The internet is a dirty place full of bad people.
By Jesse Phillips
According to the FBI, cyber crime is responsible for more than $780 million in revenue lost each year. Given how quickly that number has increased over the last few years, it will surpass $1 billion soon. Florida is the number 2 state in the nation in reported incidents of cyber crime.
So how does the average person protect themselves from falling prey to a billion dollar industry? It all starts with being aware of the types of threats that exist and learning how to avoid them. Here is my synopsis of some helpful tips provided by the cybercrime prevention unit of the FBI.
Threat 1: Phishing & Spoofing
A Phishing or Spoofing threat occurs when a scammer pretends to be someone else and tries to collect information they’re not entitled to. You might get an email asking you to click a link and fill out some information. Or you might have an alert on a website that asks you to fill out a form to benefit from a special offer.
The key to avoiding Phishing and Spoofing threats is to validate, validate and validate.
Never fill out a form in an e-mail message that asks for personal information. Any personal information should only be entered on a secure, encrypted website that you trust. Check out the link on an email you receive and make sure that this is the same URL you go to when you click. Scammers can put one thing in the body of the email, while the link takes you in a different direction. Research the company’s website and visit the site directly instead of clicking on the link in an unsolicited email. Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify if the e-mail is genuine. Do so via your own research or by using the phone number on the back of the card if the message purports to be from a bank or credit card provider or the statements you receive.
Threat 2: Spam Threats
The volume of spam being sent across the internet today is astronomical. In America, almost half of every email is spam. In some countries nearly all (90-95%) email is spam.
Conservative estimates guess that roughly 100 billion spam messages are sent world wide every single day. By comparison, it took McDonalds 43 years to sell 100 billion hamburgers. That’s the number of spam emails sent out every single day.
So what can you do, other than make sure you have a solid anti-spam solution for your email? Do not open spam. Delete the email without clicking to read it. Never respond to spam. This will only encourage the author to keep sending. Keep a primary and secondary email addresses. One for people you know, and the other one for more general purposes. Avoid giving out your email unless you know how it will be used. Never purchase anything advertised through an unsolicited email.
Threat 3: Fake or Rogue Anti-Virus
There are viruses that will pretend to be an anti-virus software. You may see a message telling you that your computer has a number of viruses on it and ask you to perform a full computer scan. Typically, the virus will then explain that in order to truly clean your computer, you need to purchase the full version of the anti-virus software. If you do this, you might have been duped.
If you ever feel as though your computer has been infected, do not download an anti-virus you’re not familiar with. Instead, go to a trusted name such as AVG or a free product called Malwarebytes, install and run it on your computer. Then go back and uninstall any other fishy anti-virus programs that might be installed on your computer.
Hopefully these tips can help you avoid becoming another statistic and falling prey to cyber crime.
Jesse Phillips holds a degree in computer science from the University of Central Florida and is an experienced programmer and systems administrator. Mr. Phillips was the Director of IT for a large medical practice before leaving that post to run his own consulting firm, where he provides computer network support for small businesses throughout Central Florida.