I’m republishing this article from August 2010 to re-emphasize the importance of acting safely on the Internet in order to avoid bad consequences. News flash! We are losing the safe, free and legitimate use of the Internet to cyber criminals who have made our Internet security…well, insecure. As a person knowledgeable about Internet security and the cyber criminal activities of our time; I am amazed that the cyber criminals are so successful in fooling Internet users into becoming victims and pawns of their criminal activity.
It could be that users don’t possess and employ effective security devices such as firewalls, antivirus protection, spyware protection, and adware protection on their computers. It could be that users don’t follow good Internet security practices such as using strong passwords, regularly updating their operating systems and other software, and avoiding questionable websites and email. Yes, these factors play a part in this predicament, but I think the lack of use of these tools and practices is only part of the explanation of why we are so susceptible to criminal activity. I believe the major factor in the success of these cyber crooks is a clash of realities between how we use the internet and how we behave as humans.
The first reality is that of human nature and how it’s natural for we humans to communicate, be friendly, trusting, flattered, and generous. The other reality is that nothing…repeat nothing on the Internet should be fully trusted. I believe we humans, with our human nature, want so much to be trusting, friendly, helpful, etc. that we do so in spite of the risk and danger inherent in the Internet.
The most successful cyber criminal activity begins with fooling the Internet user into reading a malicious email, clicking on a seemingly innocuous attachment, or visiting a website. The next step is the injection of a malicious program onto the user’s computer…yes, this means your computer. This process continues with this malicious program performing various functions…none of them nice…under the command of a computer controlled by criminals. These “not so nice” functions include obtaining your bank account information, credit card number, and other personal information so that they can steal your money. Note that this process of stealing your money started with the criminals fooling the Internet user into doing something to give them access to their computer. This trickery is successful because we are human and we suffer from our nature to be curious, empathetic, helpful and friendly. Meaning, we will click on a Facebook page or YouTube video that has an interesting, concerning, or imploring title. Or opening an interesting sounding email that is similarly encouraging us to open it and/or an attachment.
My conclusion is that we are our own worse enemy in falling victim to this criminal activity and must change our behavior…it’s as simple as that. While not a panacea for all cyber criminal activity, the following tips will decrease substantially the user’s exposure to these cyber threats.
1. Be suspicious of all requests originating from the Internet. This means instead of being trusting and curious, that we must be skeptical and distrusting until proven wrong.
2. Don’t open any…repeat any emails from anyone you don’t know. Regardless of how pitiful, imploring, interesting, or outrageous the subject happens to be.
3. Stay abreast of the criminal threats you may encounter so you can avoid them as you use the Internet. You can stay abreast of things by visiting Paul’s Home Computing blog or Bill Mullins’ Tech Thoughts blog on a regular basis because the cyber criminals are constantly inventing new schemes and tricks to take your money.
In conclusion, my advice is to be more concerned with using the Internet safely by being more skeptical, less gullible, and more informed about the possible threats to your Internet safety. This may not be easy for some folks, but it is necessary. The good news is that we have some control over these threats by being aware of them and avoiding their requests.
Let me know your opinion on this issue by commenting on this article; we all learn from each other when our views and opinions are shared.
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Remember, home computing is a blast…keep it productive and enjoyable.