The unprecedented development of communication technologies and the gradual shift of day-to-day activities to online is a fact that is, I am convinced, beyond any discussion. Children and teenagers of today do not dream of becoming an astronaut or a car racer, instead, they talk of becoming a YouTuber or even a content creator. We order pizza or a cab ride using a mobile app, we pay our bills and invoices using a bank app, we buy shares online through our broker and I don’t even need to write about something as obvious as online shopping.
But let’s take a look as how our own senses can deceive us in this amazing brave new online world. We will also illustrate how this fact is exploited by hackers and scammers and, in particular, we will give you specific tips on how to improve your online security while fully reaping the benefits of technological progress.
Choose unique and strong passwords for each online service. This advice is so obvious that no one actually reads it anymore – nevertheless, it is still 100% relevant. The computational power and methods of password guessing have improved so much lately that guessing a simple password is only a matter of seconds or minutes. Let’s see how the simple password “charlie123” which, according to https://www.security.org/how-secure-is-my-password/, would take exactly 1 minute to crack, could be improved. So, what should such a password look like?
Tip: to create such a password, you may want to use a sentence which is important for you – this will ensure it is easy to remember with its emotional charge. A sentence that reads “My dog Charlie is No. 1” could then be transformed into “MdgChrl15#1”. This is how you come up with an easy-to-remember password that would require 4000 years to be cracked using the password guessing method. Quite an upgrade from a couple of minutes, don’t you think?
Of course, while this mnemonic can be helpful, taking into account how many such passwords we actually need this and every day, this approach may not suit everyone. Let’s take a look at a few pro tips that will help increase the security of your login:
Trust but verify goes the old adage and, indeed, it could be nowadays easily upgraded to distrust and verify. Let’s look at one study that discusses user behavior in the online environment. Whoops, are you saying that the link didn’t lead to any study at all? Let us apologize for a harmless joke – you have just found out how a lot of scammers work in principle. Using similar techniques (and not only these), they can direct you to fraudulent sites that look almost the same as the ones that you are familiar with.
Our eyes that have served us so well during our evolutionary journey deceive us here at first sight. The description of the link itself (or an email or a website) may not have anything to do with its actual content. Of course, in most situations, these links and descriptions are very appropriate, because they make it easier for the user to navigate the Internet – the link to the Aliter Technologies site looks better and is clearer than the link to the https://www.aliter.com/ site.
Some tips on how not to be tricked by this scam:
Although the previous advice should, in principle, protect you from fraudulent emails, considering the frequency and impact of scam attempts, we have decided to pay more attention to this particular phenomenon. Let’s start by explaining why online attackers use email scams so extensively. Email communication today is so prevalent and so cheap that we don’t even think about it. We thus use our email address to make online purchases, or we set them up on our social networks pages as a means of contact with others. Whether we like it or not, these email addresses (whether by way of online ‘collection’ or way of selling on black markets) become available also to online attackers. This is a fact that we simply have to accept, and we need to be prepared for this. You can take very good care of your email but a service provider with whom you used this email may have been compromised and you are already on the scam hitlist. If you combine this fact (easy accessibility of e-mail addresses) with a low price of sending e-mails, we get an ideal tool which can send a fraudulent e-mail to a large number of users at almost zero costs.
As illustrated in our first advice, where a completely different website was hidden behind a link, a very similar principle works also with e-mails. However, this issue is further intensified in the case of emails, as several types of scam methods may be applied. Instead of recognizing the respective techniques, let’s look at the main signs of how to recognize a fraudulent email or text message (SMS):
Unfortunately, the very nature of these threats, i.e., that they use social engineering techniques, make it basically impossible to ensure one hundred percent protection against fraudulent SMS or emails. Although the technologies to recognize fraudulent emails have advanced considerably, so have the methods to generate these emails. At the end of the day, it is an endless battle between the scammers and tech companies that develop tools to protect users from this fraudulent content. Unfortunately, more often than not, the good guys have odds stacked against them.
The only universal advice we can give you at this moment is to be prudent and use your critical thinking. It is very unlikely that we will get rid of fraudulent emails or SMS any time soon, which is why it is always better to check any suspicious email, for example, by using alternative communication channels. You may call your bank or simply be alert and observe carefully whether an email or a text message contain the signs of fraudulent communication. And, above all, you need to be careful when entering login data and tokens.
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To understand that “myths about cybersecurity are just illusions” is the first step in developing cybersecurity.
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Even the most technologically advanced application will not protect us from the greatest threat that is there – us.