How to Protect Yourself from Cyber Crime

Posted by Steve Christ - Monday, October 31st, 2011

Here's a harrowing statistic that will make you think twice before you head out onto the Information Superhighway...

Surfing the Internet is like taking a drive deep into a bad neighborhood full of crooks.

Of course, you can't see them... but they're there — waiting to steal your purse as soon as you give them chance.

It's a world where 14 adults fall victim to a cyber crime every second, resulting in more than one million new victims every day.

Armed with nothing but code — and other people's money — the numbers of these unsavory characters is growing daily. And the scary thing is most users are completely in the dark when it comes to these threats.

A recent survey released by G Data Software showed 93% of all surveyed users believe they would actually be able to identify a cyber attack on one of their computers if it occurred.

The truth is that most malware is stealthy by design. It can easily steal all of your critical information without sounding a single alarm.

By the time you realize what's happened, your bank account has already been drained.

What's more, according to the report, while most consumers do have anti-virus protection, only 28 percent of the respondents reported updating their virus definition files daily.

Additionally, a full 24 percent were unsure if they were updating them at all.

In practice, that's the equivalent of leaving your wallet on the dashboard with the windows down in a bad part of town. Do it often enough, and you're just asking for trouble.

10 Ways to Avoid Getting Ripped Off by Cyber Crooks

The following are some key measures you can take today to protect your wealth from cyber crooks.

1. Keep your firewall turned on. First, lock your doors. A firewall helps protect your computer from hackers who might try to gain access to crash it, delete information, or even steal passwords or other sensitive information.

2. Install or update your antivirus software. Second, roll up your windows. Antivirus software is designed to prevent malicious software programs from embedding themselves on your computer. Most types of antivirus software can be set up to update automatically.

3. Install or update your antispyware technology. Spyware is just what it sounds like: Software that lets other people spy on you. Some spyware collects information about you without your consent; others produce unwanted pop-up ads on your web browser. Some operating systems offer free spyware protection, and inexpensive software is readily available for download on the Internet or at your local computer store. However, be wary of ads on the Internet offering downloadable antispyware... In some cases, these products are fake and actually contain spyware or other malicious code.

4. Keep your operating system up to date. All computer operating systems need to be periodically updated to fix security holes. Be sure to install the updates to ensure your computer has the latest protection. In short, don't wait to update.

5. Be careful what you download. Don't talk to strangers. Carelessly downloading email attachments can beat even the most vigilant antivirus software. Never open an email attachment from someone you don't know. It may contain malicious code.

6. Turn off your computer. Being "always on" leaves you connected to the crooks. Your high-speed connection makes you more vulnerable — even when you're not using your computer. Turning the computer off effectively severs an attacker's connection.

7. Monitor your credit. Since you can’t protect information that's in the hands of a myriad of organizations, you need to monitor your credit reports. If someone has stolen your identity to open a new account, it should show up as an entry into one or more of the three reporting agencies that keep track of your credit history. For even more protection, you might consider a credit monitoring service that will alert you when there’s an entry in your credit file.

8. Ignore scareware. Scareware pop-ups may look like actual warnings from your system, but they are not. Made to appear authentic, these pop-ups are often hard to get rid of, even after clicking on the “Close” or “X” button. In reality, they're a scam that often deliver malicious payloads.

9. Review your bank and credit card statements. This is your chance to cut off the crooks before they do more even more damage. One of the easiest ways to get the tip-off that something has gone wrong is by checking all of your accounts.

10. Choose strong passwords. Avoid using your login name, or anything based on your personal information, as a password. Also, try to select especially unique passwords for protecting activities like online banking. What's more, your most critical passwords need to be changed every 90 days.

Remember, it’s much easier to stop the shopping spree before it ever begins...

So lock your car, take your keys, and be careful out there.

Next week, I'll be releasing a new report offering investors a way to make easy gains as the bull market in cyber security stocks gathers steam.

Needless to say, this is one of the fastest growing segments of the tech sector today. So stay tuned.

*Steve Christ is a Wealth Wire contributor and an editor at Wealth Daily.


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