Social Networks

Identity theft can be devastating. Victims of this crime can spend months clearing up their financial information and credit reports. Many experience financial losses they never recoup. Unfortunately, cases of identity theft are on the rise.

The Internet provides people with a convenient way to shop, do their banking and pay their bills. However, it also opens the door to the possibility of identity theft. Users can protect themselves by taking a few precautions.


Use Strong Passwords

Correctly guessing passwords is the easiest way for a hacker to gain access to a victim’s account. “Password” remains the mostly commonly used password. Many people use simple, easily guessed passwords. They may use their children’s’ names, pets’ names, birthdates, anniversaries or home addresses. Hackers with basic knowledge of their victims can usually guess their passwords.

A strong password will contain a combination of letters and numbers. It is not a good idea to include actual words or names within the password. One suggestion for creating a strong password is to use the first letters in a phrase that is easy to remember. For example, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” might become a password of Abithiw2itb. This is an example of a good strong password.

Avoid Phishing Schemes

Phishing schemes use social engineering to trick people into handing over personal information.  Victims may be tricked by emails that purport to be from their bank. These emails will include links that appear to direct the victim to the company’s website. What they get instead is a site that looks like, but is not, the actual site. The person may then try to log into their account. When they do this, they are handing over the log-in information to the hacker.

Other times, sites that appear to be legitimate encourage users to create an account including such information as a user name, password and email address. Because many people tend to use the same log-in name and password for all their accounts, they are putting all their accounts at risk.

To avoid phishing, users should not click on links to get to websites. Instead, they should type in the address themselves or access them through their saved favorite-places. Also, user should use extra caution when creating an account at a suspect site.

Use Caution when Connecting through Wi-Fi Hotspots

Wi-Fi hotspots are convenient but can provide hackers with an easy way to intercept data. Using an iPhone VPN (or virtual private network) will protect users who frequently rely on these connections. People without a VPN should avoid using them whenever possible.

Use Social Networking Sites Wisely

Social networking sites are a great and fun way to stay connected with friends and loved ones. However, they provide a lot of information that can be used by hackers. Many people do not use the provided privacy controls. In doing so, they are offering their name, where they live, names of family members and pets, and, often, their birth dates. All this information can be used by third-parties to guess passwords and answer security questions. Users are strongly advised to take advantage of privacy controls and limit access to their pages only to people they know.

Dean Parlor believes the internet should be easily accessible and secure at the same time.  The  secure VPN service he mentions above is one way to increase one’s online freedom securely. Dean enjoys educating others about the tools available for access and security on the web.

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