If there’s one thing we have learned about internet security, it’s this: It’s tough out there! Unfortunately, it seems to be getting worse. From popular sites like LinkedIn and diet-and-exercise tracker MyFitnessPal to game developer Zynga and dozens more, reported data breaches are making headlines more than ever.
According to the FBI’s 2022 Internet Crime Report, personal data breaches have grown in the past four years, accumulating $742,438,136 in victim losses.
You may want additional security protections for many reasons, especially if you’re a freelancer who works outside the home. But first, let’s look at the most common types of threats.
First of all, what is a breach?
A “breach” is an incident in which data is inadvertently exposed in a vulnerable system, usually due to software security weaknesses. A breach, therefore, results in information being accessed without authorization and occurs when someone can break through the system’s security.
Breaches allow hackers to obtain confidential and personal information, like credit card numbers for example, that are used for identity theft and fraud.
Types of internet security threats
Malware, worms and spam
According to security giant McAfee, malware, short for “malicious software,” comes in many forms, including different types of computer viruses, worms, “Trojans” and dishonest spyware.
Worms are software programs that duplicate themselves from one computer to another. Without human interaction, these copies can create themselves and spread rapidly in high volumes.
Spam refers to unwanted messages in your email inbox. We’ve all seen it: Junk mail advertising goods or services that we aren’t interested in, which, though annoying, are typically considered harmless. Some, however, when clicked on, can include links that install malicious software on your computer. Rude.
Trojans are a type of malware that hackers use to breach into a system. Trojans disguise themselves as harmless software but are actually malicious. They can appear as free software, videos or music or advertisements that look legitimate.
Cybercriminals are sneaky. Through a process called phishing, they attempt to solicit private or sensitive information by posing as a familiar entity, like your bank or web service. If they sufficiently convince you, you may be tempted to click on links to verify details like account information or passwords.
Infected with malicious software, a botnet is a network of private computers usually controlled by a single user and often prompted to engage in criminal activities like spam or denial-of-service attacks.
Password attacks use authorization vulnerabilities to access and expose a user’s accounts. This involves the hacker using different password-attacking techniques to breach your device and personal accounts.
Ransomware is malware that encrypts files on a device, making the files and system unusable. The hackers then demand ransom in exchange for the decryption of the system. Essentially, the ransomware locks your computer until you pay the ransom fee. The most common ways ransomware infects your device is by visiting malicious websites or downloading malicious attachments.
Oof. See? It’s rough out there.
So, how can you keep yourself safe?
First, be smart about secure browsers
Each web browser has its own security measures, but some have flaws that allow hackers to invade. To check if the site you’re on is secure, look at the URL. If it begins with “https,” you’re in good shape, because the site is secured, using an SSL Certificate.
If the website does not have “https,” that means any data passing through your system is insecure. This is especially important for transactional sites involving information like credit card numbers, so be sure to check the URL for “https” before entering any personal information.
Check 1, 2: Is it really you?
In order to prove you are you, multi-factor authentication works to control access by requiring several types of evidence. Send a text to your mobile device, ask for security questions, you’ve seen it before: Websites and email accounts can be made more secure by requiring at least two factors of authentication. You could also check your email or social media account settings for multi-factor authentication options.
Protect your email accounts
Ah, email. We can’t live without it these days, but email unfortunately creates a ton of chances for viruses, worms and other malicious programs to enter our systems. Email messages can be protected using cryptography, which creates codes that keep your information secret.
Also be sure to have strong, secure passwords that are less likely to be breached. You could also try using apps like 1Password or LastPass that store passwords and digital records for extra security.
Use a VPN
A VPN is a great way to add extra security to your systems. A VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and allows you to browse the internet anonymously, giving you extra security on your network. It essentially encrypts your internet activity so no one can see what you’re doing online, which is appealing for those handling sensitive information. There are tons of VPN options available, both free and paid, so check out our list of the best VPNs.
Update your operating system and software
Software updates can prevent many security issues and are necessary to keep your devices running smoothly and without glitches. There are constantly new security updates available and you should make sure you’re updating your systems accordingly to ensure you have the latest security updates installed.
Still freaked out?
Many internet service providers offer their own additional levels of web protection. Check first to find out what yours offers, then you may want to opt into additional layers of security.
Xfinity xFi Advanced Security offers security measures for all your devices, from computers and phones to security cameras and smart thermostats. It is available at no extra cost for Xfinity Internet subscribers who also rent a compatible xFi gateway device. xFi can help you avoid risky sites, blocks remote access to your smart devices from risky sources, monitors devices in real-time and alerts you when your devices are behaving in unusual ways.
Verizon Internet Security Suite offers a robust array of services, from McAfee Active Protection (against malicious threats), real-time protection against virus attacks, secure firewall protection and even parental controls — for all devices using Verizon’s service.
Spectrum offers a downloadable security suite for Business Internet users at no additional cost. The suite software offers protection against malicious software, including viruses, spyware, worms, Trojans and more. Through the firewall feature, allow only safe internet connections and block unwanted access to your computer.
When in doubt, ask your provider what they offer and what you can do to further their existing protections. Now that you know a little more about the threats in the internet world, you can be more diligent about protecting yourself. Keep connected to our Resource Center and be sure to stay safe out there!
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Written by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband Content
Robin Layton is an editor for the broadband marketplace Allconnect. She built her internet industry expertise writing and editing for four years on the site, as well as on Allconnect’s sister site MYMOVE.com. … Read more
Edited by:Camryn Smith