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Securing Your Identity
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You may have heard the terms “Hacker” and “Phishing” from numerous sources, including various past blog posts from us at Maine Hosting Solutions.  

Let’s take an in depth look at what these words actually mean and how they apply to YOU. We strongly believe that the best way to defend yourself from online predators is to EDUCATE yourself.

Interesting FACT: According to the International Data Corporation, 1.8 zettabytes – that’s 1.8 trillion gigabytes – of data was replicated in 2011. To give you a visual example of this: imagine a stack of CDs starting from Earth to the Moon and back again – twice – to represent that amount of data and it’s expected to grow 50% by 2020. The irony is that in our search for identity and individuality in an increasingly digital world, we have willingly surrendered that which we used to hold so dear – our privacy. Read on to see what you can do about protecting it.


What is Hacking?

Hacking means finding out weaknesses in an established system and exploiting them. A computer hacker is a person who finds out weaknesses in the computer and exploits them. Hackers may be motivated by a multitude of reasons, such as profit, protest, or challenge.”-Wikipedia

1.  HACKING:

Hacking is simply the act of gaining unauthorized access. The people who engage in computer hacking activities are often called hackers. They are usually out to steal personal information, change a corporation’s financial data, break security codes to gain unauthorized network access, or conduct other destructive activities. Yes, they are considered criminals and such actions make them eligible to earn a trip to a federal prison for up to 20 years! Yikes. 

2.   Protection from HACKING:

One of the best yet simple methods you can put into place to help eliminate hackers from accessing your personal information is to have a very unique ‘Security Question’ that you create yourself.

  • When setting up any kind of online account,  take advantage of the option to provide a ‘Security Question’ which is used to validate who you are in case of a required password reset. Usually there are pre-formatted questions to choose from such as “City you were Born In,” “Moms Maiden Name” etc., if you ever need to reset your password for any reason, you simply fill out a web form, answer the question correctly and the email account password is then reset.
  • Hackers will take an individual’s email address and then fill out the online form which resets their password. By doing this they also gain access to the secret security question- they are now fully able to hijack your account. 

3.   Here are some simple tips to make you safer:

  • Password Protection: Always select passwords that are difficult to guess. Never use birthdays, sequential number patterns or common names. Mix numbers and letters and try to use different passwords for different sites.
  • Secure the Password: Use non-sensical words for passwords and answers to security questions. Non-sensical words are made up words not found in a dictionary. If you are the only one that knows your made up word, the safer you are.
  • Internet: Be very careful before using any public computer and remember to uncheck “remember me,” log out securely and close the browser.
  • Email: Do not open any attachments or links that were sent to you if you were not expecting them. Chances are they are from a hacker.
  • Secret Questions: The ability to define your own secret question is offered by some services. With the ability to create your own question and answer, you can insure that the question you choose (and its corresponding answer) does not appear anywhere on the Internet.

What is Phishing?  

Phishing is a way of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Phishing is typically carried out by e-mail spoofing or instant messaging and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one.” -Wikipedia

1.   PHISHING:

Phishing is a way of stealing information from individuals, businesses etc. These are the primary pieces of information that they are trying to steal:                              

  • Social Security Number.
    Phishing World Map

    Click to enlarge

  • Driver’s License Numbers.
  • Date and Place of Birth.
  • Mother’s Maiden Name.
  • Account Numbers.
  • PINs.
  • Usernames.
  • Passwords.
  • Personal Information.
  • Any confidential information that criminals can either directly use or resell.

2.   Protection from PHISHING:

  • Educate yourself, your family, and if applicable, your co-workers, clients and business partners on what Information Theft is, and what you can do to protect yourself.
  • Do not disclose any personal information unless the requester has a valid need for the information.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask how your information is going to be protected.
  • Never agree to have your information shared or sold.
  • Remember: No legitimate business or government agency will ever ask for personal information via email or phone unless you initiate the contact. If you receive such a request, DON’T RESPOND!
  • What information are Phishers after? Phishers are interested in gathering information which, by nature, is private and/or confidential, especially if this information can help them steal your identity.

3.   Here are some simple tips to make you safer:

  • Confidentiality: Never provide confidential information unless you started the conversation. Never answer an email, pop-up, phone call, letter, etc. that asks for personal information. Legitimate companies do not ask for this information, ever!
  • Stay Away from Pop-Ups: Do not click on a link provided in an email or enter information in a pop-up window. Go to the website yourself and from there navigate to the area of interest.
  • Update Software: Use anti-malware solutions that are updated. This will stop the installation of crimeware on your computer that could harvest your information.
  • Public Computers: Try not to use public computers or wireless networks to conduct confidential activities. This includes wi-fi hot spots, kiosk computers, cybercafés.
  • Clean Up After Yourself: Shred all documents that contain personal, sensitive or confidential information.

CONCLUSION: Let us conclude by saying that: The more business you do online will significantly increase the potential to become a hacker/phishing target. Putting a little thought into security and implementing a few steps to make yourself less vulnerable can really pay big dividends. For more information on this subject check out The State of Hacked Accounts which highlights Internet Threats. Hackers and Phishers are criminals and the best way to defend oneself- is by educating oneself. We hope this weeks blog has caused some overall awareness. Please be safe out there!

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