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How to be cyber safe

As social networking portals become increasingly popular, users are unknowingly exposing themselves to the risk of becoming victims of cyber crime. Here are some tips that will help safeguard yourself online...

india Updated: Jun 22, 2009 20:40 IST
Garima Sharma

As social networking portals become increasingly popular, users are unknowingly exposing themselves to the risk of becoming victims of cyber crime. And if the recent hackings of designer Rina Dhaka and former Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar’s email accounts are any indicators to go by, the hacking sphere is buzzing with activity.

As of today, says Amit Nath, Country Head, Trend Micro, “Any of the larger social networking sites at least has a subscription base of 200 million users globally. India ranks 7th globally in the use of such sites, with the country alone contributing to 3 per cent of the total number. And this is for just one site.”

Considering these statistics, it becomes imperative that we take steps to safeguard our identity from online theft.

Online transactions
Rajiv Chadha, VP, VeriSign India says that one needs to be super careful during online transactions. He says: “Since these transactions have much confidential information about an individual, the need to protect these details becomes tremendous.” Therefore, he recommends that one should keep in mind all important safety measures and adhere to them.

The most common problem is phishing sites. Phishing sites look completely similar to a website (like a banking website) but are actually fraudulent. If you enter your confidential information here, you could get yourself in grave trouble. Follow these key steps to stay safe.

Check the padlock which appears next to the address bar: it denotes that the website is safe

Check that that address bar says ‘https’, where ‘s’ stands for security

Check the spelling of the url you type

Check for security certifications for the website you enter. If you get a warning, do not enter the website

Social networking
Social networking sites are also a cause of concern for youngsters. Says Nath: “Psychologically, people are less skeptical receiving and sharing information on social networking websites as opposed to emails which may be spam. It is here that they put themselves in danger.”

He further adds that most hackers prowl user accounts to find loopholes and can then hack the account resulting in a loss of identity.

To minimise the evident harm from these sites, he advises:

Do not have the same or similar passwords for all your email accounts. By doing this, you only increase the risk of your account getting hacked

Change your password every 20 days and make sure it is an alphanumeric sequence, if possible with special characters

Install an updated antivirus software

Install a security solutions software

Refrain from using any confidential information over social networking sites or even chatrooms

Security for women
Women are extremely vulnerable on the Internet as an identity loss can create a crisis for them. Symantec has come out with a checklist for women net users to with which to safeguard themselves:

Make sure your browser is set to offer you their built-in security and safety features. For e.g. Microsoft Internet Explorer offers security and privacy settings. These are found under “Tools” then “Internet Options”. Search engines such as Google also offer safety features e.g. Google’s SafeSearch, found in “Preference” on the main Google landing page allows you to restrict explicit sites and content from appearing in search results.

If you have wireless (or “wifi”) at home, make sure you do everything possible to make it secure: reset the router password so it follows good password rules and isn’t easy to guess; enable wireless encryption to prevent a stranger from spotting your network from the Internet; restrict the access your system shares on the network and make sure your Internet security software is kept up-to-date.

Don’t post information that may be used to harm you, including your last name, home address, phone number, email address, credit card details, or location. Also, keep financial details and banking information under lock and key. Don’t access your online accounts from public computers, kiosks or insecure wireless connection.

Refrain from using webcams or post photos that you may deeply regret later. What you post today will still be hanging around the Internet from now when they’re working on developing real careers. Stupid comments and photos can translate into unemployment in years to come.

While blogging be sure of your objective in blogging before doing so. Search engines can usually pick up the information that is posted, so your best efforts to protect your privacy are defeated. If you publish photos or links to private Web sites on your blog, you also reduce your privacy.