. If you have reason to believe that the threat might be real, make a call to your bank before taking any action.

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