Selecting the Right Internet Security Software

security-protection-anti-virus-software-60504Online threats continue to grow as hackers develop advanced techniques. Today’s threats go beyond computers getting infected with viruses. In addition to viruses, devices connected to the internet are susceptible to malware infections, stolen data and identify theft. Microsoft is the most popular software for operating systems, making Windows-based devices particularly vulnerable to hackers. Since so many people use Windows, hackers create viruses and malware that can potentially infect millions of machines, which offers them access to a vast amount of stolen data. In short, everyone using a Windows-based computer is at risk of having their information corrupted or stolen, and possibly having their identity stolen as well. The only way to protect your information is to secure your device with internet security software.

New Windows-based devices come with Windows Defender already installed, which offers users some level of internet security protection. If you are a casual internet user, someone who just checks email and does a little browsing, Windows Defender will be adequate. You will want to turn on the Windows Firewall for more protection. The firewall offers packet sniffing, which will help keep hackers out of your computer. However, if you are someone who uses the internet a lot, especially for banking, social media and online games, you need a greater level of protection than Windows Defender can offer.

downloadThe company Symantec creates a line of anti-virus and internet security packages under their brand, Norton. The basic version covers virus protection, while the more expensive versions include comprehensive internet security (malware protection, email scanning, and firewall). Symantec also creates a program called Norton Utilities, which helps keep your computer running well. Millions of computer users choose Norton Internet Security to protect them online.

McAfee is one of the oldest internet security companies. Many computer brands come with McAfee Internet Security already installed. However, this is usually only for a limited time. If users want to keep it, they must purchase a license. Doing so allows them to test the program, before deciding to buy. Some people do have issues with McAfee, so you will want to do some research.

AntiFinally, Kaspersky Internet Security offers top-notch online protection. Kaspersky is increasing in popularity because it’s well-respected by internet security experts. In fact, the brand has won several awards from top technology experts and publications. A few years ago, Kaspersky was not that well-known in the United States. However, you can now find it at most major retailers (Walmart, Target, Best Buy, etc.).

In short, if you are using a device online without any internet security protection, you are just inviting hackers to steal your data. Ransom attacks can lock up your data, and you could have your identity stolen as well. In addition to data loss and identity theft, your device could be ruined by viruses and malware. The only way to protect yourself online is to use a trusted internet security program. You can research different brands to decide which one is right for you.

Adam Quirk

Adam Quirk is a seasoned criminal justice professional with nearly 20 years of experience in the field. Adam has a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice (MCJ), as well as a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA).

7 Ways You Can Increase Your Home Security This Summer by Adam Quirk

During the summer, we tend to make the best use of our homes – we invite friends over and open the curtains and the windows to let the world and plenty of fresh air in. But it’s still important to make sure that your home is secure over the summer months. Here are seven ways that you can do that.

Install An Alarm

First of all, it’s vital that you install an alarm. Speak to your friends and family members to get recommendations for local companies that can do this for you, and make sure that you pick an alarm system that’s suitable for your lifestyle. Some people might want to put an alarm on at night downstairs while they’re asleep, whereas if you have teenage children who come home late at night this might not be a priority for you. Make sure that it’s obvious from the outside of your house that you have an alarm installed – companies will install a box on the front of your house and give you stickers to put on your windows. These will discourage any opportunistic thieves from targeting your home.

Keep Those Windows Closed

privacyDuring the summer, a lot of us keep our windows open so that we can have breezes in our home and plenty of fresh air. If you work at home, keeping the windows open is a good way to get some sunlight and warm air without getting completely distracted from your work. But if you go out, it’s absolutely vital to make sure that you close and lock your windows. You may get home to a warm house, but it will be absolutely worth it to ensure that your home doesn’t become an easy target.

Keep Valuable Items Out Of Sight

A lot of us spend half our lives using electronic items such as TVs, tablets, laptops and expensive smartphones, but it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t keep them in sight of the windows. Passers-by shouldn’t be able to see that you’ve recently bought a brand new iPad, so when you’ve finished using it, make sure that you put it away instead of leaving it out in plain view of anyone who might happen to walk by your window. Although people should be able to restrain themselves from stealing, the fact remains that you should do your best to make sure that you aren’t a target. Put your expensive possessions away and keep them out of sight of the windows.

Check Your Doors And Windows

Not everyone’s house is completely new and up to date, and if that’s the case with you, it’s time to get your doors and windows replaced. Double glazed windows with locks are probably the most secure. Some people have bars on the inside of their windows, but if they ruin the look of your house, they absolutely aren’t necessary to keep it secure. Wooden door and window frames aren’t especially secure, as they can degenerate and warp over time, meaning that they may be easier to break into. Securely fastened modern doors and windows will prove to be much steeper obstacles for thieves to get past, meaning that your home will be less likely to be targeted.

Think Like A Burglar

Take a good hard look at the outside of your home and think about it like a burglar – is there a tree right next to a window that would make it easy to climb in? Is your garage door rickety and easily broken? Are there any rain-swollen window frames that would be easy to break into? You may see your home as your sanctuary for yourself and your family, but you need to take a step back and view it with cold hard cynicism instead.

Be Careful On Social Media

Social MediaThis time of year, a lot of people are going away on vacation. If you’re planning to do so, don’t talk about it on social media. It can be tempting to tweet a countdown of days until you get to escape gray skies for the sun and the sea, but that essentially means that you’re advertising to anyone who can see your tweets that your home will be empty for an extended period of time. Likewise, when you’re actually away, make sure that you save posting the Instagram pictures of clear blue water and mimosas until you’re home. Aside from the security concerns, you’re on vacation to enjoy yourself – what’s the point in inducing FOMO in everyone who follows you?

Get A Dog

Finally, if you’ve been considering getting a dog, now could be the time to do it. You don’t have to get any sort of vicious animal that’s likely to attack any intruders, but it is a good idea to have a pet who’s likely to make a lot of noise if someone they don’t know enters the house. Of course, home security isn’t the only reason that you should get a dog – you should make sure that you have plenty of time and energy to devote to your pup. But the presence of a dog in a house can absolutely discourage anyone from trying to break in.

If you use plenty of common sense, your home should be easy to secure this summer – make sure that you close and lock your windows and doors and that you don’t broadcast it when your house is empty, and you should be perfectly safe.


Adam Quirk

Adam Quirk is a licensed private investigator and criminal justice professional with over 15 years of professional experience in the field.

How to Protect Yourself Against Credit Card Fraud

Credit cards chained up with padlockCredit card fraud can cost you a lot of time and money. I know this is a big surprise, right? But how much can it actually cost you? A LOT. In fact, it is estimated that credit card fraud costs consumers and businesses $190 billion every year. Although these tips are basic and straightforward, here are a few necessary and essential steps to protect yourself against the headaches of stolen credit card information and fraud.

Physical Security

Basic, right? This is the easiest way to have your credit card information stolen and for someone to then use it to make fraudulent purchases: physical theft of your card. Make sure you keep track of your cards and secure them properly. All too often we get replacement cards in the mail, toss them in a drawer, glove box, or other unsecured location, and then forget about them. Keeping track of all of your cards can be challenging these days, but doing so could not be any more important in an increasingly cash-less society. So keep any eye on every single card you own, even the ones you don’t use. Shred the ones you have no use for, and secure the ones you use every once in awhile, and keep a watchful eye on the ones you use regularly.

Only Use Your Card On Trustworthy Sites

HTTPSNo doubt you’re rolling your eyes at this recommendation. But consider this: it is estimated that consumers lose approximately $29 million every quarter on fraudulent websites. $29 million! So if you’re buying something online (aren’t we all?), make sure you’re buying from a site you trust. There are a few special security measures of note. First and foremost, make sure the site you’re buying from is the site you think it is; you don’t want to enter all of your personal data on a convincing mock-up. Be sure to double-check the URL and only access the site through a clean link. Never enter your data on a site you reached via a link from an unfamiliar or redirected source.

And make sure you watch to make sure you’re connected via HTTPS when transferring data, to avoid having the information stolen as it passes to the site. You can confirm this by looking up by the address bar on your browser; it should show a lock symbol, say Secure, or simply note ‘HTTPS’ if you’re connected safely.

Dispose of Documents Carefully

Anything with your credit card number on it–or any personal identifying information for that matter–needs to be thoroughly destroyed. That means shredding, burning, or something equally destructive. You don’t want to have your credit card information found by someone digging through your trash—it’s a more popular approach to identity theft than you might realize. So suck it up and go buy a decent shredder for $25. Or dig one out of a dumpster. Unless you’re living on another planet, there’s no reason not to use a shredder every single day in order to keep your financial information safe. As the old saying goes, “You should ‘Enron’ as much stuff as possible to stay safe these days.” Shred it, burn it, or destroy it. Whatever it takes.

Upgrade to a Chip Card

Credit Card With Gold ChipCredit cards with microchips are inherently safer to use than those without; these have been in use in Europe for over a decade. If you haven’t already upgraded to a chip card, it’s time to look into your options; many banks and credit card companies have already made the leap. Some complain that chips take longer to process while checking out at stores in the U.S., but studies show that transactions take only 1 second longer, or less. Either way, the added security that chips offer far outweigh having to wait in line a few moments longer at Target. If your bank still hasn’t yet made the switch to the chip, call your old-school savings and loan and tell them to get on it.

Stay Alert

Credit card skimmer

There are a few credit card fraud schemes that can slip right past you if you’re not looking for them, but they will become pretty obvious as long as you stay alert to anything usual. This includes watching for card skimmers, special reading devices installed on gas pumps and ATM’s that steal your data. There has been a significant rise in the use of card skimmers in the U.S. over the last few years, and this trend will likely continue. Every time you stop at the gas station to fill your tank or at the ATM to grab some cash, take a few moments to double check the card swiping device.  You’ll also want to watch for other simple scams, such as getting you to sign a credit card receipt without a verified amount on it.

Report Lost Cards and Suspicious Activity Immediately

Report LostSad but true, but sometimes you can’t completely avoid exposure to fraud. If you can’t find your credit card, if you see a purchase you don’t remember, or if anything suspicious occurs with your card, follow it up as soon as possible. Yes, calling credit card companies is arguably the worst task on earth, but lost or missing cards should be reported to the issuer immediately, without hesitation. For suspicious charges, be sure to investigate and contest any charges if necessary, and then (possibly) request a new card. The sooner you contact your credit card company (and hold on the line for an hour), the sooner you will have suspicious and fraudulent charges resolved.


Adam Quirk, MBA & MCJ

Adam Quirk, MCJ & MBA, has extensive experience in the criminal justice field, as well as advanced degrees in Criminal Justice (MCJ) and Business Administration (MBA).

How To Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft On Social Media

Providing information about ourselves online is part and parcel of modern life. Social media channels are almost unavoidable, and yet worryingly the likes of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp provide nasty hackers with a readymade menu of information about our interests, whereabouts and daily schedule of activities.

So how can you and your loved ones protect yourselves? This is what you need to know about staying safe online:

1. Be Smart About Passwords

Cell Phone on KeyboardRemembering all our passwords can feel like a full-time job! But taking password protection seriously is important. Having something as simple as 1234 or ‘password’ is leaving you wide open to identity theft. So when using social media sites be sure to set them up with a variety of passwords that include upper case and lower case letters as well as at least one number.

If you’re worried about remembering them all, sign up with a password manager like 1Password. That way they are all securely stored in one handy place. Disabling any auto-logins is also a really smart idea. As well as meaning you’re more likely to remember your passwords, it also makes it harder for your information to be stolen.

2. Not Everyone is Your Friend

Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t recognize and be especially careful about opening links; even from people that you are connected with. Their personal security may well have been compromised, and you could be being lured into the same trap. So check the content of every message before clicking.

3. Remember Nothing is Private

privacyWhatsApp or Snapchat may feel like private conversations but they aren’t! You wouldn’t shout out your checking account details or Social Security Number to people on the street, and you should consider that conversations on messenger apps are exactly the same.

4. Turn Off Location Based Settings

When an app or website asks to know your location be sure to decline. That way hackers can’t track your whereabouts and use this information against you. The same goes for tagging yourself in places on the likes of Instagram and Facebook.

5. Tidy Up Old Profiles

You may no longer use your Myspace account but that doesn’t mean it can’t be found and the information used to build a picture about you. So log back in and close any profiles that aren’t in active use.

6. Check Out Your Privacy Settings

Social MediaIt’s pretty normal for social media sites to opt you in to lax privacy settings, so it’s a smart idea to go in and take a look at how accessible you are to online perpetrators. Make your accounts private or inaccessible to anyone but friends.

7. Monitor Your Children’s Social Media Activity

Children are using social media sites younger and younger these days, so it’s important to have a handle on the apps and websites they are accessing. Warn them about revealing personal information and that people may not always be who they say they are online. Hackers will often target children given that they are more likely to offer up information about themselves.


Adam Quirk, MBA & MCJ

Adam Quirk, MBA & MCJ, is a criminal justice professional from Wisconsin, as well as a licensed private investigator, true crime blog writer, and world traveler.

How To Protect Yourself From Social Engineering

Adam QuirkThere is no end to the methods that scammers have come up with to attain information vital to the success of their schemes. Whether they are seeking to perpetrate fraud, hacking or espionage, the most tried and true method is also one of the oldest: social engineering. It is one of the most successful because it is one of the least obvious methods, and can often require much more effort than would be reasonable for the small kernels of information that it can gather. However, those small nuggets of information can be as precious as gold to someone with the worst of intentions. Understanding and preventing social engineering is essential to protecting yourself and your business from everything from financial scams to identity theft.

So what is social engineering?

Adam QuirkSocial engineering is basically an attempt to attain personal or confidential information through manipulation and subterfuge. This can be online or face to face, in conversation or through electronic collection of data. It is a concerted effort to exploit trust in order to obtain information ranging from what you might be working on, to passwords that will allow access to data or processes. This is usually accomplished by individuals misrepresenting themselves as someone who would have a legitimate need for this information.

How to prevent social engineering

While there may be no way of completely eliminating the threat of social engineering, it can be mitigated by proper awareness and action. Here are some common sense steps that will take the bite out of social engineering attempts.

1. Treat Every Email As If It Were Potentially Compromised

401044-securityEmails, even those from trusted friends and co-workers, can be accessed and manipulated by any number of people. Even legitimate-looking emails from holders of your personal information such as your financial institution should not be trusted enough for you to click on the links to access your account. If at all possible, securely access the site on your web browser rather than clicking suspect links.

2. Never Reveal Personal Information Over The Phone

A common scam is to receive a call off someone claiming to be a financial or government entity. They may ask you to verify your identity with your social security number, date of birth, password or other information. If you cannot verify the number that is calling you as belonging to that entity, never give the information. It is safer to hang up and contact the organization directly at a known secure phone number to see if there is business that requires that verification.

3. Watch What You Say And To Whom You Say It

When someone you have just met is interested in your work or personal life, be very sparse with details and give them only what they need to know. Something as simple as what you are working on or when your birthday is could give them the information they need to advance their plan just one step closer.

While these may seem at first to be extreme steps to take, scammers are relying on your trusting nature to take social engineering attempts at face value.

Adam Quirk is a criminal justice professional with over 15 years of experience in the field. Adam also owns Stealth Advise, Wisconsin’s premier private investigations firm. In his free time, Adam enjoys blogging and traveling internationally.

Hacked: How To Spot A Home Network Security Breach

401044-securityThe vast majority of homes in the U.S. have at least one wi-fi network. Thankfully, setting up these in-home networks can be a fairly easy task. However, keeping them safe requires cybersecurity awareness and vigilance. Living in an interconnected world has made it easy for people to go about their day-to-day tasks. Sadly, the average internet user can be a target of identity thieves and hackers online. The good news is, you don’t need to be a Cybersecurity expert to keep your home wireless network safe. Here are some ways to detect if a home network has been hacked:

Computers in the network receive the same virus and anti-virus notifications.

Home network security breaches can easily begin with one infected desktop computer, laptop or tablet.   A cyber hacking attack typically starts with one computer.   When one of the devices, typically PCs, have a virus, it can spread easily to the other devices connected to the network.  Using infected USBs and hard drives can also contribute to the damage. Make sure to protect all of your devices with the latest anti-virus software, and be sure to install updates on a regular basis. Better yet, set the software to automatically update in order to ensure the best protection. You can download free anti-virus programs like Avast that will provide excellent protection for your computers.

Computers automatically download unwanted programs and browsers.

Adam QuirkBe careful when clicking links in web pages and emails.  Avoid clicking promotions for apps before clicking on them to download.  Unfortunately, some of the so-called antivirus programs do more harm than good by automatically downloading unwanted browsers and dialog boxes that can lead to stolen information. Rather thank clicking through every box when installing programs or applications on your devices, take a close look at what you’re actually downloading to be sure there are no unwanted applications or programs being installed.

Users receive suspicious e-mails.

When a home network has been hacked, important information such as e-mail addresses can be used to steal further from a user.  Emails from a friend’s unused address or from seemingly legit organizations can be a phishing scam.  When people from one network get the same kind of e-mails, their security might have been compromised.

The wi-fi connection is unusually slow and there are suddenly unknown computers connected to the network.

Adam QuirkIt’s easy to leech off a neighbor’s wi-fi connection especially if is not properly secured.  One of the tell-tale signs of a home network breach is if there are suddenly more computers connected to the network. For some, the hacking goes as far as controlling mouse clicks and movements and copying files from the users’ computers.

To prevent hacking attacks, it’s important to regularly check network your security. Passwords must be regularly changed and important information should always be backed up in the cloud or in another hard drive.  Also, users should only download files and programs from legit sources to prevent falling prey to phishing scams.

One of the most common precautions but usually overlooked step when it comes to home network security is to set up a firewall and encrypt the connection.  Others just set up their home Wi-Fi without even putting a password on their connection, making them an easy target.  Aside from these steps, filtering MAC addresses will also help in preventing unknown computers join the network.

 

5 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft During Tax Season

EconEdLink-748-File-TaxesAccording to the IRS, approximately 122 million people in the U.S. pay some type of income tax every year. Of those, well over 50% pay their taxes at home, using online services like H&R Block or TurboTax. As a result, millions of people become potential victims of identity theft and other online crimes every year. Doing your own taxes is a great way to save money and stay on top of your financial situation, but it is important to protect yourself as well as your personal data. The information you enter on your tax return could give identity thieves the keys to your financial kingdom, and the ability to wreak havoc with your personal and financial life. Before you fill out a single line on your 1040 form, you need to prepare yourself and your computer. Here are five simple ways to protect your personal data and make tax season safer.

16313727587_c3178dbf54_oCreate a strong password for your tax software. This sounds like a no-brainer, but the password you use to protect your tax return should be the strongest of any of your accounts, so take plenty time to think it out and make sure your personal information is as secure as possible. Avoid whole words; those are easy for password-cracking programs to crack. Use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters, and make your password as long as the program permits. You should also make sure your tax return password is unique; do not use the same password, or any variant, anywhere else on the web. “YourName123” and “CurrentMonth123” are examples of unacceptable passwords. Check out these password managers to help you create and manage all of your crucial passwords.

401044-securityUpdate your security software. Now is the time to make sure your security software is running properly, and that it is up to date. Run a full system scan on your computer to make sure there are no viruses lurking in the background. Install the latest virus signature updates and make sure everything is up to date before you proceed with your tax return. Make sure your security software is set to update automatically, and check the dates to make sure those updates are happening. Free programs like Avast and AVG can be easily installed on your system, and they will protect your computer from viruses that can ultimately steal your personal information.

3933622047_54084db216_oSecure your wireless network. If you have a wireless network in your home, make sure it is properly locked down, with a strong password and updated security software. Check the security settings on your router and other Wi-Fi equipment, and verify the security of the password before you do any work on your tax return. Again, having a strong password for your wireless router seems like a no-brainer, but a shocking number of people–approximately 79%–do not take the appropriate time to properly configure and secure their routers as soon as they take them out of the box.

irs-scamBe aware of IRS scams. Over the last few years, people have lost millions of dollars and had their identities stolen through multiple IRS scams. The danger does not end after your tax return has been completed. You should educate yourself about potential IRS scams and other dangers, so check the headlines, continuously monitor IRS.gov for scam warnings and alerts, and keep your ears open, particularly during tax season. Always remember that the IRS does not contact taxpayers via email or on the telephone. And they will never demand that you make a payment immediately over the phone. The IRS still communicates with taxpayers the old fashioned way: via U.S. mail. If you receive an email or phone call (or even worse, a text message) purporting to be from the IRS, rest assured it is a scam. Do not provide them with any identifying information or payment whatsoever, no matter what. You should report any potential scams to the IRS, your local police department, or contact the news media to spread the word so others are not victimized.

creditreportcreditscore_iStockphotoCheck your credit report. Take the time to review your credit report at least once annually. As an American consumer, you’re allowed one free copy of your credit report from each of the three main credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Better yet, it is best to request one copy from each bureau at different times throughout the year. Doing so will make it easy to monitor your credit in order to see if any unusual accounts have been opened in your name. Monitoring your credit will illustrate every account you have open, the credit limits of each account, as well as the activity (or inactivity) of every account.

Tax time is scary enough with the ever-present threat of audit and the constant confusion surrounding future tax policy. In that environment, the last thing you want is to let your tax return become a threat to your security. The tips listed above can keep you safe and keep your private information out of the wrong hands.