Staying Safe in the Online World

The Internet is one of the most useful tools ever invented. It allows people from different sides of the globe to keep in touch with each other at the speed of light and it allows us to make transactions without ever having to leave our home. But it also makes it easier for criminals and thieves to steal our information and use it for their own intentions.

It is necessary for us to realize that online fraud is becoming ever prevalent. Recently, a man was convicted of hacking into 7 Eleven's databases to obtain the credit card information of over 40 million people. As we rely more on the Internet to perform our chores, we also need to know how to protect our sensitive information online from being stolen.

Hackers Steal Identity

Hackers are typically interested in financial gain, and will look for things such as credit card numbers, virtual identities and email passwords. They do this generally in two ways: one, by tapping access into our computers through virtual "back doors", otherwise known as Trojans or malware or by waiting for users to approach a compromised area and ask them to divulge their information, a practice known as "phishing".

A virus that is attached to an email can spread to an entire network's database in a couple of minutes. Similarly, malware that has gained access to one email address can rapidly spread to other email addresses by sending copies of itself without the email owner realizing it. It is this kind of threat which makes cyber criminals as dangerous as they are.

Protecting Your Sensitive Information

To counter the activities of these unscrupulous agents, users should install antivirus software on their computers. Some of the more recognized brands are McAfee and Trend-Micro. This kind of software identifies malware from the way they behave, and removes them or informs the owner of the malware's presence. Staying updated on the software's virus definition files is necessary, as new viruses spring up every day, and strike within a matter of hours. Always keep your antivirus turned on. A firewall is no replacement for good antivirus software.

When choosing passwords, choose one that is hard to guess, presumably one that is unique to you so you can easily remember it. Do not choose whole words, and add numbers into your password for originality. For example, let's say you've bought a new Porsche as a second car. You can replace the "o" for "0" and the "e" for "3". Subsequently, you will get "p0rch32" as your password, which is sufficiently hard to guess. For security's sake, remember to change your passwords once every 3 months.

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With the advent of wireless Internet, more and more computer users are entering the world of cyber space.

Yet, while these users are well aware of the importance of the protection of their computer when hooked up to regular internet providers, they are often oblivious to the fact that the same cyber dangers, and in fact even more, exist in the world of WiFi.

What you may not know is that same Internet connection that makes it possible to check your email from the comfort of your bed also makes it easier for hackers to access your personal information.

It is for this reason, the sharing of the wireless Internet connection, that protecting your computer when wireless is even more important than ever before.