Logging-on isn’t as safe as it used to be. In fact, in 2006, the Internet Crime Complaint Center received and processed over 200,000 complaints; the total alleged dollar losses were more than $194 million.
Once a cyber thug has gained access to your information online, there are various crimes he or she can commit. "Once an attacker has gotten access to your computer or one of your accounts, they may be able to assume complete control of your system, using it to launch attacks against other computers, communicating your sensitive information (such as login credentials) back to the attacker's network, or destroying your data," say the analysts at the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). "Attackers may use your information in various ways: impersonating you online, using your credentials to disrupt other systems, or simply selling your information to other criminals."
And cyber thugs are getting more creative in the way they attack people online. "Cyber crime continues to grow more and more sophisticated. Recently, cyber criminals have begun moving away from using spam and phishing e-mail lures to distribute malicious codes. Now, they are moving into social networking venues. Cyber criminals are also becoming adept at using "Search Engine Optimization" methods to poison certain search engine results pages with links to malicious sites that they control," the analysts point out.
So how can you protect yourself when you are on the Internet? By being cautious and aware, advise US-CERT analysts.
• Always, keep regular backup copies of all the information and files that are important to you.
• Keep security software, web browsers, and operating systems up to date, and use automatic updates when they're available.
• Make passwords long and strong, and don't use the same password for multiple services.
• If e-mails or posts seem strange, ignore them. Don't follow suspicious links.
Here’s what you should not do:
• Use outdated software - an old version of a web browser or outdated anti-virus software increases the risk of infection by malicious code.
• Use the same static user name and password for every login. If an attacker manages to steal your credentials by hacking into one system that you use, all of your accounts on other systems can become exposed as well.
• Ignore system warnings. If your browser or security software tells you that something is suspicious or may harm your computer, don't click past it. Play it safe.
If you find yourself a victim, there are a number of steps you need to take. According to US-CERT analysts, "If you think your computer has been compromised by a cyber criminal, the only way to be sure your system is ‘clean’ is to re-format the drive and re-install your system software, including all updates. Change all of your passwords, but only after you've cleaned the system and used up-to-date security software to verify that your backup files are clean as well." Going forward, be sure to keep a close eye on your financial accounts and other services that are important to you in case of identity theft or impersonation, and work with your bank or service provider to remediate any issues that do occur.
The FBI also has a section on the website dedicated to cyber crime. It not only has news about current Internet scams, but tips and advice as well. Check it out at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber/cyber