As our online lives continue to grow and develop in unpredictable ways, the threats to personal and commercial online privacy evolve and pose significant security risks. In this article, online security expert Ravi Bahethi discusses some of the biggest online privacy threats that businesses and individuals face each day.
1. Phishing Attacks
Phishing is a common practice of fraudsters that uses deception to trick someone into giving up sensitive personal or financial information. Phishing attacks are designed to obtain credit card numbers, banking website credentials, and data used for identity theft. These schemes often use fake online pages or mobile displays designed to look like authentic and trusted sites.
Always be sure that a site is authentic before inputting any requested information. If you have any doubts, call the institution or provider directly to verify the page you are seeing before going further. Never click on links in emails or text messages. You should access a trusted site directly and not through a link from an unsolicited message.
2. Smart Home Technology and the Internet of Things
Nearly every home appliance and gadget today has connectivity to wi-fi or apps on phones and tablets. Unfortunately, many smart home devices are vulnerable to hackers who are looking for ways to invade your home internet network and connected devices and computers that contain sensitive personal information.
The best security practices for home networks include using strong and secure passwords for every device and ensuring the best available security for your home router. Every connected device should have any unnecessary remote access features disabled.
3. Browser Extensions
There are many useful browser extensions that people use for a variety of purposes. Many extensions actively collect browsing history that is then packaged and sold to third parties for marketing research. Other extensions are vulnerable to cyber attacks that seek access to all information stored on a computer. Major developers like Google and Mozilla allocate serious resources to ensuring the security of browser extensions that their browsers allow; still, each user must understand the limitations and features of the browser they choose to use. The best practice for users is to avoid installing any third-party extensions that require permission to access data.
4. Device Tracking
Modern mobile phones and mobile apps often function as personal tracking devices without users’ active knowledge. Tracking is not just an issue for law enforcement; it can affect the ordinary day-to-day lives of users. Employer issued devices can be used for all sorts of unwanted monitoring, and personal mobile phones can store and transmit sensitive information that invades individual privacy.
Basic location privacy requires users to pay attention to the requests made by every application on devices and to refuse requests that allow location services capabilities. Social networks are especially likely to use location information as part of general terms of service, and users should not post updates to social networks from mobile devices.
5. Illegal Webcam Access
Webcam hacking is not commonly used to obtain financial information, but it is definitely at the top of the list of creepy behavior. Hackers often use invasive malware to install programs on computers that allow remote operation of webcams connected to a home or business network. The safest protection against webcam hacking is using effective and updated anti-malware programs and ensuring that secure firewalls are in place and activated.
About Ravi Bahethi
Ravi Bahethi is a systems engineer and programmer working in Fortran 77, Fortran 90, C/C++ and SQL on a variety of platforms, including OpenVMS, Tru64 Unix, IRIX, Linux and Windows. He is devoted to providing flexible and cost-effective IT solutions to both government and industry clients. When he is not busy managing Maryland-based Terranet Inc., Ravi enjoys taking long walks and playing tennis.