Nowadays, given the extent to which our lives have migrated online, safety becomes a predominant concern for digital users. In the recent ransomware attacks in the UK, chiefly companies were attacked by viruses that entered their computers and encrypted lots of vital information for these businesses (e.g. client database) granting an access key to these only after a ransom was paid. But there are many more risks, such as webcam hacking of user devices, viruses (Trojans, worms, etc.), malware, etc.
Risks Faced Online
Online privacy is another big concern. One typical example is that of accessing one of the Hookup Geek adult dating sites or webcam flirting sites. Despite the fact that the selected platforms are trustworthy, when it comes to such sensitive data, it is highly recommended to take measures to hide your online identity – your data can be always intercepted by hackers on the way to and from these services. In addition, government spying agencies or ISPs can also get easy access to your traffic history.
Relevant examples when safety or privacy is vital could be:
- making financial transactions, especially from insecure networks (e.g. public WiFi);
- talking about sensitive issues online, especially in authoritarian countries;
- using an online casino or other sensitive sites, when anonymity is needed;
- processing important work-related information (e.g., managing client databases, financial credentials, payment histories).
A few vital things to ensure online safety and privacy are as follows:
- install an antivirus and a firewall (most of the times, the antivirus does contain a firewall). These would actively filter your data traffic and check the safety of the websites you access as well as constantly monitor your device (RAM and long-term storage) for potential threats. To detect these threats an active comparison is made in real time between the suspicious elements and a constantly updated database of known threats.
Antiviruses are often able to discover threats that are not described but are similar enough to the threats listed in their database. Such a feature is usually called heuristics (denoting the ability of an antivirus to learn by itself). However, given that there is a never-ending arms race between viruses and antiviruses, the later might be still vulnerable, especially to new threats. It is important to install antiviruses on all devices you have (there are free versions for any major OS).
- Install a VPN. VPNs encrypt the data traffic occurring between you and the internet and hide your physical IP address. Thus, websites and other parties can no more see your physical IP address and cannot track you any longer. At the same time, it is incredibly hard for any third party to intercept and decode your data. A reasonable way to implement such protection is to install the VPN on the WiFi router (to cover all your Internet-capable devices at home) but also to install VPNs on each of the portable devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets). There are free versions of VPNs for each of these.
- Safety is also about your practices and habits online. Given that many important services nowadays (social networks, forums, etc.) require you to sign up, your account-associated information is gathered and stored by these platforms. Hence, their servers can get hacked and your information can be stolen in its entirety (no antivirus or VPN would help in this case). The famous recent Facebook or Dropbox data breaches are good examples of this.
Thus, facing comprehensively the diversity of risks online takes a combined use of antiviruses, VPNs, but also a careful consideration of the information you share online on sign up services.