Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the nation ― especially in the suburbs, Melissa Bean.
“Identity theft is a form of stealing someone’s identity in which someone pretends to be someone else by assuming that person’s identity, usually as a method to gain access to resources or obtain credit and other benefits in that person’s name,” Wikipedia, Identity Theft.
Thieves obtain personally identifiable information by many means: hacking computer networks, brute-force attacking weak passwords, using malware such as, spyware, Trojan horses or keystroke logging programs, etc.
What should your password be like?
- Passwords are meant to be secret and personal. Do not share it with anyone for any reason, and if you have done it, change it.
- Passwords should not contain your username, your first, middle or last name, your spouse or child’s name, pet’s name, etc. Some hackers use social engineering techniques to find out our passwords.
- They should not be short and simple; rather, 8-10 characters should be the minimum size. Remember that long passwords are harder to crack than short ones.
- Don’t use common words or reverse spelling of words (“hello”, “olleh” “welcome”), important dates (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.), phone numbers, your home’s street name, acronyms, names of famous or fictitious people, etc.
- Use uppercase (A, B, C, D, etc.) and lowercase (a, b, c, d, etc.) letters, numbers ― at least two ― and special characters, such as @, !, #, $, etc.
- You should not reuse your password on many different websites.
- Watch what you say online, do not post or share personal information, such as your address, date of birth, telephone number, credit card number, etc. Do not answer any email or text messages that ask you for confidential information, such as your bank account, name, account address, password, etc. even if it appears to be from Google, your bank, etc.
- Use password generators like the one that Emily provides for you: Password(15) generates two strong passwords (15=Password Length), with and without punctuation.
- Use our password strength checker: SECURE(abcd), it will tell you how strong your password is.
- Use password managers (they will help you to organise passwords and PIN codes) and virtual keyboards (they are more difficult to hack than monitoring real keystrokes) to prevent keylogging (logging or recording the keys struck on a keyboard).
- Using these passwords is a very bad idea: password, passw0rd, the old trick of changing the vowel “o” for a zero is not enough, by all accounts; 123456 or any consecutive numbers; iloveyou; 111111, 000000, admin, qwerty, shadow, password1, etc. Please be more creative!
- Use antivirus (Free AVG Antivirus, Avast), anti-spyware and firewall (ZoneAlarm Free Firewall, Comodo Firewall Free). Backup your personal files and folders. Read our entry about Security and free software.
- Protect your router from hacking.
- Browse only ‘safe’ websites. URLVoid.com is a free service that “allows users to scan a website address with multiple website reputation engines and domain blacklists to facilitate the detection of possible dangerous websites, used to distribute malware and spyware or related to fraudulent activities.”
- I also recommend that you use secure browsers like Firefox or Google Chrome.
- Attachments in emails and messaging can come from unreliable or unknown sources. They can contain viruses or spy-ware. Don’t open any attachments without first scanning them for viruses.
- Don’t download things you don’t know, be careful with pen drives or don’t use them at all.
- Ask yourself if you need to use P2P networks and pirated software. Many viruses and spyware use P2P sharing tools to spread everywhere. Are you sure that you cannot use free software? There are many legal, competitive and free alternatives for proprietary software: GNU/Linux (operating system), OpenOffice/LibreOffice (office suite), VLC (media player), Gimp (photo editing), 7-zip (package manager), etc.
- Always keep both the operating system and all your applications updated. Set automatic updates on the operating system of your choice.
- Use PayPal or Amazon to make purchases on-line so you don’t have to trust other parties with your credit card details.
Do not answer any email saying you have won or inherited something. Contests that pick random emails as “winning” entries do not exist!
You can also use Google to get to know more about the scam.
If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is a scam.
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