How to Protect Yourself From On-Line Crime

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One of the most popular pastimes when using a home computer is the use of the internet. It’s a great place for research, news, buying and selling and keeping in touch.

The internet is a great place for research, news, buying and selling and keeping in touch whether it’s by email or internet chat-rooms, etc. But with the growth in popularity of the internet comes an exponential growth in online crime. In 2006 the incidence of online financial fraud was double the number of robberies taking place in the UK and figures released in October 2008 by UK payment services Apacs showed online banking fraud losses totaled £21.4m during the six months to June 2008 a 185% rise on the 2007 figure.

Protect Your Computer From On-Line Crime

On-line criminals target individuals in many ways, for example, it may be possible to:

  • Infect a personal computer with spyware and steal your identity
  • Infect a personal computer with pop-ups, viruses, worms, and trojans
  • Bombard email accounts with spam and other unsolicited emails
  • Take over a personal computer remotely and use it to attack other people
  • Hack into a home wireless network (over 50% of people questioned admitted to using a wireless network belonging to someone else)

Will luck, all that will happen is that email will slow- clogged up with unsolicited email. Files may be corrupted or online criminals may target other unsuspecting individuals using information stored on your computer. Your identity, your privacy, your money, your reputation, and your computer are all at stake.

Quick Guide to Protect Your Computer From Hackers

Here is a quick guide to help to ensure all personal computing equipment is safe:

Make sure personal computers are protected with the latest security patches and anti-virus software. Many computers sold on the high street may have been in the stockroom for several months so come with software which is out of date. Out of date security patches and anti-virus software leave machines vulnerable to attack, so set preferences to auto-download, this will ensure patching remains current. In an attempt to prevent online fraud some financial institutions allow free downloads of security software for their customers.

Stay secure online. When using the internet ensure you know who you are talking to, whether that be a ‘friend’ in an internet chat-room or conducting business with your online bank. Remember: reputable online businesses will not ask users to disclose personal “details”. When shopping online always use secure sited- look for the padlock symbol.

Exercise caution when dealing with unsolicited email and email from unknown sources.

Ensure the home wireless connection is safe by Encryption, wireless routers give the user the option of encrypting data so bank details and passwords cannot be intercepted. Protect home wireless connections with a password.

Don’t broadcast the name of your wireless network (SSID). In addition, choose an obscure hard-to-guess SSID name to make life harder for Wi-Fi hackers – if it can be identified as an SSID e.g. Joe Bloggs network it is easier for hackers to target.

Password protect personal computers. Choose a password, a minimum of eight characters in length comprising of alpha-numeric and special characters. Change the password regularly. Do not disclose the password or write it down. Add a user account for each family member. This gives each user their own password and access to their own files.

Set a password for the screen saver and remember to lock the screen by pressing ctrl-alt-delete when the computer is left unattended.

When replacing a personal computer make sure the old machine is decommissioned correctly. A fraudster will know where to look for the data they want. Credit card details are available for less than £10, the criminal fraternity source old PC’s from internet auction sites, rubbish tips, and second-hand shops. ‘Which’ magazine recommends destroying the hard disc with a hammer but this could be detrimental to the environment. Simply deleting files is not sufficient to permanently erase them. A special utility such as Evidence Eliminator, KillDisc, Eraser or other proprietary software is what’s needed to delete all traces of the file.

A few moments spent ensuring the home computer is fully protected will prevent a drain on expenses either repairing the machine if it becomes infected with worms, viruses, and Trojans, etc or, more importantly, identity theft.

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