Why You Need to Put Internet Security on Your Side

The stats are undeniable. Nearly half the planet (over 3.3 billion people!) is online . Even more shocking are the cybercrime statistics. According to a Symantec report, in 2015, global consumers lost $158 billion at the hands of cyber criminals. FBI Director James Comey summed it up, naming the Internet as "the most dangerous parking lot imaginable."

Modern Online Security Threats

There is no denying that the Internet has connected us to the rest of the world in a truly remarkable way. Social media sites connect you with old friends, new friends, relatives, and professional colleagues. Need someone to repair your air conditioner? A few taps and you are comparing the reviews, pricing, and availability of a dozen local companies. Do you have bills to pay? Do you have shopping to do? It is all at your fingertips. The reality is, there are too many threats to name them all, especially with new threats arriving quicker than Justin Bieber hit songs. It's like Hercules fighting the Hydra. Every time the security experts hack the head off the latest threat, two more seem to take its place. Credit card information is at risk every time you make an online purchase. Hackers hold your data and programs hostage with ransomware. A seemingly endless number of industries engage in IP address tracking. Here are a few of the threats you need to be aware of this year.

Social Media Attacks

Social media presents a number of security threats beyond the commonly cited dangers of online bullying and predators. For example, clickjacking is a way to trick the user into clicking a malicious link by disguising it as a link to a trusted site. Say you click that link. Now, everyone in your contact list receives the same link in the form of a status update. They trust it, because it came from you. Each of those people clicks it, and the cycle continues. Another clickjacking link might take you to a video with the expectation you will "Like" it, distributing it to all of your "Friends" in the process. As in the first example, the cycle continues, especially if the video involves that addictive "Grumpy Cat." The hacker gains whatever he was after; typically, it is confidential information that makes stealing your identity a snap. Increasingly, though, it is control of your device.

Smartphone Attacks

Smartphones have their own unique security threats, such as rogue apps, viruses, unencrypted communications, and security backdoors. Android, in particular, is vulnerable to rogue apps, with numerous marketplaces offering users applications for download. These rogue apps hide nasty malware. Once installed, the malware pillages your phone of its confidential data before uninstalling itself, typically in sixty seconds or less. As for viruses, many smartphone users feel as though their devices are invulnerable to them. Grumpy Cat says no, they are not. Even Apple's iOS is susceptible to viruses. As far as keeping your data communications safe, smartphones are vulnerable to drive-by NFC attacks and RFID hacks. Additionally, many smartphone models have built-in backdoors, installed by the manufacturers, typically in the form of default applications. The intent may not have been to create a backdoor, but reality trumps intent every time.

Online Banking Dangers

Users who complete online banking transactions face a multitude of security issues. Hackers steal information that includes user credentials via methods such as malware and phishing, or intercepting communications between the user and the financial institution's server. They may also infect a device with a Trojan virus that carries a key logger program. Now, the hacker knows your login ID and password, making it possible to step into your financial world and drain it dry. Really, the methods to steal financial information are endless and change as rapidly as Lady Gaga changes which ridiculous prop she puts in her hair. It is that old hydra again.

When are you most vulnerable?

Accessing the Internet with unsecure public wifi hotspots bares your device to every person using that same network, allowing them to follow each click of the mouse and tap of the keyboard or screen. Capturing a stranger's Wi-Fi signal is as easy as listening to a one-sided cell phone conversation at Starbucks. Just download a free trial of a wireless network analyzer and start gathering data packets. The analyzer will even translate the random-looking HTML code it gathers into a webpage view. There's no need to speak code! You can capture email, IM, FTP logins; pretty much anything other users do online is available for your viewing pleasure. Of course, you are not a hacking, hijacking, fraud-committing criminal, so you will not do anything with the hypothetical information you have collected. Unfortunately, plenty of people will. How do you protect yourself against those people? Should you never go online in public again? Fortunately, you have less nuclear options.

A VPN is the first step to a secure Internet connection.

The bottom line is, we're not going to give up our interconnectedness and convenience, but we've explain that comes with plenty of security risks. This is especially true when you connect to the Internet via unsecured or public Wi-Fi, where anyone using the same network can hijack your device. A virtual private network, or VPN, provides effective encryption to protect you against these attacks. Using a VPN encrypts your information, even on an unsecured public Wi-Fi connection. You are protected from malware, hackers, fraudsters, hipsters, and online pirates of all stripes, allowing you to surf the Web with confidence. Get mobile security for your smartphone, laptop, or tablet, as well as secure access for desktops, browsers, and your favorite apps.

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