Don't be a victim of Cybercrime

 Don't be a victim of Cybercrime

Cybercrime is a growing problem, and it’s a problem that can easily affect you. It’s important to know about the various types of cybercrime so that you can protect yourself from them.

Some common forms of cybercrime are:
Identity theft
Malware and ransomware
Phishing scams     Financial fraud schemes (including fake investment opportunities)

Each type of cybercrime comes with its own suite of risks, but all have one thing in common: they want your money or your identity. It’s important to prevent these crimes from happening by being aware of them and taking the appropriate measure.

Identity theft
Identity theft is the most common type of cybercrime. Identity thieves look for your personal information and use it to steal from you, or they use it to pose as you. It can happen in several ways:
How someone steals your identity:
Thieves might use software to get your personal information directly from the computer where you do things like shop online or enter your taxes. Calls where a voice actor pretends to be an IRS agent may also be used in this situation.   Thieves can get access to all kinds of information about you by going through trash, stealing mail, going through old documents and even reading your social media accounts (especially if they aren’t protected). Thieves can also get your information from retailers, car dealers, credit card companies and more. It’s a good idea to read all the risks associated with doing business with these companies so you know what you are signing up for and what you need to protect. Thieves can actually use an online persona that looks just like you to do things like apply for a loan or credit card. Or they can just steal your identity outright and use it themselves.

Protecting yourself from identity theft:
Change your passwords and PINs regularly – as often as once a month is recommended, especially for sites where you pay using a credit card or have access to personal information (like social media sites).   Use a firewall when shopping online. Firewalls are programs that run on your computer that look for viruses and intruders – if one is found, it will prevent the intruder from getting in.   Guard against a phishing scam by never giving out personal information to someone who contacts you via phone or email. Legitimate businesses won’t ask for this kind of information unless you have initiated contact with them about it. You can also report businesses that do this to the FTC . If you get a call or email asking for personal information, try typing the URL or phone number of the business into an internet search engine – if it comes back as an official page, chances are you’re dealing with a legitimate business.
To protect yourself from account takeover, security experts recommend that you use two-factor authentication – this means you need something in addition to your username and password to access your account, like a code by text or a one-time password. If you don’t have two-factor authentication at an online site or service, check their security page for some tips on how to protect yourself.   Make sure all of your software is up to date – this includes operating systems, browsers and security software.

Malware and ransomware
Malware is short for malicious software . Malware can take the form of viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware or adware. Common types of malware include:
Viruses: viruses attach themselves to a computer and will run as long as the computer stays on and isn’t shut down. Computer security professionals also call them “wiper” viruses because they delete important files, like photos or mp3s from your machine. Viruses are also associated with identity theft, especially where they may be used to infect other computers with malware so that the original victim’s information can be stolen over and over again.   Worms: these are self-replicating programs that spread through a network. They’re similar to viruses in that they can scan your network (defined as anything from a home computer to an office network) and infect every computer. It’s not uncommon for worms to spread over large networks and infect thousands of computers. Trojans: this is sort of like malicious software’s version of “The Secret Garden.” Trojan horses pretend to be something harmless, like menus or updates, but actually do something really malicious when they get onto your machine – for example, they might steal your passwords or send spam messages. Spyware: another type of malware that steals information such as passwords and credit card numbers from your computer without you knowing about it until it's too late. Adware: this is software that you knowingly download, but which might also include malware. It’s usually trying to make money by displaying advertisements on your computer that are related to the content of whatever sites you visit.

How malware impacts you:
Malware is sneaky and can get onto your computer with or without your permission – either through an internet browser, email attachment or an online download off the internet. The bad news is that once the malware is on your machine, it can be really hard to get rid of. Since it’s self-replicating, you could infect other machines when you try to remove it from one machine – this means it just keeps spreading if left untreated. Thankfully, there are several companies that will remove malware for you, usually for a fee.   When malware gets onto your machine, it can do all kinds of damage to your computer. That could mean slowing it down so much that it can’t even run something like Photoshop or Windows Media Player. It might also cause your machine to crash or turn on itself and go into a bootup loop, or it might just freeze up the operating system completely where you essentially have to pull out the plug and reboot in order to get anything running again.   Malware on your computer can also do horrible things to your files. It might delete them or encrypt them (locking up the files and making it impossible to open them unless you pay a ransom). Even if you pay the ransom, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get your files back – many ransomware scams are simply a way for the scammer to make money off of gullible victims, and the victim often never gets their files back.

How to protect yourself from malware:
First of all, avoid running pirated software or pirating movies, games or music – buying these things is stealing from the artists that created them.   Don’t open emails or attachments that you weren’t expecting. If you get a message from a friend that says they have some pictures to show you, don’t open the attachment – just go to their web page and look at them there. Sometimes pictures and other attachments are just a cover for malware to get onto your machine, while the real file is right there in the email.

Security is hard to come by these days, let alone keep up with. There are so many different kinds out there right now that it’s hard to figure out who is trustworthy, and even harder to trust that those people are always trustworthy. There are plenty of security tips that you can read off the Internet or watch on television, but it’s still important to do your own research on what’s really safe and effective before you trust someone else with your personal information.

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