Friday, September 16, 2016

Identity and Digital Security

With Apple and Google doing their best to control what content is put on iTunes and Play respectively, we may have been lulled into a false sense of internet security. While Microsoft is by far the largest target, Mac has been gaining popularity and long standing belief that Mac OS is not susceptible to viruses, is just no longer true. No matter what operating system you are using we should be forever vigilant, but in the end it is just a matter of time before a breach will occur. Here are some tips to avoid breaches in internet security and how to ensure you can quickly recover from it.

1. Get an Antivirus

While not all antiviruses are created equal, and no antivirus is 100% impregnable, it is your first line of defense. Some higher regarded antiviruses are NortonMcAfeeTrendMicro and Avast. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I have used these in the past and all have their strong and weak points, good and bad features. All of them have Android and iPhone versions as well.

2. Do Not Click, Close

This next tip is simple enough, but hard to remember when an issue arises. If a suspicious popup appears asking you to click on something, do not do it. There is an old Windows keyboard command for closing a window. Pressing the [Alt] and [F4] keys simultaneously in Microsoft Windows will close the active window; that is [Command] and [W] for you iOS users. For most smart phones, I believe you just need to long press your home button and swipe to close. It might not hurt to reboot your computer or mobile device just to sever your internet connect and clear your cache.

3. When in Doubt, Power Down

If you find yourself facing a never ending supply of pop ups, or someone else remote controlling your desktop, your best choice might be to power down. For Windows and iOS devices, press and hold the power button until the power shuts off, typically 10 seconds. Most Android users can try pressing the power button and volume down simultaneously until their phone reboots, while iOS users can press the power button and the home buttons simultaneously. If you act quickly, your data is likely safe on the internal memory, but you may require a third party to help you retrieve it depending on the damage.

4. Use Strong Passwords

Strong passwords contain upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers and symbols in a unique combination that is not a word recognizable by a dictionary. This includes family names, pets names, street names, favorite teams, food or anything that could be related to you. For more on strong passwords, check out the Master Lock Vault website.

5. Use Email with Two-Step Verification

Two-Step verification is simply that it requires two credentials to login. These are typically the answer to a secret question and your password. In the event your account is locked out, an email or a text message will be sent to verify it is you that is attempting to access the account. I am in the process of transitioning from an ISP provided email address without 2-Step Verification to an online email address that does.

6. Use the Cloud Confidently

Many people are uncertain about the cloud. However, the easiest way to steal people's digital information is to steal their phone or computer. Furthermore, phones and computers can easily be damaged in a disaster like a fire or hurricane. Most cloud storage has 256-bit encryption. I am not a Computer Science guy, but bits can be 0 or 1, so two choices to the 256 power? That is a lot of passwords to try by brute force. It would take the fastest computer in the world years to break a strong password.

7. Never Give Any Personal Information Over the Phone

Despite all the advances in technology, people still fall prey to the phone scam. I never give information over the phone to people I do not know. If my account is past due, I will politely inform them that I will take care of it online. If my account has been compromised, other than to confirm which recent purchases that were not mine, they do not require anything further from me to cancel my account and send me a new card. Even providing your date of birth and the last four digits of your social security number could be enough to.compromise your identity.

8. File a Complaint

Internet Crime Complaint Center has links to Internet Crime, FBI anti-terrorism and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children complaints. If you have been the victim of an internet related crime, you can report it through the links found on the IC3 website.

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