We all know a basic form of security in the real world: locks. We lock our houses, studios and trucks and anything else that is valuable. And we don’t usually give the keys away to anyone who asks. Then why use your computer in such a way as to give away the keys to your personal and financial information?
One of the first rules of basic security on the Internet is to beware of any email you get with ominous warnings about how your “bank account has been accessed” and you need to login and check it, or how your account has been locked due to “unauthorized activity.”
Those are fake emails – purporting to be from banks and online stores – and are all scams. Those emails will try and convince you (with any number of other fake reasons) to click on a link and go to a Web page in order to login to your “account” and fix the situation. But don’t click: those emails are called phishing scams, and the link will take you to a fake Web site – copied from a legit Web site – where the scammers will steal your login, password and other account information, the keys to your financial life.
Any reputable bank or store will not send an email with a clickable link. When in doubt, call your bank and ask about the email. If you need to go to the banking or store Web site, go directly, either by typing the address into your Web browser or using a bookmark you have used in the past, not via the email link.
Rule two is beware of those free virus and spyware scanners that popup while you use a Web browser or appear as “error messages.” They are fake, and many times will plant spyware on your PC rather than remove it, spyware that will steal your personal information. Anything like a free virus scan from a Web site is too good to be true: don’t fall for such scams. Once you let malware into your PC, it has the necessary permissions to do just about anything.
Rule three: beware of free wireless Internet, or Wi-fi. Being able to access the Web and email from the local coffee shop, hotel and airport lounge seems innocuous, but there are risks ranging from losing the login information to your email accounts to the files on your laptop. Unless you are given a password – the encryption “key” – for the wireless and are told the connection is secure, be aware your email and information on Web sites you view can easily be intercepted by someone else with a laptop. You will be mostly safe on Web sites with addresses that begin with “https” instead of just “http,” because the “s” means a secure, encrypted connection.
So be aware of the rules of basic security on the Internet; few are looking out for your interests, and many will take your keys if you let them.