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Go Phish: Swimming the Troubled Waters of Information Security Online

Did you know almost 80 million identities have already been exposed online in 2013? Knowing this, it’s time to ask yourself if you have sufficient anti-virus protection installed on your computer, or if you are just another unprotected fish in the internet sea.

Even if your computer is “secure,” you could still be vulnerable to getting hacked. Phishing schemes are one of the most common forms of attacks online and a preferred method of cyber criminals. The term “phishing” originates from the word “fishing” because of the manner in which hackers attract their victims resembles the way fishermen bait fish. If you aren’t careful, you could end up biting into a hook and be reeled into a phisher’s waiting arms.

Top Causes of Data Breaches in 2013 (So Far)

36% – Theft or Loss of Computer Drive
30% – Accidently Made Public
25% – Hackers
5% – Unkown
3% – Fraud
2% – Insider Theft

The lifespan of a phishing website is short, lasting only 23 hours and 10 minutes on average before being taken down by search engines and Web hosts. Even in that short time, though, hackers can still push you onto their sites. Here’s an example of how hackers bait you: recently I received an alarming email, supposedly from my bank, alerting me of a large purchase I’d never made. The email looked authentic and before I so much as blinked, I had clicked the link contained in the email. Fortunately my anti-virus protection was up to task, and I did not fall into the phishing trap.

This isn’t always the case, though. Often, cyber criminals use what’s called spear-phishing attacks that contain information that appears authentic, perhaps from an organization affiliated with yours. To make the attack seem even more real, hackers might even include accurate information about you gathered from your social media profiles. It can be difficult to tell with just your eyes which messages are authentic and which are part of phishing schemes.

New hacks and viruses are born each day, which leave the online security companies constantly scrambling for fixes. In fact, the number of fraudulent websites and malicious servers used in attacks has more than tripled since 2012! Attackers look to exploit any information they can to gain access to people’s websites or social media accounts. The most popular companies targeted by hackers include Paypal, Facebook, MasterCard, and AOL.

Tips to Avoid Being a Victim

1. Most legitimate business don’t ask for personal information like usernames and passwords via email, so always be suspicious of such requests
2. If you ever receive an unexpected email that uses links, buttons, or documents to download as calls-to-action, assume the worst – the email is likely the bait to a phishing scheme!
3. Always keep your computer’s anti-virus and firewall protection updated and enabled

Have you ever been hacked? What steps are you taking to protect yourself online?

 
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