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).

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.