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).

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.

Kardashians at Gunpoint: Social Media Sharing and Personal Safety

Love her or hate her, Kim Kardashian’s recent robbery at gunpoint — bound, gagged, and locked in her hotel suite’s bathroom while gun-wielding thieves stole over 10 million dollars’ worth of Kim picjewelry, technology, and personal belongings — has given rise to an important discussion about personal safety in the age of social media. In the past, our updates on a celebrity’s whereabouts were confined to paparazzi photos which generally wouldn’t be posted until days after an event. These days, however, social media applications like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat make it possible to share a much greater volume of personal information, and celebrities like the Kardashians keep the public continuously up-to-date by posting about their lives on a near-hourly basis.

It isn’t just celebrities sharing this wealth of information, however. Social media is an integral part of everyday life for the general public too. Snapchat alone boasts an average of 400 million

Snap Chatphotographs and videos shared every day. Each of these posts automatically includes the user’s location, and it has been suggested that Kim Kardashian’s numerous snaps during her stay in Paris may have made it possible for the thieves to track her down without ever being spotted.

This issue had been discussed, in fact, on a recent episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, which tackled the issue of social media location sharing. Kim’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, had fallen victim to a stalker, and the family discussed how her Instagram sharing (always including her location) may have made her particularly vulnerable. This issue received high-profile media attention during the so-called Bling Ring robberies of 2008, when a group of LA teenagers tracked celebrities’ whereabouts through online posts and ransacked their houses when the celebs were away. At the time, these violations seemed worlds away from the general public. What kind of average Joe could be tracked through photos of them going to restaurants and on weekend trips?

These days, however, many people share information about themselves online. Check through your own recent social media posts; you’ll probably find that a surprising number give away your Social Mediawhereabouts either directly (the app includes your location by default) or indirectly (you or your friends mention where you are). Sometimes you don’t even have complete control over the situation, as friends or family post about you without your knowledge.

It used to be enough to leave the radio on to fool robbers when you went on vacation, but now a social media post (that you didn’t even send) could give away the information that your home is empty, or that you’re out at a bar with your expensive phone. You could easily find yourself in Kim Kardashian’s position. Maybe you don’t have jewelry worth millions of dollars with you at any given moment, but you probably have something you’d be devastated to lose, and an armed robbery is a terrifying prospect for anyone.

This form of crime isn’t restricted to the super-famous, super-rich, or super-active on social media. Even the average person can be tracked through social media posting, and innovative criminals are using these posts to find new targets. Social media applications are bringing the world closer together and creating new means of communication, but you shouldn’t dive headfirst into over-sharing without considering the risks.

Make sure to keep your profile on private (see tip #9) so that only people you’ve connected with can see your posts, and accept only people that you know and trust. Alternatively, if you are adamant about Safetykeeping your location information public, then save media to your phone while it’s on Airplane Mode and post it later, so that your location can’t be tracked continuously; ask your friends to do the same.

Social media sharing can feel like a necessity, but there are ways to keep yourself safe once you’re aware of the risks. Keep your location and public access to a limit and stay safe. This is one thing that you certainly don’t want to have in common with the Kardashians.


Adam Quirk is a criminal justice professional with over 15 years’ investigative experience.

10 Ways to Protect Your Privacy on the Internet

Adam QuirkThe Internet is an incredibly useful tool, and the online world has rapidly changed the way we work, live and interact with one another on a daily basis. But while the Internet is a great tool for communication, commerce, and personal interaction, it is important to remember that it was never built with security—or privacy—in mind.

This lack of privacy manifests itself in many different ways, from pop-up ads and banner promotions that mysteriously appear following a related Google search, to more serious breaches involving credit card numbers and bank account information.

If you want to enjoy all the great things the Internet has to offer without putting your security at risk, there are some smart and remarkably simple things you can do to safeguard your privacy. Here are ten ways you can protect your privacy on the Internet without giving up all the wonderful things the online world has to offer.

  1. Always log out of the websites you visit, and never select the “Remember Me” option. If the website you are visiting requires a login, don’t forget to log out before you go to another site.  Additionally, most browsers like Chrome and Firefox offer an option to save and autofill all of your usernames and passwords. Although the autofill feature is extremely convenient, a single computer breach could easily place your personal data, credit card information, usernames, and passwords at risk.
  2. Never store your credit card information, debit card data or other personal information, on shopping websites. Almost every online retailer like Amazon offers to save your billing information for future purchases. Although all online retailers promise the highest security for its customers, the fact is sensitive consumer information is hacked and stolen from companies on a regular basis. Look no further than Target, Home Depot, and other retailers that recently had customer information stolen from their databases.
  3. Adam QuirkTake advantage of private browsing. Every major browser includes a private browsing option (Chrome calls is “Incognito mode”), and turning it on can safeguard your privacy and stop websites from tracking your online travels. Private browsing does not offer totally anonymous browsing as many people wrongfully assume. But private browsing can provide additional security while surfing the web.
  4. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to shield your IP address.  Your IP address is your digital fingerprint, and it allows third-party websites to track your browsing habits. Proxy servers and other services can shield your IP address from public view, and using them can significantly enhance your security. Although somewhat complicated, VPNs are pretty easy to use, and they are inexpensive, too. For example, IPVANISH is a popular VPN that costs less than $10 per month. The bottom line is using a VPN will prevent companies and other entities from tracking your browsing activities.
  5. Spend ample time reading the privacy policies for every site you sign up for, including the accounts you regularly log in to. It might be dry reading, but those privacy notices contain valuable information. Because of this, it is crucial that you take the time to read those notices and avoid websites and companies whose privacy standards are not up to your own. Many people who read through companies’ privacy policies would be very reluctant to “Agree” to their terms.
  6. Set up a Google alert for your name, as well as your employer’s name. Contrary to popular belief, Googling yourself is not a vain thing to do—it is a smart thing to do. Setting up a Google alert for your name and employer can give you an early warning that people are talking about you online, and possibly spreading false rumors and information about you or your company. Google alerts may provide insight into those who might maliciously target your computer(s) or network.
  7. Adam QuirkBe careful when using public Wi-Fi hotspots. As the number of public hotspots steadily increases, they provide a convenient way to get online, almost everywhere, but they not always safe. Avoid sites that require a username and password (like credit cards or banking accounts) when using these hotspots. Even though public Wi-Fi hotspot administrators typically promise safety and security while browsing the Internet, the truth is, you never know who else is watching or able to access and copy your personal information while accessing a public hotspot.
  8. Consider alternative search engines when surfing the internet to increase privacy. Google and Bing may be the biggest dogs in the browser kennel, but there are other, more privacy-friendly alternatives. Alternative search engines include DuckDuckGo, Ask, Dogpile, and Yippy. Even though Google is currently the most popular search engine, DuckDuckGo, and other search platforms offer more anonymity and excellent search results.
  9. Check your social media settings. This seems like a simple tip, but one that is often overlooked or forgotten. Privacy policies at social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, are always changing, and it is important to keep up with the changes as their rules change. Unless you take specific action to privatize or hide your profile, all social media platforms are defaulted as public. Due to the openness of social media platforms, it is critical to check your privacy settings frequently to make sure you are protected.
  10. Be careful about surveys and questionnaires. Several survey companies offer compensation and prizes for completing questionnaires about practically anything, from kitchen appliances and television shows, to shampoo and laundry soap. Filling out surveys and sharing your opinion can be fun and even profitable, but think before you click. Make sure the firm sponsoring the survey is reputable, and avoid questionnaires that strike you as “spammy” or fraudulent. Take the time to do research on survey companies to make sure they are legitimate and safe before you provide them with any information.

The Internet is a great place to be, but privacy is not its strongest suit. In many ways, the online world is still the Wild West, and if you want to protect yourself, you need to take a proactive approach to keeping your personal data under wraps.