Hacking, Phishing, Social Engineering, and How to Prevent Them From Happening to You

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Article By Jessica Irvine

As we dive further into the technological age, more advanced devices are created in an effort to go paperless. All your important informational will be stored in various softwares from your personal laptop to the data base at the hospital you visit for check-ups. As technology advances, modes of stealing your information will as well. Currently, one in thirteen Americans have been victims of cyber attacks. As we strive to connect on any available free wifi, bluetooth, and unsecured institutions, we must be especially cautious for lurking hackers. Below are the definitions of a few types of hacking as well as tips to prevent a cyber attack from happening to you:

Key logging

Key logging is a program that a hacker may use to follow your key strokes, recording the patterns that you type in an attempt to recognize any repeated patterns that may be a password to an important account. This is the number one most common type of hacking. This type of software is easy for hackers to access as it is sold to companies for use of monitoring employees who work on company computers. One unfortunate note to take is that key logging software is difficult to identify on a computer without the necessary software to do so. However, there are some simple steps you can take to avoid this happening to you:

  • Download Antivirus Software That Detects Key Loggers
  • Use “Two-Step” Authentication When Logging into Accounts: This could be having a password that you type in as well as a unique code that is sent to your mobile device to be inputed every time you log in.
  • Use a Virtual Keyboard: Instead of using the keyboard attached to your laptop or desk top, use a keyboard that is on the computer screen
  • Watch Out for Unsafe Websites, Pop-ups, Fraudulent Emails, and Open Access Directories on a P2P Site

Phishing           

Phishing is essentially the stealing of your information when you input it into an unsafe website, or through the opening of a virus contained in an email. These hackers attempt to make you given them your credentials without you knowing whom you are delivering them to. Often, they will pretend to be legitimate company looking to hire you and asking for your social security number, for example. They may also create a fake social networking site where you input your email and password thinking that you are logging onto the legitimate site. Whichever manner of attack, the hackers now have your information and with it could lock you out of your account, post vulgar messages, or collect any useful information they find such as a credit card number. Tips to prevent the from occurring:

  • Do Not Easily Hand Over Your Social Security Number or Credit Card Information Over the Phone or Over Email
  • If Something Seems Wrong, It Actually May Be: If it is a trusted company, call the number you have for them and tell them about your situation to verify its authenticity
  • Do Not Shop on Sites That You Have Not Heard of Before, That Do Not Have Contact Information and Credentials
  • Set Your Email Spam Filters to High
  • Be Cautious of Unsecured WiFi in Public Places

Social Engineering

This has been defined as the manipulation of people in an attempt to make them give important information. This can be related to phishing, however it can be a bit more personal. If a friends’ account has been hacked, the hacker may send an email to you and their other friends containing an attachment. Upon opening this attachment, the malware will be downloaded into your computer and they will be able to do something similar with your account, creating a snowballing effect. This may seem alarming as you may now think you must be wary of your friends, however there are some key points to look out for:

  • A Text or Phone Call That Someone is in Danger: You receive a phone call from an unknown number, claiming that your loved one if in danger and you need to send them thousands of dollars to help them. In this situation you are flooded by emotions and thinking that your loved one is in trouble to spring to you check book to win them the money. Stop. Do NOT transfer the money. Call your loved one or a relative and ask them if the ‘injured’ person is injured at all. Hackers know that in an emotional state, people may not be as precautions and more willing to divulge information or money.
  • Asking to Donate to a Charitable Organization: When someone calls for you to donate to a worthy cause, first check to see its legitimacy. Tell them you’ll call them back and ask for a number to reach them at or while on the phone search the internet for a website that proves that are real. If it is difficult to find, then odds are the organization is a hoax.
  • Asking for Verification of Information by Clicking on a Link to Another Form Asking to Re-enter Your Information: Be wary of emails or notifications that you need to re-enter your private information by clicking on a link. First, check who the email came from. Are they an email that the company has used before? If not, they probably are not the legitimate company. Next, look at the link- does it have ‘https’? Not all links and websites have this, but when the ’s’ is present it means that the website is secure, as in the communications are encrypted. If this is not present, yet another reason to be cautious.
  • Notification That you Have Won a Raffle or Give-away That You Did Not Enter: Sweepstakes are a very common and simple way for hackers to take your information simply because people love expensive items for ‘free.’ However, next time you receive one of these congratulatory letters, make sure you actually entered a sweepstakes, because if you did not enter, you cannot win. Also, these offers typically have you enter your credit card information, however, why would they need your credit card for an all expenses paid vacation to the Bahamas?
  • Someone Posed as a Boss or Co-Worker: This relates very closely the Phishing and friendly email requesting your information put in. However, if you work in the same place as your co-workers, the best thing to do would be to ask them in person if they send you an email that you seem cautious about. If you do not work physically near them, communicate to them through a manner in which you have communicated previously and know is really them.
  • An Offer That Seems Too Good to be True: That feeling you get when something seems to good to be true, maybe be correct. Our life experiences have given us a radar that lets us know when things just seem to good to be true. We need to evaluate the reasons that this could be occurring and the reasons that it could not be. The best thing to do is always to try to verify its’ authenticity.
  • Email Offering a Product or Service From a Known Company That is Free or Low Price: This ties into the previous point. We know that some services are very costly. Odds are, there are not other people selling the same product at a 90% discount. In this day, websites are accumulating information about what we search and look at on our sites while shopping and a hacker could get that information. With this information they could send you an email from a ‘legit company’ selling that product of interest at a staggering low price. One should be cautious of the timing go the email as well as the price that seems ‘too good to be true.’

 

Your private information is exactly that – YOURS. If you take note of the tips above, the likelihood will increase of it remaining that way.

           

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