Lately, I have been asking myself “what is internet security?” In a national best seller, former hacker turned author Kevin Mitnik wrote about the biggest security flaw in computer being the end user. Thinking about your internet security from that perspective is probably the best first line of defense you can have in protecting your computer from online threats.
In an ideal world, safe internet browsing habits is enough to prevent your Mac from catching a virus. But I’m no idealist. I have seen systems infected with powerful yet low level and undetectable threats. Leaving end users frustrated and almost feeling a lost sense of security and hope. So what is internet security?
Should I Take the Offensive or Defensive Position?
How often is it that you think about that question? Or from the offensive perspective? Perhaps not a lot, not at all or not until something happens that affects you directly?
With internet security, this is often the case. For example, I cannot count how many times, and on how many occasions I have warned my brother about the (literally) hundreds of thousands of scam websites and fraudulent phishing emails. This has gone on for years and years, and the only response I would get is “I don’t have nothing for them to take so what should I care?” or “I don’t need anti virus software they can’t get anything out of my computer anyway.”
It was not until he received a call from one of his banks, asking if he had recently traveled to another part of the country that he started to believe there was some truth to what I was saying. By then, the people who hacked his identity had already racked up several thousands of dollars worth of purchases in his name. Fortunately the bank caught the fraudulent activity just in the nick of time, and did not charge him an overdraft fee, or require him to dispute the purchases.
But recently, another bank of his did not do the same. Instead, they are requiring that he file a dispute with the companies where the fraudulent charges were made, and then file a dispute with the bank.
So he now has to take the time to research where the purchases were made, contact the sales department, dispute the purchases that were made, then take time out of his day to go down to the bank with copies of his dispute with the company that withdrew the money from his account (are you confused yet), fill out all the dispute forms to object to the unauthorized online purchases that were made in his name.
One short but powerful note in this situation is the purchases were made from the nation of Uzbekistan. Although that may not matter to the banks dispute department.
You Are Your Top Internet Security Client
As you can see, time consuming process and headache that goes into recovering from a breach of your internet security is not nearly as much stress as it takes to protect yourself initially. In fact, here are a few great habits to build in an effort to avoid having to go through the above:
- Never allow anyone you don’t know or trust to use your computer for any reason.
One of the simplest security exploits is merely allowing someone you don’t know or trust to access your computer Whether as a favor, to check their email, send their Mother a message or whatever the reason. It is always a good habit to keep others off of your computer.
- Ignore Immediate Acts of Trust Building Followed by Request for Network Access
Often times, scammers will do simple acts of trust building to gain your confidence. It can be as simple as showing you a picture of a lost dog, to giving you an empty wallet they “found.” In times like these it is best to still keep your guard up and be weary of ulterior motives.
- Never Open Email from Unknown Senders No Matter How Enticing the Offer May Be
Yes, I know this may seem like a common sense one. But it is still applicable to this very day. Spammers, Phishing Emails and Email Viruses are still being spread daily through email so it is a good habit not to open any email from any person you don’t know. It is also a good habit to ask a friend if they recently sent you an email in some cases where you may have not heard from someone for a while and their email pops up in your Inbox. They may have caught a virus, and may not be aware that they are sending out emails to people.
- Get a Separate Computer for Children to Use
Children have a tendency to “just click it,” that’s just their nature. Whether or not they receive a warning message you’re your internet security software. None of those things matter to the curious mind of teen, let alone an eight year old that is pretty handy with a mouse.
For those of you who are already practicing the above steps I applaud your efforts, and implore you to keep up the good work.
For those that are not, please don’t take this lightly. It is more difficult to recover from an attack then it is to prevent against one. Whether you easily incorporate the habits above into your daily life, or would rather pay someone like LifeLock to do it for you. At least the next time you wonder what is internet security, you will know that whatever it is, inevitably it begins with you.