Cybersafety 101: Using internet safely to tackle rising cyberattacks

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By Shubhangi Shah

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Hacking, phishing, computer virus. You must come across these terms at some point. Worse, you might have been a victim of these, or some among the several other cybersecurity threats out there. Hence, you might know how important it is to be cyber safe.

Yes, technology, especially the internet, has made our lives easier. But, it has done the same for fraudsters lurking to steal your data, vital info, or worse, money. Hence, just like you keep your guard up at other times, do the same while online. Here is why and how:

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Human error

World Economic Forum says that 95% of cybersecurity incidents occur due to human error, according to the Global Risks Report. Almost every application, software, and social media platform tells you to create a strong password, which means it should not be your name, the usual ‘password’, or something too easy to guess. A weak password is among the primary causes for identity theft in which someone assumes someone else’s identity.

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Hence, avoid creating passwords with information related to you, such as your name, date of birth, etc. At the same time, make it recognisable to you but not to others. The longer the password, the better, which is why most platforms have a minimum character length. Also, avoid using the same password on multiple platforms so that if one gets broken, the others will remain safe.

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A strong password is not the only thing that ensures cybersecurity. You might have witnessed a considerable number of spam mails in your inbox. Be very careful when opening an email and any attachments that look phishy, like offering you money, a job or college admission. Although harmless by the look of them, they are among the prominent tools used by cybercriminals to extract your personal information to gain leverage for financial gains. It could also be a ploy to install the malware in your system, which can be anything – a virus, which can disrupt the system, damage data, and software, or ransomware, which blocks access to the device until you pay a ransom. Hence, pay attention to any glaring errors, spelling or otherwise, or some aspects that look too good to be true. Beware of phishy websites, which can be spoof of some legitimate ones. Look at the URL closely, and pay attention to the domain name and how secure the site is. For example, avoid those with ‘HTTP’ protocol for bank and financial transactions and other such activities.

Mobile frauds

With the increasing use of smartphones, these have become another avenue for cyberattackers. Although you must follow the aforementioned cybersafety steps, there is another thing here. Look into your phone, what is it filled with? The answer will be applications, or apps, which can be another tool in the hands of attackers. It can be because some of these can be malware apps.

One of the most used ones is the Joker malware that targets and uses the SMS service. It can capture clicks and trick users to subscribe to paid unwanted services. After being first detected in 2017, it only caused SMS-related scams earlier, but its ambit has expanded since then to include intercepting one-time passwords and other security codes, send and read SMS, and read notifications. The Google Play Store takes down these apps time and again, but often many users have downloaded these already. So first, download apps mindfully and delete them whenever Google Play Store sounds an alert and takes them down.

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Open WiFi

You might have used public WiFi at some point. These are available at airports, railway stations, restaurants, hotels, etc. Although free of cost, these are not devoid of cybersecurity breaches. The primary concern around public WiFis is the lack of encryption. It poses a considerable threat, such as by increasing the possibility of the Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack. In this, a third party intercepts communication between two parties. Hence, the link between the client and the server gets broken. Now the hijacker can present her own version of the website.

A compromised router is another problem. It is because it allows hackers to vacuum up some personal activity. During that if they get into your email, they can easily get access to your private conversations, details, and even password. So, what is the way out? First, avoid using public WiFi for sensitive activities, such as for financial transactions. However, if it is urgent, use a VPN (virtual private network). Similarly, try avoiding accessing unsecured sites and if needed, use a VPN. There are several VPN services available online but make sure to use the one provided by a reputable service provider. The good ones ask you to pay.

Wearables

You might think that cyberattacks are restricted to computers, laptops, and mobile phones. As per a recent paper in IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), even wearables can be susceptible to cyberattacks. So, do not buy any product that does not guarantee security. Also, once you get the device, try to change the password right away.





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