Invisible intruders

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 November, 2011, 12:00am


Online activity is a major part of our daily lives. Rarely a day passes when we don't either send or receive information through cyberspace. That means criminals have many ways to get what they want. And what they want is information - personal information that, at times, you take for granted as being safe.

Well, think again. The internet creates a barrier between victim and attacker, and gives cyber criminals the advantage of anonymity. They cleverly lure you into compromising situations. Their methods vary, but by the time you're aware of an attack, it's often too late.

Vigilance is one of the best ways to combat cyber attacks. Be aware of scams and other strategies. Knowing the different types of threat will make you a more difficult target.

Unauthorised access: This involves accessing an account by using your password. Avoid using overly simple passwords like your name or date of birth. Never share passwords with others. You should also change them every few weeks.

Malware: Technically, viruses, worms, trojans and spyware are quite different. But, for the sake of simplicity, we'll categorise them here as simply malware. These software replicate and attach themselves to files, programs and networks in order to corrupt the function of a computer. They are commonly delivered through e-mails (spam), pop-up links and other downloaded and shared files.

Anti-virus software will reduce the risk of attack. Also, get into the habit of not opening links or attachments sent by people you are not familiar with.

Phishing: This involves impersonating a sender's e-mail address or website. Often the forged address is of a well-known company and will even be outfitted with company logos. Be wary if the e-mail asks for your username or password. Links in spoofed e-mails may also be forged, bringing you to a fake website. Don't click on them. Report any spoofs to the company. Also, if you've been spoofed, log on to the site directly by typing in the URL in the browser and change your password immediately.

In addition, avoid visiting random sites. Clicking on pop-ups can send you to a malicious site or send a malicious code to your computer. When engaging in social networks or chats, avoid giving out personal information. Also, avoid meeting people you have chatted to online. Many attackers will pretend they are someone else to lure you to meet them face-to-face. Report any indecent behaviour to the social networking site and inform an adult.

Ways to protect yourself

1 Always be vigilant when online.

2 Beware of malicious sites, links and e-mails.

3 Never share passwords. Change them regularly.

4 Install anti-virus and/or security software.

5 Never share intimate personal information.

6 Inform authorities and an adult if you suspect you've been attacked.