Identity theft is something we cannot ignore in our data driven society. Whether it’s your credit card, email address, social media account, medical information, or a host of other channels, the threat of identity theft and data loss should be foremost in your daily activities. Here are some simple steps that can be taken to protect yourself both online and offline.

Shield yourself against malware and spyware

Electronic theft is one of the fastest growing areas. Having a computer, or computing device, without anti-virus, or anti-malware tools, opens yourself to a host of online dangers. There are free software solutions from Microsoft, for those with legitimate software, and a host of others (AVG, etc..) Most of these applications attempt to prevent users from phishing attacks, websites infested with malware, malicious software or virus infected files. You can also utilize browser extensions, such as WOT(used in popular browsers from Firefox and Google Chrome), a crowdsourced Internet website reputation rating tool which tries to warn computer users about unsafe websites. As for some practical advise, also use the latest web-browser and obtain regular updates. Internet Explorer 6, or any other badly out-dated web browser, just won’t help in today’s web world; no matter how much protection you have.

Be aware of some of the common terms and types of attacks listed below.

Computer Viruses
– A application, program or part of code that can be loaded onto your computer, without your knowledge, causing a substantial about of damage; along with frustration due to data loss. These types of malicious software can also replicate and infect other machines if not properly removed.
Hacker / Hacking
– Hackers have an ability to override password protection and bypass security; sometimes performing malicious activities and more.
– Spyware is software that covertly gathers information through the user’s Internet connection without his or her knowledge.
– Short for malicious software. Malware is generally designed to damage a computer system.
– As the classical story of “Troy” depicts, a Trojan virus is destructive code that can hide itself within an application or computer system; waiting to be unleashed for it’s intended purpose.
– The act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate company, organization or individual in an attempt to trick the user into surrendering private and confidential information. Commonly used in fake commercial banking emails, and others, for the purposes identity theft.

Don’t ignore the social aspects of the web, ignorance is not bliss

Even social networking sites can pose a threat to a computer or computer network thanks to malware. On a business network, although I.T Manger use best practices to protect their systems against attack, a more basic aspect of “phishing” is by fraud and deception. Let’s be honest, there are a host of individuals wanting to be your friend. But how many of those individuals are actually legitimate? Criminals are always on the lurk. You don’t implicitly trust everyone you see, face-to-face, so why do we trust everyone online? This is not to make you paranoid, but we must take care of our identity and the fact that there are individuals, and crime based organizations, out in cyberspace attempting to scam and deceive you. Information is the new gold. Ensure that your own accounts don’t get hacked and don’t provide information to people you really don’t know. Use best practices when creating passwords and employing security measures. Most business networks force a strong password authentication, for login’s, however when dealing with social networks try to think of your identity over convenience. A password of “123” or “abc”, just isn’t good enough (see list of commonly used passwords).

Other measures to remember:

– Talk to your family members, friends, colleagues and ensure that they are cyber-smart.
– Ensure that individuals using your computer, tablet or mobile device are not creating a liability for you.
– Keep your systems up-to-date.
– Be in the know and knowledgeable on new threats to your security.

In Conclusion

Don’t become a victim! When it comes to the things you could do to protect yourself from identity theft, don’t ignore the small things. Keep vigilant and safe online. Always be aware that data is the new gold online. Following some best practices, in terms of your identity and security, can go a long way to helping to secure your future in the new world today.