Protecting Yourself from Online Hackers and Scammers
Updated: Sep 10, 2019
You don’t have to lose your phone, or leave your credit card behind in a restaurant to be hacked and become a cybercrime victim. Tech-savvy scammers and hackers are everywhere, trying to find your vulnerabilities and access to your personal and financial information and credit. Cybercrimes are low risk, highly profitable, and easily scaled across hundreds or thousands of people. As a consumer, you need to be aware of the threats you face, whether it’s using the same password across multiple online accounts, plugging your phone into a public USB port, or sliding a credit card into a skimmer-equipped credit card reader at a gas station.
Hacking incidents are serious. Hackers may use spyware to access everything from your contacts and real-time location to your messages on iMessage, WhatsApp and Gmail. In August 2019, Will Strafach, a mobile security expert with Sudo Security said, “Anyone on any platform could potentially get infected with malware.” Google researcher Ian Beer said in a blog post that absolute digital security can’t be guaranteed .
In the rest of this article, we will explore ways to secure your identity and finances, eliminating ways that hackers can access your information and money.
Protecting Your Computer and WIFI Connections
Think twice before hopping on public WIFI at an internet café or the airport and paying your bills. In particular, password-free WIFI networks should be avoided at all costs. You may have heard the saying, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Tech experts also agree there is no such thing as free WIFI. Some hackers use a device called WIFI Pineapple which tricks people into inadvertently connecting to the wrong WIFI hotspot. You may think you’re connecting to a secure network like Starbucks or your airport, but are really logging into a fake network where hackers can see everything you’re doing down to your every keystroke.
Even on a secure network, simply visiting a hacked website may be enough for an exploit server to quickly install a monitoring implant, making everything you do and say visible. In some more terrifying hacking incidents, hackers have installed malware on computers that secretly take photos every two minutes and upload the images onto a remote server. You can protect yourself from your computer or iPad taking pictures of you by installing a cheap webcam cover.
Protecting Your Smartphone
If you use your phone to access your bank accounts, you can give yourself more security by also not using public WIFI (access accounts only on home WIFI or cellular network) and using your bank’s mobile app vs. logging into the mobile version of your website. Security experts also recommend turning off WIFI and Bluetooth on your phone when you leave the house. Beyond never leaving your phone unattended, keep a complex passcode on your phone or use a facial recognition lock.
Protecting Your Online Accounts with Unique Passwords
You’ve probably set up online accounts that will ask you to answer security questions. If the company needs to verify that you’re really you, they will use these questions to verify your identity to ask you the name of your childhood pet, your mother’s maiden name, or your city of birth. The answers to these questions may be known to close family members, or in some cases easily searchable on the internet, making your accounts vulnerable. Security blog Techlicious says there is nothing secure about these generic queries and recommends that you lie on them, making up an answer that no one could guess. A password manager will let you store notes securely and provide the answers to these security questions.
You use your email address to log into Facebook but you can hide your address so that only you can see it. To do this, log in to your Facebook account and visit your About page. In the left-hand column, click Contact and Basic Info, and select the Email field, then click the Edit button after it pops up. Finally, click the first down arrow to the right of the email address that you use to log in to Facebook, then select Only Me. Enable two-factor authentication to ensure an extra layer or protection beyond a username and password.
Use a Password Manager
Many people use the same or similar passwords across multiple platforms. You shouldn’t use the same password for your online bank, your credit card company, and your social media accounts. A password manager allows you to have strong, different passwords across all of your accounts, keeps all your passwords in a secure vault and allows you to log in to sites with a single click. 1Password is $4.99 / per month for a family of 5, and includes unlimited passwords and credit cards and 24/7 support. Other popular password managers are Dashlane and LastPass.
Your Credit and Debit Cards
You don’t have to lose your credit card for your information to be compromised. Your information can be collected from a card skimmer, a small electronic device that steals the information off of your credit card’s magnetic stripe. Criminals can then use the information to create a counterfeit card or make purchases online. Be especially cautious at gas stations and self-pay stations and familiarize yourself with what card skimmers look like. If you are in doubt, pay for your gas inside.
Reviewing Your Transactions
It is common for people to get electronic monthly statements each month, and many people may not review every transaction. However, for your own security, you should open your statements each month and do a scan. Make sure the transactions posted are your own. If something doesn’t look right, call your bank. Hackers often make small, normal transactions to trick victims into thinking fraudulent purchases were made by them. For example, a $4 purchase at a convenience store is insignificant enough for a person to think that must have been them, and they must have forgotten about the transaction. This approach can make ultimate discovery of the hacking be weeks or even months later.
The Multi-Faceted Approach to Personal and Financial Security
Understanding weak points is important in protecting yourself. You should be aware of your vulnerabilities in your actions, and what you do that may compromise your security. Remember that protecting yourself from hackers is an ongoing process. What may have worked in the past may not work in the future as hackers get more and more innovative.
All information and materials in this article are for educational purposes only. Opinions expressed in this article are based on information considered reliable, but The Daily Money Show cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information nor should it be relied upon. The information discussed in this article should not be used as a recommendation to buy or sell securities nor should it be taken as investment advice. The Daily Money Show is not a Registered Investment Advisor or Broker Dealer. The Daily Money Show is not an accounting firm and does not give tax advice regarding any security or real estate transaction. You may want to consult with an accountant, attorney, real estate agent or financial advisor before proceeding with any transaction regarding securities or real estate.