ight now, this very moment, millions of hackers across the globe are trying to break into your computer. They want your bank account information, social security number, social media logins, and anything of value they may be able to scrape from within your computer. There seems to be a new story every day about major corporations being hacked. What is probably poorly understand is exactly what it means to have your computer broken into. Gone are the days when a hacker had to be a technical wizard. Now you can buy a fully operational “hack kit” for about $3,000. Considering that your computers and mobile devices are under almost constant attack, how can you ever stay safe? The first step is to understand the variety of ways in which intruders gain electronic access to your life.
Don’t Go Phishing
Is phishing really a hack or just an attack? That’s debatable but what isn’t is the reality that thousands of people fall for the random e-mail that arrives telling the sad – and often inadvertently hilarious – tale of a Nigerian prince who has fallen upon misfortune. He needs your help (and bank account information) to quickly spirit his wealth out of the country. In return, he’ll pay a hefty “thank you” fee. This scheme has a multitude of variations but they all involve the respondent giving up personal financial information. It taps into the eternal human greed motive and the chance to get something for nothing. Here’s some good advice. Never, ever click on or answer these kinds of emails. They’ve obviously purchased or stolen your email address through nefarious means and are about to take you to the cleaners.
Modern Day Greeks
A long time ago the Greeks were at war with the city of Troy. After a decade-long siege failed, they built a huge wooden horse, filled it with well-armed soldiers, and offered it up as a parting gift to the Trojans. The rest is history. The Trojans brought the horse inside their walls. Out came the soldiers and the war was over. In honor of this excellent Greek subterfuge, modern hackers would love to slip a virus onto your computer that can spam other computers, record your keystrokes (including login information), attack other computers, or even disable your own device. The method of entry often arrives via email as a phishing scam. It may pose as a trusted retailer you do business with, your bank, or other reputable company. But when you click on the included link, all hell breaks loose in the form of a virus that burrows into your computer’s hard drive (you may or may not even notice when it happens) and sets about its nefarious tasks.
While it’s always a good idea to install and keep up to date a reputable security program like Vipre – you’ve got to be smart with your surfing too. Hackers set up malicious websites that distribute viruses to visitors like a child predator handing out candy. Some even manage to hack legitimate websites and tinker with their source code. When you visit, the virus downloads onto your computer, and away it goes to create the chaos for which it was intended. Your best bet to stay safe against this kind of hack is to update all your software every month. Most programs have an option you can choose to automatically check for and install updates. These are often related to known security issues, so do it!
Check Your Wi-Fi
Is your home wireless system encrypted? Unless you know for certain that it is, there’s a good chance it’s not. Hackers and neighbors can hop onto your system and do things like hog your bandwidth, see which websites you visit, and even download illegal files on your connection. If ever there was a good reason to take the few minutes required to secure your wi-fi, the words “child pornography charges” should provide proper motivation. Check your router manual for how to do this.
The Bottom Line
These are just a few of the most popular ways a hacker gets inside your computer. For a more lengthy (and fascinating) take on the topic, check out this article. As our world gets more connected by the day, hack attacks will only increase. Unless you stay vigilant, it’s only a matter of time until a bad guy or girl gets into your machine with the capacity to turn your life upside down.