Maintaining security in an insecure world


By Matthew Murray – Online Editor

We live in a time of technological and cultural change. With all these great changes, of course, there are still downsides. Everywhere you go on the Internet, threats to your security exist. Some are obvious, others are less apparent. While the first law of security tells us we are never completely safe, you can do many things to mitigate threats.


Social Media

Social media have turned the world into a global community. However, we are not always connected to the best people. Social media sites are the current hot spots for today’s criminal element. In the old days, a thief could only rob people within walking or driving distance, but with the Internet a thief can be anywhere, from the other side of the street to a small town in Russia.

All social media sites make your information public, whether to friends, local community or the world. This information is easy to access. Even if a thief doesn’t have immediate access, they have many ways to gain it. With this access, a hacker can learn enough about you and ruin not just your life, but also those of  your friends and family.

However, you can use many ways to avoid threats on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and other social media.

Make sure you have a strong password that has 10-15 digits, letters and numbers. Don’t use anything an attacker could easily guess, such as a birth date or middle name.

When allowing an application on your Facebook profile, you are granting that application access to your information. This application will now know as much about you as your best friend does. The problem is that many applications are known to sell and trade information. Most of the time this doesn’t hurt you and the information just goes to telemarketers, but other times this information can be given to criminals. To avoid this problem, read the terms & use policies and only give access to programs that you know are trustworthy.

Another problem is online hijacking. Once a criminal gains access to an account they are, for all intents and purposes, that person. They can then access friends’ information and invite them to bogus applications.

Never accept invitations to applications just because your friend sent it to you, and don’t answer questions from friends if you’re not sure it’s really them.

Finally, the best way to keep yourself safe on social media is to assume what you post on a “bulletin” or on a “wall” will be visible to everyone. Whenever possible, correspond through private messages. These tips will help keep your information as secure as possible. Don’t put anything on the Internet you don’t want everyone else to see.



E-mail is probably the oldest source of attack in the Internet world. It is standard practice to “spam” people or send them useless mail. Many times this can be harmless. Be careful, though, because e-mail links can take you to places on the Internet you’d rather not be. Many criminal spam links send users to websites that run scams. Even more common are sites that download malicious software on your computer without your knowledge.

While most filters and people can spot spam and avoid it, people are increasingly threatened by “Trojan” e-mails. These e-mails appear to be from legitimate companies, such as a national bank. However, these e-mails can be fake and may be used to take your information. There are three common scams involved in Trojan e-mails.

The first scam involves company asking you for your password to confirm that you performed a specific action, or something similar to this.

In the second scam, you can be asked to click on a link that will send you to a site that downloads malicious software on your computer.

The third and most common scam asks you to visit the company’s site and access your account. The link you click will send you to what appears to be the company’s website but is, in reality, the criminal’s website.

Once you “Log in” to your account, the criminal has your information.

To avoid these threats. you should do two things. First, never click on links if you can manually go to the site yourself.

Second, look very closely at addresses. This is where criminals will get you. Many people can be tricked by addresses such as:, the ‘r’ in Wells Fargo is missing, or These misleading pages convey false security. The second example would leave you vulnerable to a computer named Wells Fargo, which is attached to the domain “thief.”

These are some common ways for criminals to attack people on the Internet. With these tips, you can be well on your way to a safer Web experience.