November 4th 2013
While you probably understand that data protection is important, you may not be doing everything you can to keep your sensitive information from being exposed on the Internet. The unfortunate truth is that cybercriminals are more sophisticated and driven today than ever before, which means that your confidential information is at greater risk.
Hackers and other malicious individuals are using more complex attacks that are often hidden from your view. This means that an otherwise innocuous trip to your favorite online store may inadvertently be detoured, leading to the exposure of your financial and other important assets. By keeping at least one proactive eye open at all times, you may be able to identify anomalous behavior and address online threats before they jeopardize your sensitive information.
Do you frequently battle popups?
In the past, the most common way to recognize that your computer was hacked was being forced to constantly close out of windows proclaiming that you needed better anti-virus software. While these types of attacks are still common, they are not nearly as frequent as they were several years ago. Instead, you may be finding yourself battling irrelevant ads and other annoying popups.
Although it is becoming commonplace for firms to take some of your information and use it to build targeted advertisements, frequently encountering completely random popups may mean that your email or computer has been hacked. In many cases, these occurrences spawn from the installation of sketchy toolbars, which can often be removed and deleted. Other times, you may have to reboot your computer in Safe Mode and manually uninstall unauthorized software.
If you find your Internet searches rerouted or your screen full of annoying popups, you should consider taking immediate action to mitigate risk and reduce the chances that your sensitive information becomes exposed.
Have your passwords changed without your permission?
Phishing attacks have become more common. These instances occur when you are encouraged by a company to either confirm a purchase or other activity or change your password and other information because you were allegedly compromised. Many of these incidents are brought to your attention via email, look authentic enough and will provide you with a link to make any necessary changes. Unfortunately, that link will often "fail to load." How convenient.
If you click on the link, a hacker on the other end of the line will likely acquire your login information, change it and leverage those new usernames and passwords to their advantage. Fortunately, there are some things you can keep an eye out for after receiving a sketchy email. First, you should check for any spelling errors that may indicate the email is not as official as it would lead you to believe. Secondly, if the message contains a link, hovering over the hyperlink without clicking on it will reveal its true destination. If the two addresses do not align, delete the email and move on.
As the threat landscape evolves, you need to be vigilant if you want your sensitive data to stay hidden from the view of malicious individuals. While many information protection issues derived from hackers can be identified and avoided, other instances are more severe and will require you to seek help from professionals. If your bank account or other financial assets have been compromised in any way, you should immediately contact the authorities, rather than sniffing around and trying to resolve the issue by yourself.
In the end, being aware is one of the best ways to combat threats, even if those risks are the work of sophisticated hackers.
Articles from Larry Keating's (CEO, NPC) guest blog on the Huffington Post Business pages