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Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail… How to protect your online identity?

November 15th, 2011 | Posted by admin in hacking & online security

As the time passes we are doing more things online. We make friends online, we meet them online, we fall in love online and in some cases people find their soul mate online. Internet is becoming very vital for individuals and for businesses also. Every day a lot of information crosses the global net from one point of the planet to the other. Billions of people from all the ages navigate the web and exchange information every day. A lot of people update their status on social networks for everything that happens to them during the day. A new generation is born. Kids are growing with Facebook and other social networks around them. A strong dependency on the internet is being developed. Is this good or better say is it even safe? That would make an infinite discussion but I`m positive here. I believe that the internet is one of the biggest steps man has made on it`s way to evolution. But it`s development needs to be monitored. Kid`s access on the internet needs to be monitored. Social Networks gain a lot of information on their subscriber`s activities, interests, likes, dislikes and life in general. Such data are being sold to big marketing companies which use those data for producing better ads, for shaping products and for studying human behavior. The internet resembles a big human behavioral studying laboratory which we sponsor by our own.

Simply said we are basing our lives on the internet, we are placing our biggest bet over it. And all the guarantee we have over this bet is our passwords. A password for Facebook, Twitter, a password for email… Do those passwords really provide that much security?

The answer is no. It`s the truth I`m sorry. Passwords can be stolen and the average computer user can do nothing about it. Everyone one of us can be a victim of identity theft if we are not careful. But why should someone try to steal your passwords? Are you a beautiful girl ..? Are you a guy who got lucky playing online Texas hold `em Poker and now you have a lot of chips? Are you a key executive on a big company? Are you a normal person who got involved in an argument with someone ? Are you online? Well everyone is a potential victim. I will list below some advices to protect your online identity:

1.If you accessing Facebook, Twitter, Email or any other service with password protection, from a public network, internet café or free wireless internet bar than you should be careful. Always make sure that you access such websites with a secure connection. If the login url is: http://www.acme.com use https://www.acme.com (note the s in https). There are a lot of free computer programs even a kid can install and use that can capture passwords if you are not using a secure http channel.

2.If you used https be careful not to accept a security certificate if your browser warns you that it`s not authentic. Malicious individuals can fake security certificates easily and that way they want to make you believe you are accessing the original web site. This kind of attack is conducted by an individual who redirects all the network traffic to his own computer by using a technique called “ARP poisoning”. Arp poisoning can be detected. Xarp can help you with this.

3.If you got some strange email saying that you should re-enter your password otherwise your account will be deleted spam it immediately. That is a phishing attack. Someone interested in your account password is trying to fool you to enter your login details to a perfectly faked login page.

Complex Phishing attacks can even fool computer professionals. Desktop phishing is very dangerous. Malicious software can alter your computers configuration files (hosts file) to redirect your traffic to their server instead of the authentic web site.

4.Be careful with flash disks you insert in your pc. Always scan them with your antivirus prior to opening them in file explorer. Malicious software can launch itself automatically when you double click on the drive icon. Once they launch they can theoretically harm your pc. They can delete your documents, crash your system or install activity monitoring software or even remote control software.

5.Be careful of keyloggers. Keyloggers are computer programs that log every key you press on the keyboard. The log file usually is encrypted and sent to the attacker via email. A keylogger can make its way to your pc through some flash disk you used recently, an email attachment or by a remote attack. Code can be executed on your pc remotely by attackers exploiting system vulnerabilities on your pc. The best but not totally secure way to avoid such attacks is by ensuring that you always install the latest updates of your operating system and the latest updates of software you use.

6.Do not use your company email account for personal matters. You need to know that your employer is probably paying someone just to sit and monitor all the emails that other employees exchange.

Always remember:

  1. Back up important information on your PC. It is best if you use an external storage media.
  2. Do not use the same password for different online services
  3. Use complex alphanumeric passwords
  4. Change passwords frequently but be careful not to forget them. An attacker may already have your email password but he may be waiting for the perfect moment to use it.
  5. Do not turn off automatic updates on your PC and always update your antivirus
  6. Get the latest version your web browser

The final advice is: The less personal/important information you store online or on your pc the more secure your online identity is.

Cheers!

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